I interviewed social business author Brian Solis for a discussion on if social video needs to have better rules of engagement for real-world value or risk becoming hijacked by marketing agencies who miss the point of it all and de-valueing it's promise to the point of it becoming another marginalized buzz term?
I caught up with Brian late last month after his Chicago book signing of The End of Business as Usual, as a follow up to earlier interview at ReelSEO. I asked Brian if it's an acceptable business practice for those who treat "social video" as just putting out content that others find interesting and share (such as with a view count, or "like" or a "tweet”, or another form of social widget proof)? Or, has the ecosystem matured to the point consumers expect and demand a higher standard of engagement than just that? Should we now expect any social video campaign to go beyond just awareness and a popularity contest, and take people further down the consumer funnel towards real-world business goals, with a tangible value value for a business' bottom line?
Why Social Video Needs To Be More Than "Just Showing Up”
"I do think engagement is sort of underappreciated, understudied and underutilized," says Brian. "By that I mean I think we tend to look at 'social' as a form of engagement; and as an acceptable definition for engagement so it's almost along the lines of saying, 'Hey, you showed up. That's great.' You're social, you have a Facebook presence, you have a Twitter account, you have a YouTube channel, you're creating content, you're pushing content, you might be responding to comments, you might be hosting contests; and I believe these are all steps in any maturation process. "At the same time I believe it's the minimal ante to play the game.”
When Social Video is More Anti-Social
I can relate to what Brian is saying in regards to what is treated as "social" by a good portion of my own industry with online video. It seems to me that they treat "social" as just putting out what they consider to be interesting content, basically just "showing up," and not really paying attention to our sticking around to actually engage with their audience beyond that. Basically I think they are expecting whatever social capital or currency they may have gained from their video will be maintained or augmented from the sharing activities of their audience.
But how is this any different from the type of behaviors we disdain in the real world?
I look at it like the person who comes to a party wearing a really cool outfit. They have our attention and they want us to talk about it, and some of us do. There is usually a real initial attraction, obviously. But all they're really interested in being seen and talked about. They're not interested in actually talking with us, and learning about us.
Now I'm not saying there aren't some of the people at the party who are perfectly fine with just leering and talking about the person's cool outfit with their friends. But it's not something that lasts with them over time, because there was no attempt at personal engagement made. So whatever value opportunity there may have been from getting people's attention and cultivating relationships was instead relegated to being short-term eye candy.
The additional problem is that, for a good many people, social comes with it a kind of promise for such engagement. So when you show up to a party and act like you're too cool to talk with anyone, they in their eyes you're putting out a false promise of deeper engagement beyond just expecting their attention and for them to talk about you. Without the next step of a willingness to engage with your audience on a personal level – even with two-way or multi-way conversations, just some kind of way of participating in the ongoing dialogue beyond just seeding content (or even worse, just doing content without even listening to your audience)– well to me that describes state of much of what we call "social video" today, and that's I think is a growing problem.
"In many ways that's unfortunately today's state of so-called social media, even by some of the best companies that we hold in high regard and consider as best practices," says Brian. "If you were to dissect that program you would find that they are actually antisocial rather than social. I even looked this up before I made such a sweeping accusation, but it is going against the norms of a society.”
Without Customer Service, Social Video Misses Its Promise
There is a true distinction between acting social and being social with video or any other type of media today:
- Acting social is just putting content out, or putting a platform out, and expecting other people to do the rest of the activity for you. This is a good first step, but you need to do more than that now. You need to "be social.”
- Being social is a willingness to engage with your audience on a deeper level than that, including listening, talking with them, collaborating, contributing
"If you look at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any one of these social technology networks – they are full blown digital societies with culture, with rules of engagement, with all types of principles that govern the society," says Brian. "By pushing content or pushing promotional over and over again, by not having customer service in Facebook to answer your customer's questions, just by simply treating them as marketing channels - we are, in a sense, going against the norms of a society. We are using these new channels to push what it is we've always done, just using social technology to do so.”
"I actually believe that is a big part of the problem. This is a manifestation of what you said earlier of just showing up to be social, and that's not good enough. In fact, that's damaging. This is why I wrote about the great coming of unlikes and unfollows because there isn't value in that exchange.”
Why Social Video Needs To Value Customer Care More
Brian told me that when he published his book, The End of Business As Usual, it was really less about social media and more about an evolution of customer behavior; and the needs for new business models to meet those needs. "A lot of my audience is really passionate about social media and I realized I needed a bridge between the two," says Brian.
"The customers are savvy and their expectations are going to evolve faster than business' ability to meet them, simply because they are placing value in the wrong buckets. That's okay as long as we have individuals such as you and me out there showing actually what's possible, what the bar should be, where we should strive for. I believe what is not often shared enough in these discussions about innovation, or even in terms of social technology, or even in terms of strategy, is this idea of the champion of the customer or the voice of the customer or the expectation of the customer.”
I am a firm believer with Brian that social media, and especially social video, needs to include and integrate better customer care so it can be much more valuable for consumers and for business. Businesses involved with social video have been getting by with the minimal standard for a good while now, but consumers and customers have a right to expect more, and they're demanding more. It needs goes beyond just a minimal standard of just "showing up," now matter how cool you think you look. I do believe that the businesses and organizations that realize this and treat social video with a promise of customer care will see much more real-world value for their efforts. Not just the "likes" that a social widget provides, but a "thank you" and much more from real people you've cared enough to take the time to build genuine relationships with.
Because if you expect others to have conversations about you, but you're not willing to converse with them yourself, aren't you really being anti-social, and not social?
Got a beef with what I'm saying? Then prove me wrong! You may not be right, but at least you'll be social. ;)