Pinterest, Pulse, Fancy, Flipboard, Badoo: As a new social networking platform emerges almost daily, clients often ask us ‘what’s hot?’ and ‘what’s new?’ in terms of technologies and platforms to help brands better connect with their audiences. But how important is the technology in defining social changes?
While no one can argue that the technology behind some of these emerging social networks is changing the way we communicate with our audiences we suggest it is not defining it. While we agree, consumers are increasingly ‘chatterboxing’ (the new term for media multitasking, as defined by a research study into the numbers of people using social networks while watching TV). But we would argue that this isnt new either.
There is already an expectation that services, promotions and communications will be tailored to time and place. And people expect to have a two-way conversation with brands and their media. Humans are increasingly co-dependent on technology, in a biological symbiotic sense. For example, the recent advances in Google Search combining semantic search techniques are technologically enabled but based on our content and behaviour. People expect brands, their products and services to go to them and to meet their individual needs.
But to borrow the words of Clay Shirky (taken from Cognitive Surplus): “As human behaviour is simply motivation filtered through opportunity, technology is not fundamentally changing human behaviour, it is just providing new opportunities for us to express our underlying human motivations”. The need for people to connect is what makes us human. In our view, what is more interesting is how brands can better understand how behaviours and moods spread through populations via their social networks.
According to Nicholas Christais and James Fowler in their book ‘The power of social networks and how they shape our lives’, different stimuli produce different patterns based on six degrees of separation and three degrees of influence. For example, obesity is ‘transmitted’ not through spouses but through same sex friends. Starting or stopping smoking is more contagious than obesity and more likely to be transmitted across the sexes. Our position or relative influence on our social networks effects all aspects of our lives, for example people with more friends and connections are happier, healthier and better off.
So what does all this mean for marketing people like us? Brands, governments and their agencies need to understand the nature of relevant networks and how they in turn shape behaviors and attitudes. All networks are unique and one size does not fit all. We suggest that brands can not manipulate or influence a network unless they understand how they operate and who the influencers are within each one.
The technology of social networks like Badoo and Pinterest has just provided a different media to connect. We still need to define creative ideas to engage and earn time with people – on or offline.
We would love to hear your views. Tell us what you think.