Kathy Klotz-Guest

Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

Warning: Objects With Social Media Are Larger Than They Appear

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Social media tools operate like a high-powered microscope (telescope, if you prefer…pick your metaphor). They amplify and magnify everything you do – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Oh, the ugly and the abject horror.

So before you start tool-chasing as a consequence of “shiny object” syndrome, make sure everything you do is as clear and sewn-up as possible. If your marketing is fragmented, social media will cast a huge spotlight on that. If your customer service is spotty – yep, you’re in trouble with social media. Social media is fundamentally about communicating with people; not about tools. So if your communications are unclear, you’ve failed no matter how flawless your mechanical implementation with tools may be. It’s “go human or go home!”

That’s not to say that you can or should fix every little thing before you dive deep. That’s impossible. Moreover, part of what social does is cast a light on issues you may not be aware of. The key phrase is “be aware of.” Fix what you know are large issues before every one else points them out to you.  Lots of times.

Here are just a few things to consider about communicating with social media (sure, there’s more, but these are among the most important!):

  • Know your human “story.” What’s the “why” behind your company and offerings. Be clear, consistent and concise.
  • Get a content plan. Even if it’s a small, simple one. What will you write about, how often, and on which sites? Do you need a blog? Maybe you do and – marketing blasphemy committed here! – maybe you don’t.
  • Make your communications about your audience, not about you, your technology, your patents, your services….yawn!
  • Write with your “values” and heart, not just your head. Who are you as a company and what do you stand for. Sadly, too many communications focus on mechanics and facts, and are devoid of human feeling. if you are doing that, you are missing a huge opportunity to connect. That’s what “social” media is about.
  • Make sure your communications sound like one voice. Some organizations have separate PR, marketing, social media departments and that lack of connection among internal voices shows up as a fragmented external voice.
“All the World is a Stage…” as Shakespeare said. If he were here today, he might have added, “and social media tools cast a very big spotlight.” So make it count.
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What Washington Can Teach Marketers (no, really!)

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2011 at 11:13 pm

As I write this blog post on Friday, July 29th, I watch the news on CNN with a mix of frustration and anger. I know I am not alone. Why can’t the leaders we have elected do their jobs and compromise? In the words of the great pop culture philosopher Larry the Cable Guy, “Git R Done!”

Yet, there is an important object lesson here for marketers, and for anybody who is willing to listen.

How often have we approached decisions as “all or nothing?” Either I get my way, or it’s not worth doing. Is this really the case in most situations? I would posit a resounding “no.” If I can’t get my way, I’m taking my football and going home! That might work for a few kids I know (and sadly, a few adults who shall go un-named!); yet it’s an intractable position that backs us into walls more than it frees us up to move forward.

Sure, if we’re talking about moral principles, there is no gray area for compromise. Yet, the situation in Washington is about ideology and egos.

I believe “all or nothing” is a false choice. There is a middle ground. It’s the concept of un-bundling or un-packing issues. Not too long ago, a company approached me to help with some strategy. They could not pay me what it cost to do everything they wanted at once. I could have walked away. I contemplated it. I liked them and their philosophy was so in line with my own that I felt a connection beyond money. And, I knew that if I helped them, they would be closer to success on an idea that could help people. I stepped back; they didn’t NEED everything all at once. It was a false belief. Marketing is and should be a graduated investment. They could un-bundle their marketing “wish list.” I suggested a strategy facilitation to get them started with some great ideas for moving forward. They could afford that and it would be enough to get them started, build goodwill, and demonstrate my willingness to make this a partnership.

They happily accepted and we both got something valuable from it. If I had played the “it’s my way or no way” card, we both would have lost something. Admittedly, not every prospect is worth it. Some times this approach will not work. The questions you have to ask (as do the politicians) are, “is there something larger at stake than me or the other player?” and “who stands to lose here by an ‘all or nothing’ approach?” In the case of Washington, the losers would be the American people. So listen up, Congress – this is NOT about you. It’s about something bigger than yourselves. An “all or nothing” mentality is often ego-driven and it limits the potential for improved outcomes for more people. Contrast that with the possibilities that open up when we “un-bundle.”

Does an “all or nothing” way of thinking limit your options? Consider the following:

If I can’t write that book my way the first time, it’s not worth doing.
I can’t take on that client because they can’t afford everything they need at once.
I can’t work with this person because it means I will have to yield on something.

How can you un-bundle your approach to business and life to achieve better outcomes for all?

Great Marketing Answers the “Why”

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Leaders sell ideas and inspiration, not services.  They are adept at answering “the Why” – why they do what they do.  It is a fundamental human question. People often buy products and services based on a feeling of connection rather than on some objective, decision-making criteria. Yep. Humans are rarely completely rational, as Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, posits in his work.

Yet, that’s exactly how most marketing approaches work – by aiming at a “rational” consumer mindset with details on “how” and “what.” That’s why most marketing is forgettable and ineffective. Recently, I re-watched a great TED talk by Simon Sinek, author of “Start with the Why.”  His premise is that the “how” and the “what” in marketing are not as important as the “why.”  Great organizations answer the “why” – why they do what they do. That targets something “visceral” in people, bypassing the “logic” brain, and allowing for messages to connect at a more human level. This approach inspires action.

As Sinek jokes, Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired people with his “I have a dream” speech, not his “I have a plan” speech. Dr. King was driven by a dream for a better America, not by a technical, detailed-filled plan. He spoke to our common humanity and sense of shared values. And he wrapped up the “why” in a story – the most human of communications agents. He aimed his “sell” not at the audience’s “heads.” Rather, he targeted their hearts and their beliefs. Leaders tell stories bigger than themselves. We want to see people better themselves and achieve greatness because it inspires the achiever in us.

This is a critical point for marketers who focus too much on the “what” and “how.” Companies that lead sell a vision and inspire – they don’t sell technical and economic details. Sure profits matter, yet they are the result of “why” we do what we do.

To see the difference why makes, I will start with my own company. I sell marketing services including market research and strategy, product facilitation, content plans, and marketing communications. I do this by approaching marketing completely from the human needs of the customer. The results are increased profits.  Not altogether inspiring, is it? Sure, you know that I value customers; but shouldn’t every great marketer? This approach tells you nothing about why I do what I do.

A Better “Why” to Market

I started Keeping it Human because I knew that marketing could be so much better. It could be “human.” I came out of high-tech, and saw wonderful products being marketed in the most un-human ways. “Solutions, platforms, methodologies, disruptive technology…” It was all company-focused rather than focused on the human challenges customers face.  It was full of jargon that didn’t matter. No one talked in simple, honest, or funny stories that honored people. Who says marketing can’t at times be funny? What drives me is a deep belief that there is a better way for customers and companies.

Now let’s try my marketing statement again with a focus on the “why.”

Keeping it Human challenges the status quo of company-focused, jargon-laden marketing that treats customers like “targets” with dollar signs on their backs instead of like people. We inject a human element into everything we do from creating products that solve human challenges to speaking in powerful human stories and narratives that move people to action. As a result, we improve profits and customer relationships while improving interactions for customers, too.

Better, right? The important thing is why you do what you do. What inspires you? People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. You are selling to people who believe what you believe. And in that “why,” your audience sees themselves. It’s not about you – it’s about something much bigger.

Another great example is TOMS Shoes. TOMS’ entire model is about giving. They don’t just make shoes. What they do is fulfill a tremendous need by giving a pair of shoes to a child in a developing country for every pair of shoes sold.  Buy one, give one is their motto. Their shoes aren’t the cheapest or best made shoes on the market. That is irrelevant, because people buy TOMS because they believe in the mission of the company. It’s the “why” that matters.

Zappos is another powerful illustration of “why.” Zappos isn’t about the merchandise you can buy. You can likely find better deals elsewhere. That’s not the point. Tony Hsieh started Zappos because his mission was all about providing the best possible customer service and customer experience possible for online shopping. In fact, he started the company with this mission before he decided what merchandise to sell! There are great examples of “why” in every industry, including technology. “Think Different,” is Apple’s why. This drives Apple’s commitment to quality, user-friendly, and easy-to-use products.

Marketing is Evangelism…to the Converted

By leveraging the “why,” you are targeting enthusiasts, people who make decisions based on intuition – the leaders. This is especially true for technology companies when you consider how diffusion of innovation occurs within markets. It is the leaders – the enthusiast early adopters – that are willing to buy based on an idea, sometimes unproven. Then, they help you improve your product and help you “sell” to the larger majority by word of mouth. If you don’t have these people on board, well, so much for crossing the infamous “chasm” and capturing the market majority. Their endorsement is critical.

Finding Your “Why”

As you think about the human reasons behind your company, focus on telling the “why” in your larger company narrative. It’s far more important than your individual services. Rethink your traditional time-based company biography. It is irrelevant. Communicate why you get up every day and what motivates you. Great marketers and leaders communicate with heart, conviction and soul. By aiming at that most critical human level, your message has a greater chance of hitting exactly where it needs to connect most – viscerally.

 

Keeping it Simple Means Keeping it Human

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Complexity is easy; simplicity is hard. There is a lot of noise out there. If being simple were easy, everybody would have mastered it. That’s a great thing; when your competitors are convoluted, simplicity sets you far ahead of the pack. Whether it’s your offerings, your service, all the ways you engage with your customer or your marketing messages, simplicity gives you a big advantage. There is elegance and efficiency in simplicity; and keeping it simple makes it easy for customers to do business with you.

Complexity alienates and destroys value. Customers are busy; they don’t have time to sift through noise to dissect what you really do and how it applies to them. Simplicity streamlines customers’ (and prospects’) lives and respects their time and money – that makes you stand out! Companies that offer products and services based on technology are especially vulnerable to the complexity trap. You can’t explain complexity with more complexity. Rather, the only antidote to complexity is simplicity. Simplicity takes work.

So where do you start with “simplicity” summer cleaning? Map out everything you do in marketing. Then ask, “Where can I simplify?”

Research

Leverage social media tools and good, old-fashioned human conversations (yes, these still work!) to vet products and services. Not using your engaged customers as a market research panel? You should be, as they can lower your research cost and product risk. They can tell you if something works before you go down a certain road, or tell you if your current offerings aren’t working. Focus on your high-end customers, especially. Social media tools aren’t just for communications; they can help you better understand usage patterns, needs and wants, and that makes them ideally suited for getting at great information that can help you streamline your business interactions. Still, they must be used together with human touches. Those touches can get at information that other approaches can’t.

Product

Have you ever walked down the bottled water aisle at the grocery store and wondered if a brand really needs dozens of varieties of water? Companies segment to reinvigorate margins and profits – it’s the product life cycle in action. However, more choices mean more complexity for the customer. Examine your offerings. If several overlap and benefits are unclear to prospects, simplify by repackaging into fewer options. You’ll likely see margins improve as well. I’ve done this recently, and it has made a difference.

Customer Service

What are all the ways you engage with your customer? Track all the ways you touch your customer or prospect. Map out your experience flow. Look at ways to simplify and add value for your customer. Too many unnecessary touches can actually reduce value. For example, I worked with a company where each division conducted separate market research projects on the same customers. That often meant that customers would be asked to fill out surveys four times a year. Is that really necessary? No. Consolidate into a single touch that respects your customers’ time and is likely to yield better data for you. If touches add value separately for your customer, keeping them separate makes sense. Make sure that the touches you keep – whether newsletters, social media, or emails – offer something that makes a difference to prospects and customers. The key is quality “touches.”

Look at all your marketing channels. Call your own phone number. Does it go into a black hole, or are calls routed appropriately and returned? Does it have an outdated voice mail message? What about your inbox with online leads – what outgoing messages to people get when they submit a query? And, what do you do with that lead? One client set up an inbox to track incoming leads through the website. What did they do with those inquiries? Often nothing – leaving customers to have to find other channels to get the help they needed. This adds complexity, creates a poor customer experience, and doesn’t benefit the company.

Marketing Communications

Look at all of your communications. Are they simple to understand? Are they consistent? Streamline your message, and make sure your channels are integrated into a content network that reaches customers easily. That means that all channels talk to each other – that’s where the multiplier effect is.

Be sure your language is clear, simple and compelling. Cut out jargon. Jargon is like a bad restaurant experience where no one is really served well. It’s lazy and that is why we over-use it. We don’t have to think. Here’s the rub: when you use jargon, you end up sounding like everyone else with no unique voice. So dare to be different by being simple.

Here’s a quick litmus test: can you articulate the essence of your business in ten words or less? You should be able to. It’s not easy – and that’s the beauty of it. It will take you a number of iterations. Mine did. This exercise forces you to distill your value into a simple, memorable statement. For example, here’s my statement: “I help organizations turn marketing-speak into human stories that connect.” Get rid of “inside” language that you use internally because it won’t be meaningful to customers. The detail of “how” you get results for clients doesn’t matter at the highest level;  results do. Ask for feedback. Rinse and repeat!

Knowledge is a double-edged sword. It’s fantastic to have a number of things under your product umbrella, and to want to share that expertise. However, you can’t hold your customer or prospect hostage while you explain – verbally or in writing – everything you offer. An elevator pitch should focus on one idea; I mean a 30-second elevator ride, not 30 stories heading up the Sears Tower.

Simplicity takes commitment. Yet, think for a moment how much complexity can cost you. Most people won’t tell you if you are convoluted, so get ahead of the curve and ask your best customers.

Coco Chanel, the great fashion designer had it right: before you leave the house, take one item of jewelry, clothing or an accessory off. Like great fashion, less is more when it comes to great marketing.

Keeping it simple benefits your customers and you. That’s the simple truth. Can I get an, “Amen?!”

Keeping b2b Marketing Content “Human”

In Marketing, Marketing FUN, Social Media on May 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm

There would be a lot less bad marketing in the world if executives were forced to read all the ineffective, sometimes downright awful, content their organizations produce.

Marketing is supposed to put human needs first by sounding like it was created for humans by humans. Marketers know this.

So why is there so much bad B2B marketing content out there? It’s not a lack of creative storytelling talent. B2B companies are just as able to develop creative, fun, people-focused content as their consumer-oriented counterparts. Consider Cisco, IBM (yes, that IBM – once known as stiff and stodgy), NetApp, and Hub Spot to name a few examples.

With a little effort and strategy, you can breathe some life into your marketing. Below are five doable ways to humanize content and connect with your audience.


Stories

Humans are wired to think in stories. Twenty thousand years ago, when Grog needed to communicate hunting information, he didn’t issue tribal press releases boasting of “breakthrough arrow technology.” He told a story that was passed down and shaped by others.

All great marketing is storytelling, and it’s important to use stories to connect. We absorb stories, remember them, retell them, and they become part of how we “frame” our new world. Stories allow us to feel and to visualize what could be. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, for example, in which he painted a picture of a better world. If we want customers and prospects to feel something for our products other than boredom and disaffection, we cannot aim our content solely at their “logic” brains. Stories that illustrate how your products and services have made a difference for customers are a huge sales advantage. “Logical facts,” however, are easily forgotten and are far from transformational.

The best storytellers often do not sit in the executive suite. Enable your employees, fans, and partners to share their stories and extend your narrative’s relevance to them. There is no more powerful referral source than peer and user-focused stories, especially if users are telling them!

Conversation
Keeping business content “human” means that it should not only be relevant, it should sound like simple and clear conversation. And “simple,” doesn’t mean “dumb it down.” Complexity is easy; simplicity isn’t. The Roman orator Cicero famously stated, “Forgive me for writing such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Simple just means easy to understand.

Think of all the casual conversations you have. No one recommends a product to a friend because it contains “disruptive, game-changing technology.” If people talked like this to us in personal conversation, as Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void describes, “we’d punch them in the face.” We recommend a product because it solves a very real human problem. People don’t talk like robots in everyday conversation; so why is this buzzword bingo part of our content? Even more surprising, we somehow expect people to read and relate to this stuff.

Color Your Words and Images
Colorful language simplifies concepts and makes them memorable. Paint a memorable visual with your words by using analogies and metaphors. For example, instead of “PR director,” you might describe your work as “story detective.” When I am talking with high-tech engineers, for example, I describe my work as the human-language translator between an internal technology focus and external customer needs. Simplify by using useful, accurate and helpful images that are meaningful to your business and for customers. Avoid overused metaphors (sports and war, for example) that have become clichés in business, however. That’s how buzzwords “happen.” If any wording smells like buzzwords to you, change it.

Outward Focus
One of the reasons companies struggle with making content human is because they are too inward-focused. That is, they are too centered on the question of, “how do we describe what we do?” They are focusing on the “we, me, us, and our.” Instead, companies should be outward-focused. The right question to answer is, “what are the human challenges our customers have?” When you approach content by describing human needs first, it’s much easier to then explain how your organization can help.

Here’s a quick test of your “outward focus” quotient: Does your company use the word “targets” or “prospects” / “customers” more frequently? If a customer comes to your website, can they glean in seconds what your organization does? Here’s another exercise: count how many times your writing mentions your company and its services. Then, count how many times it references customers and their needs. The latter should always be more pervasive, and your customer-to-company “reference ratio” should be high. Clear, relevant, and human-centered writing takes effort. Yet, the benefits are clear.

Jargon is a symptom of an inward-focus projected onto customers, and it is lazy. Readers won’t (and shouldn’t have to) struggle to decipher your narrative. Jargon also shortchanges your organization because it puts an unnecessary barrier between you and your audience. It’s like a bad restaurant experience where no one is served well (note the simile).

Another important element of an outward focus is the “so what?” factor for customers. Great content focuses on helping your audience achieve something better – get better results, save money, make money, make better decisions. It should center on improving customers’ bottom lines, not yours.

Fun and Humor
Fun is a healthy part of “serious” business. It’s a fantastic way to connect and cut through clutter. Even in b2b, relationships happen between people, not faceless entities, and fun and humor are as human as you can get. Funny is great; yet even a little levity works, too, especially for brands in need of a little brand botox! And, fun is less “risky” than you might think. Companies operate as “people,” too, with their own personality attributes.

IBM’s video series, “Art of the Sale,” for example, poked fun at IBM’s reputation in the mainframe business. It was refreshing, unexpected and cut straight to the point: “we know we had a reputation as being out-of-touch; we hear you, and we’ve changed.” Why did this series work so well? Because it was unexpected and it changed how people perceived the company. It was “un-IBM.” It was also an acknowledgment by the company that is was willing to be different moving forward. When expectations are inverted, customers are delighted. The right question for marketers to answer should be, “how do we favorably invert customer expectations?” Humor recognizes our shared humanity, and that is a powerful connector.

Vox Humana
With the exponential explosion in online content, it’s becoming not just a crowded world, but one where fresh voices are increasingly harder to find. Keeping content human increases its relevance and it can help change customer perceptions – and expectations – for the better. That’s a big competitive advantage in an increasingly noisy, sometimes un-human marketplace.

Now, back to the idea of forcing execs to consume their own bad content… I think I am on to something, or at least something fun for me. You say “torture”…I say public service…!

When Leading Means Following: Improvisation, Workplace Collaboration, and Going Where the Sun Doesn’t Always Shine

In Innovation and Improvisation on April 10, 2011 at 8:01 pm

A Southern ex-boss from my high-tech marketing days (and with whom I have become good friends) used to say, “The sun doesn’t always shine on the same dog’s ass all the time.” His offbeat managerial witticisms made me laugh and they were often right. In improvisation – just as it is in the workplace – sometimes we lead and sometimes we follow. We can’t always be in the spotlight. That’s what it means to work and play in a team-based environment. One of the most important leadership skills an improviser and co-worker can develop is knowing when not to enter a ‘scene,’ or when to let other players (co-workers, etc.) take focus. To be a leader, you sometimes have to follow. Often, the greatest leadership challenge is knowing exactly when to let go. And that takes practice.

The beauty of collaboration in improvisation is a lot like collaborating in the workplace – when we listen and support each other, the outcomes are better. And that means sometimes we are the center of the action with players and co-workers supporting our decisions. Other times, the best thing for a scene or an outcome in the workplace is to let others shine and to support their ideas by making them look great. That calls for big values: “doing right, not being right.” Doing the right thing for the team sometimes means letting go of being right. Platitudes are easy, following them…well, not so much.

When we share the ‘stage,’ at work or at play, we build critical skills of trust that serves the team’s best interest. The only way to engender trust for the times we take focus is by making sure we support others when they take the spotlight. When we let others shine, they are more likely to step up and support us when we lead. If everyone is out for “number one,” why pretend to have a team at all? If I know you’ll get my back, I’m more likely to get yours.  It’s how humans are wired. Trust matters.

In a recent improvisation show with friends, a situation surfaced much as it does at work. Two improvisers had focus and momentum. I was already on stage and I had a quick decision to make. Think about the how this same scenario manifests at work where two co-workers are “creating” something. Of course, we’re there, so we need to jump in to add our ideas, right? We need focus, too!

Not necessarily. It feels natural to want to jump in with our ideas. Still, a great improviser, team player, co-worker, boss, etc., asks herself (himself) the following before barging in:

  • Am I often the “focus?”
  • Am I jumping in just to participate without having a way to add value, or “raise the stakes?”
  • Does the situation have a rhythm of its own that works without me?

If the answer to all these is “yes,” hold back. At this moment, being a leader means letting your own ideas go, and making the right choice for the scene. It’s not easy. The ability to recognize when it is time to follow is the difference between merely good versus great collaboration and leadership.

Go beyond the obvious, and challenge yourself to follow sometimes. There will always be opportunities to lead by taking focus. Remember the sun will always shine – just not always on you.

“Yes, and!” Your Way from Human Potential to Human Capital

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2011 at 11:17 pm

The Center for Creative Leadership writes about four mindsets that inhibit positive organizational change. One of those mindsets that pervades and stops progress in its tracks is a “yes, but…” mentality.

You know the type of thinking that keeps us from moving forward. We hear it every day.  Yet, often times this insidious negative framing operates at a threshold below most peoples’ awareness. How important is language in the way we frame change? Language is everything. Positive change and innovative collaboration operate on a “yes, and!” openness.  “Yes, and!” is a recognition that each person in an organization plays an important part and yet no one person controls the final outcome.

“Yes, but…” by contrast is about control – trying to control outcomes. Does any one person have control over innovation? The answer is no – we influence to be sure, yet we never exert total control. Collaboration and change cannot happen with a “yes, but…” way of thinking at any level of the organization. In improvisation, we call this “denying an offer” and that can have a negative impact on the final outcome because one person is trying to “drive” the scene to his or her desired result.

The same is true in business when we co-create. Have you ever tried to collaborate with someone who used the “yes, but…” control device with you? Exactly how long would it take you to stop trying to generate fresh ideas when you are “stopped” at every turn with a “but?” That’s precisely what happens in many organizations. The “yes, but” stops innovative thinking and behavior long before most organizations are aware of its pervasiveness. Yet, change is an activity that requires collaboration in order to succeed.

We need to change our perspective and change our language by adopting a “yes, and!” orientation. Try “yes, and!” the next time during brainstorming, and see the effect on energy in the room. When we let go of the idea that we have control, we stop trying so hard to control a particular outcome. That frees us up to focus on our own contributions, and allows the best ideas to spring up as people co-create together. A “yes, and” approach to collaboration, innovation and change is the difference between untapped human potential and realized human capital.

Next time you’re in a meeting notice how many “yes, buts” occur. When you have the chance, “yes, and!’” see how that  one small difference can change the collaborative environment – and results! –  in your world.

The Hyper-Social Organization: People, Not “Process,” Matter Most in the New Media Marketing Landscape

In Marketing, Social Media on February 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Too often businesses lament the lack of immediate return on investment (ROI) in new media. ‘If we can’t monetize it, we shouldn’t do it’ is a common complaint. Yet, the reason companies must understand social processes and new media (as a part of the “social” landscape) isn’t because they will get a quick payoff. They won’t. “Social” processes such as new media are important to organizations because they involve engaging people based on their own tribal interests and needs, rather than treating people as a collection of “objects” that companies can sell to. Tribes are bound by common interests and “human” needs, and that doesn’t include your company’s revenue goals and corporate agenda.

As a result of human-centered engagement with the right tribes, companies can develop loyal fans that will help them create better products and services that those tribes are willing to pay for down the road. Why? Simply put, because those tribes are included in the social process of product innovation. This is one of the important tenets at the heart of The Hyper-Social Organization, a spot-on book by Francois Gossieaux and Ed Moran. New media is about increasing the participation of people in the organization’s activities, not about a quick ROI.

The reality is brands revolve around customers only to the extent that brands are relevant and meet human needs. The old-world marketing view of the brand as the center of the universe around which customers revolve is not only obsolete it never existed to begin with.

Social media shouldn’t be an add-on to marketing strategy that ignores the social element. Too often, new media is used as a “communication” vehicle after “product” and “company-centered” strategies are insularly crafted. That’s not what being a “social” entity is all about, say the authors.  They are right. A social organization weaves the human element throughout everything they do – research, product innovation and co-creation, and communication. This approach starts with a belief that companies exist to serve human needs first, and it requires building a human presence through communities of shared interest.

The idea isn’t wholly new; however, it is disruptive because it requires a different way of thinking from ‘business as usual.’ It requires values that focus on people as independent from the brands they use, with identities that do not revolve around products.

According to the book, there are five key elements to implementing a “hyper-social” organization:

  • It’s not about technology; think ‘communities’
  • Scrap viewing consumers as “targets”; rather, think tribes of humans bound by common interests
  • Forget company-centricity; embrace human-centricity and human needs
  • Think information “network,” where information is shared freely for the good of the community rather than individual channels for corporate “communication”
  • Embrace social messiness over hierarchy and process

Organizations need to change their models to fit with how humans actually interact, learn, and process information based on their own identities, rather than trying to force their “products” on contrived “target markets.”  How military is our marketing jargon today? That’s no accident; military analogies pervade our language because business is seen as war, rather than as a way of helping humans meet needs. As the authors exhort, by embracing hyper-sociality, and all the messiness that comes with a focus on “people,” organizations can find greater success in the “social” landscape.