Social media strategist Brian Solis has just been on a whistle-stop tour to London where he found time to speak to employees from Omnicom/DAS at a breakfast briefing on the theme Engage or Die. I have to confess I am a huge fan, having followed his blog for several years and am always impressed at his ability to deliver fresh insights.
Solis focused on the emergence of social consumers, primarily “millennials” aged 18-25 but with characteristics shared across all age groups. According to his global data, 86% of millennials who are active on social media share brand preferences online, 9 in 10 share actions on behalf of a brand every week, and 65% are only disconnected for an hour a day. They value the views of their personal network highly when making buying decisions, typically throwing out questions on Twitter.
For Solis, social consumers are important for brands for a number of reasons:
- They spend a lot, particularly via mobile
- They are an elusive audience, but very loyal, particularly once a brand has shown value
- They have an amplifying effect on comms delivered through and to their social networks, scaling them beyond 1-2-1 conversations.
So who is connecting with social consumers successfully? Solis namechecked US retailer JC Penney’s online shopping service that lets teens try on clothes in virtual dressing rooms then share the results with friends; American Express’s experiments with social currency via Foursquare; and social shopping service Blippy which automatically updates your status when you make a credit card purchase. Here Solis sees a significant difference between millennials, who are happy to connect their credit card to their social network, and Gen X or Boomers who aren’t: for younger social consumers, it triggers conversation and engagement.
Solis still sees a role for traditional web sites and integrated campaigns via tv and print media to reach the widest audience, but to grab social consumers, who make decisions in different ways and typically more quickly, he believes forgetting the traditional marketing funnel and creating ways for the brand to come alive in shareable ways is essential.
His challenge to the assembled marketers: develop campaigns that are catalysts for conversations and can deliver something great. Ultimately consumers will unfollow brands because they’re boring. But this is about more than any one channel or approach, it’s about grabbing people’s attention with something they will want to share.
Speaking to people afterwards, many were inspired and excited. Not surprising perhaps: if you ask creative people to be creative they’ll jump at the chance. But Solis was thinking bigger than that: his vision asks fundamental questions of marketing agencies around the skills on offer and ability to demonstrate a compelling business case to clients; and of brands and their willingness to innovate and take risks. Unlike the snap judgements of the social consumer, these things will take time to evolve…