Great article in the Economist today. Compare some of the thinking below to what I talk about in the "3U's"—it's related though the 3 U's go beyond just social networks and gets into our evolving digital lifestyles:
"Social networking will become a ubiquitous feature of online life. That does not mean it is a business
So it is entirely conceivable that social networking, like web-mail, will never make oodles of money. That, however, in no way detracts from its enormous utility. Social networking has made explicit the connections between people, so that a thriving ecosystem of small programs can exploit this “social graph” to enable friends to interact via games, greetings, video clips and so on.
Coming up for air
But should users really have to visit a specific website to do this sort of thing? “We will look back to 2008 and think it archaic and quaint that we had to go to a destination like Facebook or LinkedIn to be social,” says Charlene Li at Forrester Research, a consultancy. Future social networks, she thinks, “will be like air."
Any experience is useful when it's meaningful and serves a purpose. Currently much of marketing still breaks down into self-serving gimmicks and interruptions that offer little value. Much of what's offered in digital is no exception. While the majority of criticism is of traditional advertising, the fact of the matter is that interruptive based traditional digital advertising is not much better. These are the digital gimmicks that work to get your attention but are usually done so poorly that they offer no value whatsoever. Usefulness is the exact opposite.
Utility = interaction that delights us in some way. But hold the iPhone. The industry has hijacked the word delight and brainwashed us to think that only companies like Apple and Disney are capable of serving it up. Let me tell you a story about the "no-frills" Craigslist, which just happened this morning. My wife took pictures of a large playset we wanted to sell. She uploaded them at 10:00 A.M. By noon, she had several people interested and she sold the set in time for a late lunch. We had the set dismantled, picked up and were $100.00 richer that evening. That's delight in the application economy.
We are living in a fragmented world with what seems like infinite touch points available to us. Brands and businesses who can distribute value across these endless touch points in effective ways will tap into new markets and solidify existing ones. Even though some of us are interacting through multiple social channels—we can now find people just like ourselves who we trust and see what they like/dislike. This influences our decisions from the stuff we buy to the things we recommend to each other. The best marketing in the world tries to simulate this, but usually ends up coming off as contrived. Meaningful interactions through multiple networks and channels leads to authentic word of mouth references and ultimately affinity.
Now let's look at what the article says about monetization:
"So it is entirely conceivable that social networking, like web-mail, will never make oodles of money. That, however, in no way detracts from its enormous utility. Social networking has made explicit the connections between people, so that a thriving ecosystem of small programs can exploit this “social graph” to enable friends to interact via games, greetings, video clips and so on."
Agreed. This fits nicely with the quote that AdAge called out from our panel at the digital marketing conference:
" Mr. Armano believes this is exactly what the social-media space should be used for, "facilitating that human connection. And I don't see a lot of marketers doing that -- I see them asking, 'How do you monetize and how do you advertise?"
So what's a marketer, designer, PR rep, Advertiser to do with social networks? I say, help facilitate those human connections. Provide value. People will say good things about your brands, products and services for it. And they'll most likely engage in a deeper relationship with you. And relationships is the end game here. Period.