Most social media platforms are just email reinvented. It is not better than email (nor is it worse), it is just email with a fancy layout taking advantage of the top of the hype cycle. Anything marked as social could be a solution, especially when the workflow feels identical. Since if the flow feel comfortable it should be an easy change process right? Well if it feels comfortable then you are either lucky to work in a truly social enterprise or you are just implementing something you already have.
If the platform is not going beyond these features, you are just paying a premium for a new way of emailing:
One on one private conversations; the feature to exchange information in a private way, just from one human to another.
One to many conversations; the feature to exchange information by sharing it with a bigger audience of people you know and don’t know.
Tracking conversations; the feature to see if a conversation was read by the receiver
Making lists of people; the feature to create a list with which you can share information.
Get updates; the feature to get updates from people either because they send it you to specifically or because the information is public
History; the feature to go through information exchanged in the past
Filtering; the feature to filter and store messages in a specific way either when receiving them or after receiving them.
Mark as unread; the feature to mark information as not read so you can follow-up later or you can filter it easily for later consumption.
Prioritizing; automatic (algorithmic) prioritizing of incoming information on what is important for you and what not.
Alerting; the feature to get an alert when something important happens you have to take a look at.
Notifying other people; the feature to notify some people of the message you have sent. This notification can be either visible or hidden to other people you communicate with.
What kind of features could make a social enterprise? To be honest, it is more than just features, it is around the design of the platform. It is about how it works, not how it looks like. Social Design is in its most effective form a way for solving problems and discovering new opportunities. It is a process, not a channel not a business model, it is an activity, it is a set of design principles which enable you to make truly social experiences. Experiences that connect, that people want to trust, to which they can relate, in which they want to participate with friends or strangers, to which they want to contribute with their time and efforts and experiences that they can share with others.
It definitely is not recreating email with a social layer, it is creating a fundamental shift in how we interact with each other and our environment. So if your social platforms feels really comfortable that might be a sign that there isn’t a substantial change and just yet another email in disguise. Change is uncomfortable.
In some cases 95% of marketing budgets are spent on getting customers into a store. When customers finally made it to the store there is often no way to tell their friends what they are experiencing or to lookup some information they needed via their mobile devices. This is not only the case for retail stores. Most venues with a high entertainment value (holiday parks, amusement parks) or venues with a high hospitality level such as hotels or restaurants also don’t offer an easy way to share your experience. All these locations just simply lack connectivity such as a decent phone reception or WiFi.
The reason it is lacking is because of several myths and trends:
In hotels there is the worrying trend that the more expensive the hotel is, the more expensive the WiFi is.
In stores too many retailers are afraid that people will start comparing prices in store and will ran away.
In restaurants people are afraid that guests will be glued to their smartphones and won’t have any attention to the food or their fellow guests.
In some amusement parks people are afraid that having their guests share the pictures from the park will result in fewer people visiting the park.
As Ebenezer Scrooge already said: “Bah! Humbug!”. If you spent 95% of your budget on getting people in, why not make sure that when they are in, they can share why they are in and why others should join. Make it easy for them to share the experience. People won’t run out your store because your competitor has goods that are 2 cents cheaper, unless your service is so horrible it will drive them away. In restaurants people pay attention to their food and other people at the table because of the environment they are and a picture of an attraction in an amusement park cannot replace the real life experience.
If you are able to create an experience that people like and are willing to share, people will share it, if you at least make it easy for them to share. Think of offering free WiFi, offer them advice with which app on their mobile phone they could do really great things in sharing, let other people tell your story. Make it worth sharing and make sharing as frictionless as possible. The costs for having such a WiFi connection in place is basically just your marketing costs, since your customers will outmarket your marketing department in the end.
Two weeks ago I was quite fortunate to be invited to speak at the Social by Design event which was organized by Capgemini and Microsoft. During this event I took the liberty to elaborate further on how retailers in specific could harness social design to make it a better experience. Especially since currently most retailers have customer service departments that are more loyalty prevent departments than real service departments. Also something that some retailers (or organizations) in general tend to forget that even though it has always been some kind of cat and mouse game between customer and organization, the customer is now the one who is the cat. He dictates what happens and social media provides him some additional powers in doing so and help in organizing small online revolutions.
To provide some insights in why most current efforts failed I explained the case of JCPenney’s reports on f-commerce and why it failed, something that I wrote about earlier on on my blog. After that I introduced the Social Design elements and explained how they work in some examples of often non-traditional retailers.
The examples I mentioned were:
C&A in Brasil which is displaying the number of likes on a hanger for a certain item in store. It provides some additional social proof, plus it provides insights in which item are popular.
Lyst. Even though I am not really into high fashion, Lyst is great. As you join you are asked to follow certain brands, people, designers, stores. Based on these choices a personalized shopping suggestion list is build. For each suggestion you can see who also likes this item, but you can also buy it directly. A new way of doing social curated ecommerce.
TasteLive. The premiere Wine and Beer tasting community, which connects the offline with the online (tasting beer offline is so much better than online). Provides a platform for its users to connect, but also to share. The frontpage of their website can be seen as a best practice, since it shows very little managed content and tons of generated content.
Ovoto shows how things have changed. It is not Google directing people to your site of your product, it is people. Ovoto allows you to take a picture of something and let you ask a simple question about it to your friends (“should I….”) and then provides your friends with the option to vote yes or no on it.
Kickstarter show that has become easier to 1) get funding for your product 2) get customers 3) bypass retailers completely 4) earn some decent money as well.
Consmr is an app that allows you to scan a barcode and provides you with additional insights on the product with regards to ratings, replacements recalls and other additional information.
Stylistpick is quite similar to Lyst, though its approach is different, instead of letting people to choose from different brands, it asks you twenty questions before you join and based on your answers it creates a shopping profile for you.
Unbound has similarities for Kickstarter. It connects writers with their audience and lets the audience decide which book will be printed.
Hubbub is an interesting platform since it connects local stores and provides visitor with an opportunity to discover great local stores and their offers. They make it even easy for these often small stores to have an ecommerce platform, since Hubbub is taking care of all logistics.
Currently I am working on a approach to make social easy understandable as a design principle. One of the approaches I have taken for this is to split it in six design elements. Those elements are not mandatory in each social design, but at least one of them will occur in a social design:
Connectivity: you need to connected, not as in a relation , but as via a wifi network, bluetooth, or any other way that enables you to share and retrieve information.
Participation: things get better when more people participate (think of for example of the defacto example of Wikipedia)
Data: data is the new oil, social media analytics, prediction markets, filtering etc. Everything you can do with data
Identity: the individual, identified by several characteristics. Profiles can be optional, there is more to identity than an username
Trust: social environment have a certain trust level in order people can and will participate
Shareable: things should be worth sharing and it should be possible to share things with others
What do you think of these element of social design. Are these all elements, are there more element, can these element be merged, what would be proper definitions for these elements? Of course you’ll be credited for this when I use it in my presentations.
An easy way to keep your audience in or to grow and audience, is by being a gatekeeper. Of course that is attractive since the effort to get and keep your audience is relatively low, since people getting in is simple (there is just one way to use content: our product), getting out is really hard (since again: only your product allows access to the content).
I noticed that Spotify is doing this by forcing you to download their product before you can listen:
Spotify is probably great in a lot of things, and does a lot of things better than other products. However it doesn’t make listening to music better. Especially not by forcing installing the app before you can listen to a certain song. It is a typical method of a company in a relatively young market to grow market share: closing the gates and let nobody out and make sure that the only way to get access to content is via your product.
What might have been a more mature solution is by letting me listen to this song and then try to convert me to Spotify by offering something that my traditional music player doesn’t. For example:
Now Spotify lets me listen to the music and can give me a compelling reason to get their product: if I want to hear more music like this, or if I value erwblo’s music choice I can use Spotify to keep up to date to this by subscribing to erwblo.
It is not about making things only usable via your product, it is about giving people a compelling reason to use your product in the first place. It has to better, if it isn’t: don’t do it.