When will Brands discover social isn't about influence?

For the best part of a decade the advocates of social media have spoken of the promise of achieving abundant reach, time spent and influence across the social network. And yet, anyone familiar with the big data knows, there is very little evidence of those key media metrics but there is an abundance of machine traffic (Read: Bots), inventory, stats, analysis and commentary (Read: Hype).

The reason being reach, time spent and influence are the metrics we use to measure traditional media. Old school media like Radio, TV and Magazines.

But what if these metrics are redundant in a digital economy dominated by Lists, Likes, Links, Lovemarks and the Long Tail? What if we are busy measuring the wrong things?

Map digital media by traditional sales conversion metrics and you’ll find digital media is one of the most expensive sales channels in the market today. And yet it continues to grow at the expense of traditional sales channels. Why?

The answer of course is the medium isn’t so much the message as the product.

Facebook, social media and the sharing economy is easily the most successful execution of an “old school” marketing campaign in the past 10 years.

The challenge ahead for established Brands, SME’s and start-ups alike is how do they tap into this movement? If abundant reach, influence and time with the audience is off the table what is game they should be playing? What’s the objective? Where is the ROI in all this effort?

To find the answer that question we need to step back. We need to rethink our ideas about customer value. Or, more accurately, the customer experience. We need to ask an old question: What is our value driver?

Treacy and Weirsema originally postulated that there were three key value drivers that separated the market leaders from the rest of the pack. What’s more a market leader could not afford to fund all three value propositions simultaneously so they had to make a choice. Which value driver best expressed their market philosophy: Product Leadership, Operational Efficiency or Customer Intimacy?

Value drivers are an expression of the way you do business. The advertising message being a signal to the market: “This is our value driver and this is our promise to you”. A public expression of the experience on offer: "Come and try it for yourself".

What social media delivers to the table is intimacy not influence.

It is the promise of abundant intimacy with each and every customer.

Thanks to social media customer intimacy is now a commodity. A machine augmented relationship.

The opportunity is not influencing customer behaviour but achieving customer intimacy. You just have to make the connection. Plus figure out how you are going to fund the cost of providing this 24/7 real time stream of customer dialogue.

And yet Apple, the undisputed Product Leader in Mobile and a company that has topped the Social Branding Benchmarks in recent years, doesn’t actually do social media. It simply gets on with what it does best, spends its advertising budget on TV and leaves its customers do the talking... for free.

Which takes us back to Treacy and Weirsema’s original proposition: The market leader cannot afford to fund all three value propositions simultaneously so they have to make a choice. Are you investing in Customer Intimacy because it is the industry benchmark or because it is your competitive edge?

It also explains why social is such an expensive channel for a lot of brands. Customer Intimacy simply isn’t in their Corporate DNA. If it was they wouldn’t need an investment in social media to achieve customer intimacy. Intimacy would be woven into every step of the customer journey. Everything they do as an organisation would already be an expression of that value driver. It would be the Customer’s Experience each and every time they do business with the company. It is the reason why they are doing business with the organisation and it’s why they will continue to business in the future. They enjoy the experience. It is what keeps the customer “sticky”.

This is why the experts are correct when they say social isn’t just another campaign. It isn’t just another channel. It is a whole new way of doing business.

But, and this is the thing we tend to overlook, it isn’t the only way of doing business.

The secret then is to know what business you are in. What is your value driver? And build your customer journey so it delivers on that promise.

Originally Published Summer 2015. What are we talking about today? Follow us on Twitter

Put the scramble for Likes, Links, Shares, Traffic and Viral Hits to one side for the moment and ask the deeper question.

What makes you the market leader?
Product Leadership, Operational Efficiency or Customer Intimacy?

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