Social Collective 2010: Key Discussion Points

On Thursday I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Social Collective conference in London, a social media event that was devised to bring together thoughts and insights into how the social web works and what the future holds. More than the bog standard ‘this is what social media is and this is why you should use it’, Social Collective was focused on the big questions that we’re all asking and at the implications that the social web has across business; from marketing and PR to customer service and human resources; from the shop floor to the boardroom. I’d encourage you to check out the Social Collective site for updates from all of the sessions, but I thought it’d be useful to distil a few of the key discussion points and learnings here to provide food for thought and insight.

First to catch my attention was Katy Howell’s assertion that we have to start talking the language of business, not the language of social media people. In order for business to buy into social media and the power it has, they need to understand it, and talking to them in terms of retweets and referral traffic doesn’t cut it. What the boardroom wants is boardroom metrics. The question of ROI inevitably comes back to money in one sense or another; either making it or saving it. But the social web has brought about a fundamental shift in the way purchasing decisions take place, and this is where the power of social media can be seen most. The ‘consideration phase’ is now longer as people research and investigate their options. And they ask their networks for their experiences and opinions. What social media can do is to address people’s ‘consideration questions’ – emotional concerns, credibility issues, service issues and product questions. That is the REAL power of social media; influencing and inspiring people in the consideration phase through impacting on SEO.

Brad Little extended this theme, explaining that the consideration phase has been extended due to a feedback loop where we all now have the ability to talk about products, services and brands AFTER we’ve purchased. We blog, we tweet and we share our own experiences; if, as social marketers, we pay attention to these ‘expressions’ (what people say once they’ve purchased), we can influence our customers’ intention to purchase and our sales. The consideration phase also explains why traditional advertising no longer works so well and why the ROI on this form of marketing is plummeting; people don’t see an ad and think ‘I must buy that’, they see an ad and think ‘I’ll compare that to other options and ask my friends/network before I buy’.

Paul Harrison (my twin incidentally, according to Social Collective organiser Beth Carroll) talked about trust and about how not only do people value the opinions of their networks, but how we actually carry our networks around with us 24/7 on our smartphones. It’s an interesting way of looking at the mobile web and really brings home the importance of social media within a mobile context. Paul also discussed how social really is a cultural thing; it’s an approach and an ethos that must come from the boardroom and filter through an entire organisation. Could the ‘social company’ be just around the corner?

In terms of where social may go next, among 11 pointers for 2011, Paul asserted that the ‘social star’ will be on the rise – those individuals who are really clued up about the social web and can truly guide an organisation from within. The attention really is starting to fall on the people who have the experience and knowledge of using social media, and succeeding and failing with different platforms and ideas. Much as those of us in this type of role despise the ‘guru’ and ‘expert’ label (it truly makes me cringe) it’s something we might have to just suck up as we’re becoming vital and pivotal from a business strategy context.

Paul also feels that the overwhelming evidence is that the corporate website is ‘going the way of the fax machine’ – we still keep one, but it sits in the corner without getting much attention. The reason for this is that as the likes of Facebook become more sophisticated, it’s these platforms we go to in order to engage with a brand, make decisions about it, to research it and, importantly, to ask our networks about their opinions. It’s all in one place, so why would we visit a corporate website?

These are just some of the areas for further thought that I took from the day. And there were plenty more, not least a presentation by Didier Mormesse from CNN that revealed the initial results of a piece of global research into how and why people share news across the social web, what is shared most and what makes it shareable. It’s a fascinating study that I’ll be watching very, very closely once the full results are released. But in the meantime, visit the Social Collective blog for more insights from a truly engaging and beneficial day.

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  • John Bottom

    Nice summary Paul – I'm afraid I missed the event, but good to have a concise catch-up of what was said. Look forward to hearing more about the CNN presentation you mentioned.

  • Paul Sutton

    Thanks John. The CNN presentation has great implications for online marketing and PR, or anyone who wants to share content across the social web. I'll be sure to report on it when I see the full report.

  • Paul Harrison

    "Bro", great to connect, and thanks for this write up. I'm also looking forward to the CNN outputs – v. v. interesting. If of help have put the pres on Look forward to connecting again soon, Paul