Archive for online and offline

Are we now social consumers? And where are the social businesses?

Posted in social media, wisdom with tags , , , on June 1, 2010 by wisdomlondon

I’ve noticed something about the way I decide what to spend my money on. It’s changing.  I think I’ve become a social consumer.

Social media may at times directly influence my purchasing decisions, but more that that, I now have a social mindset when it comes to consumerism.

An amazing window

Social media means different things to different people. But look how it has affected our behaviour on a basic level.  With social media, the world becomes a big amazing window to be looked out of, with loads of stuff to see, notice, learn, point to, comment on, wonder at, laugh about. And mostly we don’t keep that to ourselves. We instinctively want to share it with others. We’ve become really social.

So in my buying experiences I’m pretty social too.  I quite often don’t want to do it alone – I’d rather ask for advice or validation of a choice.  I want to tell people about it – what I love, what I’ve been disappointed by, who gives amazing customer service, whose customer service stinks.

Social experiences

And I want to have social experiences too: I went to a secret supper club at the weekend – 15 strangers pay for dinner at someone’s home, eat together, talk together. Although it was the first time I’d been to a supperclub like that, it felt really normal and really right – because in my everyday life I do all of that anyway: virtually, online, on social media. To me the boundaries blur – I found the supperclub on a blog, found out more and booked through Facebook, chatted with the chef on Twitter and reviewed the experience that way too.  So actually being there in person was like an extension of social media – normal boundaries were brushed aside because we had a shared interest and shared modus operandi. To me that’s really interesting.

What’s even more interesting is thinking about how businesses can benefit from this boundary blur and provide brilliantly for social consumers. Tricky, because for every social consumer there are plenty of traditional ones who may not be changing their behaviour particularly. But if businesses are to respond to this type of behaviour and the meet expectations that go with it, they need to consider a few basic questions:

  • Social ‘glue’ is vital. Social consumers are equally happy with an online social group as with an in-person social group – ideally both.  Shared experience and interests are key. How can businesses make that group really mean something to the social consumer? Distill interest groups down to a more intensive level?
  • Experiences count. And in-person experiences can be powerful.  So, how to extend a social media experience online further, to become a logical and seamless offline social experience?
  • It’s about openness and personal vulnerability. We all give something of ourselves through our social media interactions – clues as to who we are, what are like, our views, biases, ignorance, intelligence, a bit of our privacy at times. On a person-to-person basis, this is pretty normal.  But businesses don’t reveal their inner workings as a rule, and if they cannot admit to their vulnerability or failings, this can form a barrier to offering truly human, social experiences.

So now we have social consumers, perhaps it’s time for businesses to get a bit more social too?  Online and offline.

What do you think? Which businesses are truly social? which brands deliver effective social experiences online and offline?

Kate Spiers is director of Wisdom London.  A Gemini, communications obsessive and very social consumer.