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Social Media Is About Social Science, Not Technology

June 22, 2012

Brian Solis
Principal Analyst
Altimeter Group

Brian Solis is a principal analyst at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. He works with businesses on new media strategies and frameworks to build bridges between companies and customers, employees and other stakeholders. He spoke to eMarketer’s Dan Marcec about the evolving landscape of social media and how brands can get a better grasp on how consumers use the space.

eMarketer: In what ways has social media followed traditional technology trends?

Brian Solis: I’ve been in technology marketing since 1991. Teams always talk about tech features and benefits, and all the things making it exciting, but these benefits don’t correlate to an actual need.

Empathy is the first and foremost element required of marketing a good tech product. The four Ps [product, price, place and promotion], should really be five, with ‘people’ at the center.

It’s really exciting to watch how people are using this media and making correlations as the next big thing for marketing. But it’s still the same situation—companies aren’t using technology channels for the benefit of the recipient on the other end. That’s why I say that social media is more about social science than technology. When you think about the fifth ‘P,’ you can think about how to use social media in a much more engaging manner than as a content distribution mechanism.

“Empathy is the first and foremost element required of marketing a good tech product.”

eMarketer: Where are the opportunities for brands to leverage the evolving social media platform?

Solis: Brands underestimate opportunities because they take traditional methodologies and apply them to new channels that require new methodologies. Even the most active brands today in social media are actually quite antisocial. Antisocial is anything that goes against norms of society. Facebook is a global society that has a culture and norms, and you are going against the norm of that society if you’re not participating in the conversation.

The best brands in the future will create a vision for how social media will improve customer experience. In general, it’s not an approach that’s been taken. We’re in a marketing transition. Things are going to be very uncomfortable—we’re going to experiment, succeed and fail, and we’ll have to have answers.

eMarketer: How does engagement affect the customer journey through the purchase funnel?

Solis: It’s no longer a direct funnel. New media offers up new touchpoints, and wherever the customer is in that journey, awareness and consideration are critical points. If you’re not top of mind, you won’t be part of the evaluation process. You can start to see opportunities pre-, during and post-transaction, not just at one particular spot. You have to have a diverse strategy to meet those needs.

eMarketer: What do you consider the measure of social media success?

Solis: Everything begins with the end in mind. What does the end look like? What is it that you are trying to achieve? The challenge comes when business strategy and social strategy work against each other, where the outcome is going to hurt each other. The best option is to stop, rethink why you’re doing this in the first place—alongside the objectives of consumers—and then re-create.

A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer Total Access clients only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Total Access client, click here.

Check out today’s other articles, “Facebook, Twitter Help Publishers Find Their Audience” and “Internet Cafes a Relic of the Past in Argentina?


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