Trouble Harnessing Social Media? Relationships Can’t Be Automated

Today I can’t imagine recommending a brand not be on Facebook. It’s hard to ignore reaching one billion people. A recent survey of CMOs indicate they know this. In fact 82% said they plan to increase their use of social media over the next 3-5 years. But that same IBM study indicates marketers are struggling to harness their social media investment. They feel overwhelmed by the volume of customer data on websites like Facebook and consider themselves ill-equipped to leverage it.

IBM’s solution is more robust software. Marketing executive Marcel Holsheimer says, “Marketing is going to become much more an automated software play than it was in the past. This is why IBM is now making the investment in this space.” I agree that automation is key to collect and analyze social media information, and we need more robust software to manage big data. But we shouldn’t pretend that is the only part of the solution. In all the hype over big data let’s not forget the human at the end of the technology.

Social media has exploded because it connects real people. Humans by nature are social creatures. Relationships give meaning and purpose to our lives like no other activity or endeavor. Despite the attempts of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey you can’t have a relationship with automated software. Use all the social media dashboards you want, but there still has to be a human with that update, post and tweet investing time into the customer relationship.

How do you develop strong social relationships? Student health services at University of Indiana suggests the following as essential relationship skills:

  1. Listen to what the other person is saying.
  2. Develop solutions that suit both of your needs.
  3. Express your appreciation.
  4. Show empathy and genuine concern.

A similar list emphasizes these key interpersonal skills:

  1. Look
  2. Listen
  3. Ask
  4. Learn
  5. Understand
  6. Acknowledge
  7. Provide
  8. Commit
  9. Contribute
  10. Follow up

If your brand is on Facebook, good, you probably need to be there. But are you acting the right way? Go to your page, look at the activity and compare it to the two lists above. Then estimate your brand’s social skills score. How are you doing?

For those who have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey you know how HAL 9000’s personal interactions turn out for the Discovery spacecraft and crew. If you haven’t seen the movie, take a break from big data software automation to interact with an epic film filled with real human drama.

Why Does New Media Matter? Because United Breaks Guitars.

Consumers are creating their own content and marketers are monitoring their activity to react. New media has made the single voice a force to be reckoned with. Have you seen the YouTube video “United Breaks Guitars?” It is one man’s effort to get United Airlines to pay for the guitar their baggage handlers broke. It is up to 8.1 million views. On the best nights last fall the  Jay Leno Show pulled in 6.2 million viewers. And United Airline’s own magazine Hemispheres only has an annual circulation of 4.5 million.

Why does new media matter? Because Blending an iPhone on YouTube lead to a five-fold increase in sales for Blendtec. Because CEOs are communicating directly with employees and customers. Sun Microsystems CEO Blog gets 400,000 hits a month. Because the cable company is actually changing its image. Comcastcares is improving customer service by monitoring negative comments on Twitter and responding directly. Because in three days the American Red Cross raised $7 million for its Haiti relief efforts via text messaging.

What we’re really talking about is anything that promotes interaction (consumer to consumer, company to consumer, consumer to company) through digital technology. Is it all still new? Dot coms had their boom and bust over ten years ago. The FTC suggests a six-month limit on the use of the word new in advertising. So is it time for a new name for new media? I humbly suggest “Interactive Digital Media.”

New media is digital. And it matters because it is interactive.

It’s Activigital.

Technology Makes Us Dumber, Less Productive And Stressed Out.

A recent Psychology Today article says GPS may get people to their destinations faster, but in the process they’ve loosing the ability to think through navigation problems themselves–a skill that trains our brain to solve other problems too.

Other research on “Infomania” says workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers. The study even warns of people becoming addicted to email and text messages finding that 62% of people checked work messages at home or on vacation. More than 50% said they always responded to an email “immediately” or as soon as possible, but people constantly interrupting tasks to react to email or text messages suffer similar effects on the mind as losing a night’s sleep.

Similarly a recent Wall Street Journal column cited growing evidence that multitasking erodes, rather than enhances, productivity. As people divide their attention between two even seemingly simple tasks–like reading email while talking on the phone–comprehension, concentration and short-term memory suffer. Research also indicates that switching from one job to another eats up more time than waiting to finish one job before beginning the next.

Stress-management expert Jon Kabat-Zinn offers seminars and workshops on time-management. His secret? Mindfulness–doing one thing at a time–can add more hours to your day. You get more done, enjoy things more, and feel less stress.

Technology can connect people. It can also disconnect them. Technology can improve efficiency. It can also drain it. How long can you let an email or text or Tweet go without answering it?