Recently, Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at the Altimeter Group, took the time to share some of his insightful perspectives with my Internet/Social Media Marketing class via a Skype conversation. Please check out the video and/or read the interview excerpts further below.
From Social Commerce to Syndicated Commerce
Brian Solis suggests that the meaning of social commerce depends on your vantage point and will be different based on whether you are focusing on information or monetization:
“Information commerce is priceless and that's what makes social media so valuable. The more conversations, the more potential you have for influence, the more positive experiences you can promote, the better the influence aids in awareness, consideration, pre- and post-commerce.”
When Brian turns his attention to monetization specifically, he argues that the big shift is the move from social commerce to syndicated commerce, a shift he covers in detail in The End of Business as Usual:
Brian Solis: “[Syndicated commerce] is not just about social media, it is about the connected consumer, the connected customer, how they make decisions, how they are influenced, and how they too influence, how they learn, discover, share and communicate, and also how they purchase. Social is one of those outlets, one of those venues for the connected consumer to make a transaction.
Syndicated commerce is important because you can take into account mobile, you have iPads and iPods, you have electronic wallets, you have RFID, you combine mobile with social, you combine e-commerce, you combine in-real-world, you combine augmented reality. Now you start to think, depending on how the connected consumer is evolving for your industry or your market, now you have to really start thinking about how are they considering making purchases. Some might need a Facebook strategy, some might need just a good old-fashioned e-commerce strategy.
The majority of consumers or connected consumers over the next several years are going to want to pay via mobile. The reason why I refer to syndicated commerce so often is because in some way, shape or form you are going to have to have a multifaceted strategy. To what extent is going to be dependent upon the research you conduct, the sophistication of your connected consumer, and what is most important to realize is that they are going to be different, all industries are going to be different. They are going to be different for your business, where they are today is not where they are going to be next year so this is going to be an ongoing evolution.”
Corporate Citizenship, Leadership, Innovation, and Digital Darwinism
Another issue that I asked Brian to address was whether he thought that the emergence of increasingly powerful syndicated or connected consumers will make it increasingly difficult to be a bad corporate citizen?
Brian Solis: “It depends on what you mean by bad corporate citizen. Think about what it takes to be successful in business today it's not necessarily what it's going to take to be successful in business forty years from now. I think we're seeing the introduction of new models. We're certainly seeing the introduction of new engagement, marketing, sales, and service channels but there's something bigger that's taking place. Aside from all the mechanics and the structure of the future business, there's a prevailing sense of philosophy that needs to change within the organization. Leadership, innovation, how it views evolution and adaptation, what are we managing for, what are we solving for.
Businesses have gotten really got at introducing efficiencies, scalability, ways to increase margins while still streamlining processes, all that's not going away but what we really need to figure out is how to do that in the face of constant innovation. Disruptive technology is funny because even still to this day, even after writing The End of Business as Usual, I am still asked when all of this is just going to go away. When does this fad get stopped.
I look at your class, I see some Macbooks, probably some smartphones, some tablets, you guys tell me, when are going to stop using all this stuff? It's not going to happen. It's a philosophical discussion that we have to have. Disruptive technology is going to be constant. Businesses are going to have to evolve. This is why I refer to Digital Darwinism as the greatest threat to businesses in current history. That is, if they can't adapt to the evolution of technology and society, then they are going to fall out of favor of their connected customers. When you look at the balance of connected customers and traditional customers, right now they coexist. At some point, one of those groups is going to grow and the other one is literally going to die out. So we are going to have to make investments in the corporate infrastructure that can scale with the evolution of society and technology. This is why it is up to your class, it's up to you and me, to figure out how to get business leaders to see, philosophically, how to rethink their vision, how to rethink their mission, how to rethink their purpose for a connected society whose needs and expectations are different than how your business is structured today.”
The Value on Being in Silicon Valley to Stay Innovative
The next topic was on whether online collaboration has made it less important be located in Silicon Valley to be an innovative business. Here is what Brian had to say on this:
Brian Solis: “I think that Facebook, Twitter, social networks in general, and YouTube, allows people to plug in to a digital lifestyle that they would not have known otherwise. Certainly, innovation is rampant in Silicon Valley but it's also rampant in Portland, in Seattle, in Austin TX, in Los Angeles, New York, it's all over the place, and its spreading. This is why Digital Darwinism is such a threat, it is not isolated into any one geography, nor is it isolated to any one age group. I think that one of the challenges that businesses think that they blame all of this on the Millenial, when in fact, it's not just the Millenial, it's anyone who uses this technology, you start to lead a digital lifestyle which I refer to as Generation C just to say it's not a about age, it's about connectedness.
I think businesses need to plug in to sources of innovation. Certainly here, I am in Silicon Valley, and you name the company, and they're opening up an office here to stay connected to all of this innovation and feed it back into the organization. But remember, it doesn't matter how plugged in you are, if the culture of your organization isn't ready to embrace what it is you learn or what it is that you see that they need to go. So this is really at the source of Digital Darwinism is the businesses inability to recognize opportunities and seize them.”
Digital Influence and Why Consumers Need to Care
I also asked Brian to elaborate on his take on digital influence and what it means to consumers:
Brian Solis: “It is a fortunate or unfortunate reality. It is what it is. Profiling is not new. Digital profiling is also not new. Now we have social profiling. The reality is that we have to just be more thoughtful about what it is we do or say online. In one way, shape, or form, we are all judged. Whether it is for a university, or a job. Believe it or not, credit companies are looking at ways to consider Klout scores in lending or new technologies in lending that have to do with your social stature. So it is going to get a lot scarier then it gets a lot better and at the end of the day, we're all in control of that. Now remember, the more influence you can wield online, based on expertise or authority, the more valuable you become to businesses in general, to employers in general. In fact, there was a recent article that was being passed around about how employers were looking for people to have a certain Klout score to be considered for employment.
I published a 33-page report on the importance of Digital Influence and how to think about it. I also did that to help businesses think through how to better utilize these types of tools. But, in the end, it's in our hands, what our online persona or brand is is really ours to define.”
How old-fashioned CEO's can embrace the Revolution
When asked how old-fashioned CEOs who have been skeptical of the digital revolution should act if they wake up and recognize that they indeed would like to embrace it. Where should they look for talent, who should run the “social division,” should they look outside the organization or choose someone from within, etc. Brian Solis had the following message to share in response:
Brian Solis: “It certainly takes someone who understands the revolution or is inspired by the revolution. You have to remember, there's someone who is inspired by the revolution and there's always someone who is inspired to make that business better. They might be one in the same person or they might need to form a partnership. Someone who is passionate about the revolution and disruptive technology and someone who is passionate about what that organization can do, what that business can accomplish. This is why it's not left to any one person, whomever wakes up to say ‘we need to change'. This is why the most successful businesses today aren't putting it in the hands of someone who knows Twitter or Facebook, they are putting it in the hands of a full-blown task force that's going to lead change within the organization and that task force has those who are passionate, has leaders, executive leaders, has leaders of functions and lines of businesses because their duty is to compete for the future right now and that's going to involve social, that's going to involve other forms of disruptive technology. Really, this is why, I talk a lot about Generation C, because it is going to be tasked with understanding the role of the connected consumer, how they make decisions, what influences those decisions, what are the touch points, and how the organization needs to basically ramp up to get in front of those touch points.”
Graduating Students: Gain Experience or Start a Business?
Final question was whether Brian recommends graduating students to gain experience with a big business or start a business of their own.
Brian Solis: “I did a study about this recently, about recent graduates and where they were going and why. An overwhelming majority just don't wanna get sucked into a big business, they wanna become their own entrepreneur because this is a time to innovate, this is a time to explore ideas, this is a time to maybe join a startup. There's certainly no shortage of funding right now to get those companies off the ground. It really comes down to what you're motivated to do. I think that if you do decide to take the entrepreneurial route, there's certainly a never-before-seen appreciation for people who do that. It's almost like getting a real-time MBA, it's certainly valued. I've lived in the startup world for gosh about ten to twelve years and it was fascinating, I learned everything. In fact, the greatest thing I learned in that was that constraint forces creativity, it makes you think in new ways. However, as bigger businesses now start to see the need to embrace innovation, they are going to also need your help. Now, I guess the best advice is there isn't a right answer, except what you need to carry with you is a great sense of confidence that you take your destiny in your own hands, and that businesses will value you for what it is that you bring to the table. Just know that you have much more leverage than you might think.”
Concluding Words of Wisdom
Brian left us with some parting words:
Brian Solis: “Business leaders haven't figured this out. They're trying to figure it out and it really is your time to help them get it. But more importantly, you need to understand that you are both the disruption and the solution, so the steps you take are to find the future for all of us.”