What do open innovation, crowd sourcing, electronic word of mouth, social media segmentation or home working have in common? People. The secret ingredient in social media is to engage with the person using it.
I participated in a really interesting workshop at the Henley Centre of Customer Management, today. It looked at phenomena like open innovation, crowd sourcing, electronic word of mouth, social media segmentation or the impact of home working on customer service. It was quite a broad range of topics. Yet, there were two common themes running throughout the various presentations.
The first theme was that technology is challenging and changing business processes – from how innovation is managed, to how customer insight is obtained or how firms communicate with particular customer groups.
The second theme was that, at the heart of the phenomena we were discussing, were very fundamental aspects of human behaviour. Concepts like identity, relationship, social validation and engagement were mentioned over and over again.
For instance, Paul Sloane reminded us that, even though Wikipedia may be the poster child of crowdsourcing, the practice of engaging a community (i.e., the crowd) in solving a problem existed well before web 2.0. The way new ideas are captured or the speed at which community members may contribute their thoughts has been dramatically impacted by technology. However, the reasons why those same community members offer their input are still the same… and they have nothing to do with technology.
In my presentation, I looked at best practice in handling online customer feedback. Nowadays customers are turning to Twitter, blogs, Youtube and other social media platforms to talk about their consumption experiences. Yet, when asked about the key characteristics of companies that handle online interactions really well, the same customers use descriptors like talking to ‘a human being and not a bureaucratic corporate body’, it is ‘like a real person is operating it’ or, simply, that ‘they care’. From the organisation’s perspective, more and more companies use video to communicate with their customers, particular in the context of crisis management. They do so because they find that the combination of image and voice intonation makes it easier to communicate emotions than through text.
Social media is an important channel. But that’s what it is: a channel. Social Media is a platform for human behaviour. We use it to interact, learn and express ourselves. To leverage the power of social media in business, we first need to understand what makes persons – consumers, employees, suppliers… – tick. Once we have got that sorted, we really can start benefiting from social media.
Later that same day, I found a simple yet brilliant article on my Google reader. It’s a blog post from Mark Schaefer, author of The Tao of Twitter. Entitled ‘Key to digital marketing success” Be less digital’, the blog post has one simple message: to achieve competitive advantage it is necessary to humanise the business. Go and read it, here!
Over to you, now. If you were to hire someone, what would you prefer: recruit for psychological / sociological skills and train for technical skills, or the other way around?