Brian Solis:  Defining the Convergence of Media & Influence   http://www.briansolis.com/

One of the reason’s I selected this blog is that it showed up in first place on the Social Media Examiner’s Top Ten Social Media Blog’s of 2011.  Brian Solis has a lot of credibilty – he’s widely recognized as one of the leading authorities on Social Media.  Plus, Solis consistently makes the top ranks of Ad Age Digital’s Power 150, a daily ranking of international marketing blogs.  The Power 150 is a massive list, at more than 1,000 blogs, it’s a little overwhelming.

Solis’s blog has exceptionally thought-provoking posts.  It’s hard to read more than one, and retain even half of it.  His content is layered, interesting, and really good food-for-thought.  His posts’ contain multiple embedded links to some of his previous posts, guest posts by others, videos, items in the news, etc.  It’s kind of hard to choose just the best two.  But here is one that I think presents a really good take on one of the aspects of social media that hasn’t gotten much attention yet (at least not as far as marketing focused social media is concerned).

The Human Cost of Social Connectivity   http://www.briansolis.com/2011/09/the-human-cost-of-social-connectivity/

This blog examines what social media is doing to its users, and by users, Solis means all of us:  Marketers, businesses, audiences and customers.  He uses this blog to question our level of technological tolerance.  He notes that many, if not most of us, have already reached, and maybe passed, the point of saturation.

Solis observes that one of the most cherished values of modern civilization, privacy, no longer really exists anymore; at least, not in the way that it used to.  Solis argues that in the realm of social media, the price for participation, the cost of connectivity, is privacy.

The other most valuable, and limited asset that we must relinquish as a cost for connectivity, is time.

Solis suggests that the speed and breadth of social media’s evolution is making it increasingly difficult to keep up.  We’re so connected, it’s practically a full-time job, with plenty of overtime, just to stay current.  We’re running as fast as we can, and we’re just barely managing not to lose ground – forget about gaining any.  We’re pulled in all directions from our technological choices, and at the end of the day, we’re exhausted.

Of course, it’s not really an option just to disconnect, and walk away.

So, what do you do?  Well, Solis’ answers to this problem, and I think it’s a very difficult one, aren’t exactly a panacea.  Still, I think his response is realistic, even if it presents its own set of difficulties.  I think the essence of his response leads to the next post I selected from his blog:

The Number One Least Asked Question in Social Media … Why?   http://www.briansolis.com/2011/07/the-number-one-least-asked-question-in-social-media-why/

Even if your social marketing efforts are so good that you manage to use all the available platforms to their maximum benefit, masterfully exploiting the unique advantages of each one, are your marketing efforts really succeeding?  Is your voice, your company’s message, really being heard?  Does your brand matter?

Well, this post suggests that if you have any doubts (and you probably should), it may be because we aren’t asking the right questions.

Are you listening?  Are you really listening?  Your customers, your audience, needs to know.

Business needs to ask ‘Why’?  Why would my customers want to engage with my company in social media?  Why should they?

Truth be told, we can’t have meaningful discussions about becoming a social business if we don’t know why doing so is advantageous to customers and ultimately to the business itself. – Brian Solis

Solis showcases a well known venn-like diagram in this post, illustrating the balanced relationships between marketing’s “Four P’s”.  But the diagram is re-interpreted by the addition of a fifth element, a fifth ‘P’:  people.  Solis floats this “Fifth ’P’” right in the middle of the diagram; right at the single point where all four ‘P’s’ converge.

The reinterpreted diagram is meant to illustrate the answer to ‘Why?’

It’s all about the user experience.  Brand preference happens if your social media marketing, (and almost by definition, your product/service) consistently keeps the user experience in focus.

Truly understanding why your customer should bother to spare his/her time engaging with your company matters.  It matters because it’s the key to your company’s ability to move forward in an increasingly challenging digital realm and technological reign.  It’s the key to having, and keeping, social relevance.

It seems like such a simple thing.  It’s not about technology.  It’s not about digital expertise.  It’s about people.  It’s about the human experience.  I think Solis correctly identifies the most elusive quality in the world of business:  empathy.  It’s HUMAN, not digital, and it has currency.

Without genuinely acknowledging the value of your customer’s experience, you’re not really valuing your customer.  Your company shouldn’t, therefore, expect to be valued in return.  Your customer won’t bother with your website/blogposts/tweets/YouTube videos/whatever if you don’t make it worth their while.  Why should they?

If you want to capitalize on the value of social media for its marketing potential, you need to cultivate your customer, and that takes a world of commitment.  In return, there is the very real potential for a rich harvest of information  – information your company needs to stay one step ahead of its competitors.  And that, by the way, is the subject of one of Solis’s most recent posts, (also an excellent read):  Digital Darwinism:  Who’s Next?  http://www.briansolis.com/2011/09/end-of-business/ If you have the time, it’s definitely worth a look.

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