In this study, The Social Consumer, we explored the factors that inform, impact and shape trust, loyalty and preferences of the digitally connected consumer. We tested the belief that brands which can tap into the emotions about and awareness of their values (human/social) are most likely to inspire positive action and loyalty from consumers.
Our view is that the super-connectedness of global communications has challenged how companies interact, engage and maintain relevance and trust with their key audiences and the public-at-large. Consumers are more discerning about the companies they choose to do business with and support. We are now in a “so what”, “show me” or “can I trust what you say” business, political and social economy.
The findings from The Social Consumer study reflect a number of surprising and validating insights, informed by surveys completed by 927 respondents mostly from the U.S. with about 10 percent from rest-of-world, with great distribution and balance across age and gender. The study explored:
The complete report can be found here. We encourage you to read, share and comment.
Here is a summary of our key findings:
What inspired me most about the opportunity to join Shell in 2011 was nothing short of scale and impact.
There are few industries and companies that can claim true relevance to every person on the planet. Energy is such an industry that serves a vital purpose in sustaining daily life and enabling progress around the globe. Shell sees its role to deliver more energy in ways that are economically attractive, and socially and environmentally responsible.
As the world grows in population from 7 billion people to 9 billion by 2050, societies will become healthier and more prosperous. This growth will increase stress and scarcity on water, food and energy, our most vital, global resources.
The complexity associated with the energy challenge play out on social, environmental and geo-political levels. In order to make progress, active engagement with people of all ages, societies and cultures is required.
Scale and Impact
Given the scope of the energy challenge, the question I asked was "how do you make a company like Shell relevant and relatable to every person on the planet?" This is a big question and challenge to solve for.
The good news is that the means to support the challenge exist, in part, with the smart use of social media and mobile (technologies) applied with strategic partnerships, compelling content and purposeful engagement. There is no better way to engage a broad spectrum of audiences at scale (from one to one billion) than through social media and mobile.
I’d like to offer insights into a few key areas that helped to guide our efforts in addressing the challenge:
Working through answers to simple questions is important. You don't have to be a social media expert to develop smart and high impact strategies, as long as you work through the right questions. I have been drawn to a very simple question-based framework to guide our social media content and engagement efforts at Shell:
What do you want people to know, feel and do as a result of interacting with your company and/or content?
Facebook advocates working through the following question, which I also like:
Why would someone care and why would they share your content?
Answering these questions has proven important as we define our audiences, understand what they care about and develop content that relates to their interests, concerns and/or needs.It forces us to think about and appeal to the emotional and behavioral drivers that inspire people to engage and take action on a daily basis. Every person has a different entry point into the relationship with Shell.
It is important to have a strong balance of strategic partnerships and relationships in place with companies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google and with agencies (PR, media, creative) and technology partners like Adobe and/or Buddy Media (now Sales Force Marketing Cloud).
Developing a collaborative structure that brings together motivated teams from each partner with well defined roles and responsibilities to contribute to the success of your larger business strategy and objectives is crucial. Each partner brings with them an important lens on audience and engagement opportunities supported by great data, insight and expertise that when pulled together into a uniform view, have enormous impact.
It’s also important to seek unconventional partners. Those who have common interests in the problems you are looking to solve and a willingness to collaborate to offer powerful solutions to address. In many ways, the unconventional partnerships are the ones that will distinguish your efforts in game-changing ways.
As I have previously written, Shell is a founding partner of an initiative called mPowering Action that seeks to engage 100 million youth across 120 countries over the next five years.
This innovative program is orchestrated by Tribal Brands and is delivered through a public/private partnership model with the United Nations, NGOs, businesses (like Shell) and top global athletes and artists in the entertainment industry.
Today, people under 25 make up 43 percent of the world’s population – in some countries, that number is as high as 70 percent. This amounts to nearly 4 billion young people living on the brink of the greatest technological advances and human progress while also surrounded by intractable public health epidemics, record jobless rates, outdated education systems and historic pressures on the planet’s resources.
This generation of millennials are social media savvy and eager to help create real-world change, and for the first time in history, technology has the ability to facilitate change in the palm of their hands.
mPowering Action is a powerful initiative because it brings together organizations that do not typically work (or work well) together with a common interest to provide a voice and bring real world solutions to the challenges representative of 43% of the population on the planet. No one organization can deliver on this vision alone. It requires participation from the value-chain.
Developing unconventional partnerships such as this showcase your company's purpose and commitment to deliver on the very human issues that motivate and inspire people to take action...which just might lend to brand preference for your company.
In a future post I will offer additional insights on:
This is a great question and the more I thought about it, the clearer the answer(s) became.
1. The first insight reflects the The Changing Role of Influence.
There is a great quote by Gary Hamel who says “Influence is like water. Always flowing somewhere.” This is very true in today's business enviornment as new sources of influence are forming around our companies and industries at an extremely rapid pace.
I have talked with many marketing and communication leaders over the last two years who are rethinking the design of their programs and organizational structures to understand the changes they need to make to be more effective in an evolving business (influence) environment. The need to become more relevant and relatable to customers are driving much of the change.
The reality is that traditional marketing and communication platforms and one-to-one relationship models that many of us have built our careers on have been disrupted. Trust in mainstream media and NGOs (for reputation management) and traditional advertising, digital marketing and mass communication tactics have been challenged by how people want to engage with companies. Most companies today are not approachable and lack a personality or an image that people can relate to.
It's extremely important to understand how customer expectations and influence has changed in our industries and adapt our structures, programs and mindset to allow for balance both in how we influence and how we are influenced.
2. The second insight extends from The Cultural Impact of Social Media.
As much time as we spend talking amongst ourselves as marketing and communication professionals about the technologies, tools, processes and governance of social media, at the end of the day the problem we face is how we adapt to a new cultural imperative. This is what social media is really about - culture and mindset.
The implications of this are high as success requires humility, authenticity and courage to be open to opposing views and discourse in an effort to make progress.
3. The third insight is associated with Brand Empowerment.
In light of a highly disrupted media industry a strong and compelling case can be made that “Every Company Is a Media Company.”
Tom Foremski has been a champion of this idea for several years. Tom is a former journalist with the FT and maintains a blog called Silicon Valley Watcher.
The notion of every company is a media company does not suggest that companies are the next CNN or FTs. What it does suggest is that companies now have the ability and in many ways a forced accountability to communicate direct with its key audiences – providing greater reach and more influence than traditional media has ever offered as a primary channel in the past.
Companies no longer have to be intermediated by traditional media or other organizations as technology has opened up direct channels to reach and engage audiences (to an individual level) in meaningful ways.
4. The forth insight is The Power of Experience.
Joseph Pine III and James Gilmore have famously promoted that we now live in an experience economy . I fully buy into this.
Experience is perhaps the single most important and credible factor that influences any individual or community to take action. This is very hard to buy.
One's experience (good or bad) is authentic and extremely credible.
In this regard, social media provides profound insights about how people think, feel and act as a result of their experiences with a company, product or service. This represents the trifecta of insight that we all strive for. To understand how our customers truly think, feel and act is priceless.
In today's enviornment, when there is a crises often times it is “the gap” between the Brand that a company has built and stands for and the actions in its Business that people react to and attack. I call this the battles of the “B”s.
If not completely aligned, Brand sits on one end and Business on the other. In the middle is the credibility or experience gap. The credibility or experience gap is one of the biggest liabilities for companies in this new media and business environment and is why all programs must be strongly linked to managing experience.
These are some of the most important insights that have shaped much of my thinking and work.
From understanding the changing role of influence; to adapting to a new cultural imperative for engagement as a result of social media; to adapting to our role as a media company; with full respect for the power of experience.
My question to you: “What experiences or insights have shaped your views on brand and reputation management in today’s business environment?”
On February 15th, 2012 Shell launched its first globally integrated Facebook page, representing a significant milestone for the company and its commitment to open communication and community engagement.
In many ways, the learnings and experience (in the first 10 weeks) have clarified our viewpoint on what community and social engagement truly means for a company like Shell. I call it our "Back to the Future" insights and learning moments.
The Need to Engage.
Shell's senior management endorsed the company's progressive entry into social media (starting with Facebook) driven by a need to engage with people in a way that reflects the realities of the world that we operate in today.
Energy is a complex industry that affects every person on the planet.
There are many socioeconomic, environmental and geopolitical issues surrounding the energy industry that require a great deal of education and exchange with people of all ages, cultures and in all countries, to progress.
Although Shell was not the first energy company to embrace social media, we have been the fastest growing and are now leading all others by measure of followers. As we enter the tenth week with our Facebook effort, we have surpassed 900,000 followers and are on track to reach 1 million in the first three months.
We are learning daily as to "why" people are following and engaging with us. The learning and insights have been tremendous.
Back to the Future.
Modern day public or community relations (circa early 1900s) was famously founded and put into practice by Edward L. Bernays, Ivy Lee and other early public relations pioneers.
The principles were rooted in the need for companies and government to engage with citizens and stakeholders in local communities to make progress on very complex social and economic issues that existed in the U.S. at the time.
The many technical and professional innovations introduced to the world in the 100+ years since (e.g. advancements in radio, press release, telephone, television, facsimile, Internet, email, social media, etc.) have increasingly made communication with people and communities easy and scaleable but arguably less personal.
This has tested societal trust in "the message" as the content that many organizations create has become increasingly generic, technical, fragmented and detached (from everyday people) to compensate for the desire to reach the "masses".
Corporate marketing and communication professionals have worked hard to adapt by tapping into the social phenomena of "word-of-mouth". The fixation to develop strategies to drive influence with and through specialized audiences of consumers, professionals, voters and citizens (from within) have brought about a more purposeful but vulnerable level of engagement.
The recent advancements to communication through social media has, in many ways, taken us right back to where we started over 100 years ago as a profession.
Social media and its implementation through blogs, and robust communities like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (among other social media peer groups) is one of the greatest advancements and innovations to the "new" modern day public and community relations profession. The principles introduced over 100+years remain the same.
Back to Basics.
There are many "back to basics" realities that companies must employ to be successful, today. Early lessons from our work at Shell reinforce that success (in part) is driven by leadership discipline and conviction to:
These are just a few of the lessons we have used to guide the design of Shell's social media strategy to build and sustain a community of followers (not just "fans"). We are constantly learning, testing and adapting the content and practices to increase informed view points (two-way) and build authentic advocacy, loyalty and social-economic results.
However, in business, many brands seek to build robust fan bases in both large and specialized on-line communities to support marketing, sales, advocacy and influence efforts.
Some companies use gimmicks and creative offers to attract "fans" - which is more about marketing tactics than a desire to build relationships or loyalty. Other companies use compelling information to add value to people based on issues, concerns or topics that they care about.
The latter is something that I relate to.
The value of communities like facebook (for me personally) is the ability to build and maintain relationships and stay informed about "what's happening" in the lives of friends, family, colleagues and even companies or causes that are important to me. It’s through these relationships that I learn, engage and share information about issues, news and events. It’s an important and influential channel for me.
Build it and they will come.
There's a very profound and fascinating notion that information (if important or relevant) will find you through your network.
I was exposed to this idea when my boss shared a conversation that he recently had with his teenage son where he suggested (to his son) that he should read more newspapers. The response that my boss received was "if information or news is important, it will find me." My bosses initial reaction was "well, that's arrogant" but then realized that it makes a lot of sense...and it does. His son has been brought up in an era where people are so connected (through devices and social media) that information and news is circulated, filtered and curated in a way that if relevant it will indeed "find" you.
This speaks to an important dimension of social media and trust that extends from our relationships. It's something that most people often forget in a business context when looking to adapt to managing communication and business in a new world. People are inherently influenced by others in their network and to information/things that they can relate to.
The Social Mind Research Study.
Without a doubt, interrelationships between individuals, organizations, thought leaders and influencers are evolving in new and previously unforeseen ways. This shift represents a major communications innovation in all markets, and is radically changing the way people and organizations engage and behave on-line.
In order to explore this topic Vanessa DiMauro, Peter Auditore and I are conducting a new study called The Social Mind as part of our fellowship with The Society of New Communications Research (SNCR) .
The Social Mind research project is designed to explore and understand these interrelationships and how they impact the consumption of information across social media channels and influence flow. Our hope is that the findings of the Social Mind research will enable B2B, B2P, B2C or Cause marketers to understand the importance and relevance of content - and - its ultimate impact and influence on behaviors, beliefs, decisions and actions.
To this end, we are endeavoring to identify key characteristics and insights into the engagement behaviors of individuals and how organizations can maximize reach and influence to execute on what we call the new Principals of Engagement In the Millennium.
We invite you to participate in this study by taking a brief survey. We will share the full results of the research with all who respond. We also invite you to forward the survey to a peer, retweet it, G+ it or share it however you see fit. This is an open study intended to bring full value back to all who respond.
Thank you very much for supporting The Social Mind research project!
Through The Society of New Communication Research (SNCR), we are endeavoring to contribute to the industry learning and best practices with much needed research data.
We are a group of researchers and practitioners who come together to help further the understanding and best practices of social media, social business and social influence. We volunteer our time to further the industry and help raise awareness of social media function in business and society.
Be it in business, in one’s personal life, politics, or otherwise - the best relationships (when managed well) keep you grounded and honest. They offer learning experiences. They are influential and provide support in unusual ways that overtime can sustain even the toughest of challenges.
Casual, social, formal or personal – the connections that people make start with how they relate to one another or to a cause, an issue, a religion, a culture, a belief, a principle or even to a company.
Seven billion actions.
I've had many great learning experiences over the past year but none greater than my role as an adviser to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
In February, I was part of a small group of professionals invited to help the UNFPA develop a communication campaign that would raise awareness and inspire people to take action around the many issues associated with global population reaching the staggering milestone of seven billion people.
As outlined in a previous post, seven billion is a big number. It's a number that most people simply can't grasp nor relate to.
In population terms, however, there are many harsh realities that impact people in one form or another - every day. These realities concern employment, health, safety, adequate and affordable access to education, energy, food, water and housing (among other things).
The campaign is called 7 Billion Actions and is driven by a desire to engage people, corporations and governments in a movement to address issues of humanity. To support this, we developed an environment that would be educational and allow people to share their individual stories, challenges, feelings and commitments to take action on issues - at a local and global level.
Through combining education and the shared experiences of others, we felt that we could indeed inspire a movement that would bring with it positive change. Once people relate to an issue on an emotional, intellectual and experiential level - amazing things can happen. Further to this, when people can see the possibilities and the benefits of change - the power of "relate" can be transformative.
The use of social media is significant in this campaign.
Since world population reached seven billion on the ceremonial day of October 31st, the community developed on facebook has grown to 11,600 people (increasing by hundreds per day) and more than 630 stories from people around the world have been shared and hundreds of blogs and stories from mainstream media have been produced. Many corporations, media companies and NGOs are also supporting the effort in direct and meaningful ways.
Although it’s too early to declare success of the campaign in creating a movement, the early signs are inspiring. As population will continue to grow at an extremely high rate, the cadence of this campaign and the issues associated with it will continue to be important for months and years to come.
The lessons of this experience have been incredibly clarifying to me.
I had the great opportunity to participate in a panel discussion this morning, hosted by BrightTALK in coordination with Think Influence.
BrightTALK is a San Francisco-based company that specializes in providing online events for professionals and their communities. Think Influence is a grassroots community of peers (across industries) focused on the exchange of ideas and best practices on the role of influence in business.
The panel discussion was focused on the topic of 'influence' with particular focus on what influence is and how to identify, create and harness it in a world heavily dominated by all things social (social media, social networks, and social business).
The panelists included:
I am proud to release the results of the 2nd annual New Symbiosis of Professional Networks research study by The Society for New Communications Research (SNCR); a benchmark on the impact of social media on enterprise decision-making.
The study is a result of collaboration between me and Vanessa DiMauro as part of our fellowship with SNCR. My colleague at SAP and Senior Fellow at SNCR, Peter Auditore, also contributed to the analysis.
In the first study we focused on professionals’ use of social media—and it all comes back to the strength of the relationship. Human relationships and peer-to-peer decision-making are inherently interrelated. Professional networks facilitate vast interactions, connections, and networks of people by enabling collaboration anywhere and at any time.
Communities of practice, professional networks, social media, email, and SMS are among the tools that enable multi-channel access for individuals (employees, customers, partners, and suppliers).
In this second study, we further examined the role of social media on decision-making among enterprise users and explored the dynamics of trust as well as the value of engagement and collaboration to support decision making and innovation across company operations for internal and external purposes.
Specifically, we sought to explore the following questions:
The study was supported by quantitative data gathered via online survey of 114 professionals to understand their perceptions and experiences with social media in support of their decision-making.
Key demographics of the research:
Below are key findings of the research. A presentation of the detailed findings can be found here.
Four key findings from the research include:
I am very happy to be part of a dynamic panel of marketing experts and thought leaders, gathering in San Francisco on March 17th, for an active discussion about influence and advocacy in a world of social business.
The panel is a joint production between BrightTALK and Think Influence.
BrightTALK is a company that provides online events for professionals and their communities. Think Influence is a grassroots community of peers (across industries) focused on the exchange of ideas and best practices on the role of influence in business.
Barbara French is the inspiration behind the Think Influence community of which I am fortunate to be a founding member.
Below are details about the panel and how to register.
WHAT: Social media has enabled business professionals to quickly grow large spheres of influence in targeted industries. These power users hold the key for marketers trying to gain access to their niche audiences. The question is how to identify who the key B2B influencers are, how do you rise above the noise to capture their attention, and how do you encourage them to become advocates for your brand.
WHEN: March 17, 2011, 8:00-8:45am PDT. Also available for replay.
PARTICIPATE: Participate from anywhere, by watching the live streamed video webcast and posting questions/comments via Twitter. Or watch the replay. Register at http://www.brighttalk.com/r/kZS
Attend onsite in the panel audience or for a breakfast reception afterwards with the panelists. By invitation only. Space is limited. Join theThink Influence group on LinkedIn to request an invitation.
COST: Free, however registration is required for the live webcast and replays. Onsite event is by invitation only.
SPONSORSHIPS: Contact Barbara French for info on sponsoring Think Influence events. Contact BrightTALK for sponsoring their Social Media Marketing Summit.
ABOUT: This event is a joint production of Think Influence and BrightTALK. Think Influence is a grassroots community of peers discussing the role of influence in business.
This year’s SAP Influencer Summit was not only a successful model for influencer engagement, but an excellent example of Tom Foremski’s quote: “Every Company is a Media Company.” SAP’s amazing team of communication, marketing and business professionals just wrapped up their 2010 Annual Influencer Summit in Santa Clara, California.
The Influencer summit is a marquee event for SAP that dates back to 2001. And when we started the event (in 2001), the core audience was a small group of elite IT industry analysts representing many of the top research firms in the industry. Over the years the event has evolved tremendously – in scope, size, audience and importance to SAP and now includes a wide range of industry influencers.
The reason for the increase in scope is tied directly to the changing nature of influence in our industry. People who make decisions to purchase business software and other IT related hardware and services increasingly rely on multiple sources of experts/expertise in the industry to support, inform and shape their opinions - that ultimately influence their purchase decisions.
Equal to this, the disruptive nature of social media and advancements in collaboration and mobile technologies have drastically changed the way that decision makers access, consume information, engage and collaborate with their trusted sources in the industry.
The adjustments that we have made to our influencer relations program over the years are tied directly to these forces of change.
A bit of traditional…
The Influencer Summit is one core component of SAP's overall influencer relations program.
It’s important as it provides us with the opportunity to bring SAP’s top executives, customers and partners together with the most important thought leaders and ‘truth seekers’ in the business software industry. The core audience of this event represent the most prominent individuals in the IT analyst, academia, media, blogger, business consulting, customer, partner and SAP mentor communities. Our estimate is that the people who attend this annual summit represent channels to the market that have an estimated $45 billion impact on business software purchase decisions. It is an audience we respect and value very, very much.
Through the event we are able to provide these important industry professionals with the information they need to better understand SAP’s strategy (as it evolves); the progress we have made in delivering on the strategy (throughout the year); and highlight what we will deliver over the proceeding 12-18 months. It is an event that has helped to keep SAP honest, accountable and focused. It is also an event where the influencers ask (with great encouragement) very tough questions and challenge SAP.
…mixed with a whole lot of new
Because of the great advancements and effiencies of social and collaborative technologies we are now able to expand the scope and ‘influence’ of the summit without a dramatic increase in cost.
In 2010, SAP’s marketing organization made tremendous investments to co-develop an online virtual event platform with our partner vcopious that we used to support the summit.