An Audience with Brian Solis

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend SDL’s Return On Engagement Summit both in Boston and in New York. As part of these events we had Brian Solis as our guest speaker (as well some fine case studies presented by our partners).

While this isn’t one of those fancy live blogging posts of the event, I was inspired to write a ton of notes and thought I’d share some of those.

If you don’t know Brian’s work, on his blog he describes himself as:

..principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture.

Which basically means, he talks a lot about web engagement, the impact of social media on businesses and his book “Engage” (which we were handing out signed copies off) is right up there as a leading reference on the subject. I have to admit, I have had it in my Amazon basket for roughly forever so I’ve only just started reading my own (signed) copy.

I don’t want to steal his thunder for the next time you get a chance to hear him speak, but here are a few of his points that resonated with me from my notes:

Our own media eco-system – One of his first points that I enjoyed was the idea that we all have our own media ecosystems (which, I think is interesting as I’ve had a few conversations about “echo chambers” in a negative sense). The point Sollis made was to just deal with them, that if you want to get heard you need to break into these, to be invited into these trusted inner circles, by competing for relevancy. It also reminded me a bit of Seth Godin talking about Tribes, in that we have a hard wired limit on the number of people we can truly engage with and I think Solis was extending this to messages and channels. I had an image of people in a bubble, of a finite size filled with influences, people, messages and stuff.

Psychographics vs Demographics – The next is that demographics are less important than psychographics – I could pretend I knew what psychographics meant, but hey, if you read this regularly you’ll know my level of literacy (and I certainly won’t share how I spelt it in my notes!). This is about finding that people with common interests can be far more closely connected as a target group than people linked by class, income, age etc. Like a lot of good observations, this makes obvious sense. Meaning that data about the links between folks, these communities, could be just as valuable to marketers as the kind of demographic information that companies (like Experian) trade in today. For example, a Hemi powered American muscle car makes me grin, but I’m not going to find people that also get weak at the sound of that rumble by looking at their income or if they live in a house like mine in my neighbourhood. Nor, as it turns out, discussing it over dinner with other software execs – they look at you funny.

Millenials and Connected Connected Consumers – This point I think underlines the previous one about demographics, there are a lot of statistics about how marketers need to engage this generation, but Solis interchanged the terms ‘millenials’ and ‘connected consumers’, indicating that while there is a new generation of consumers that only know this digital world, this isn’t an age thing, many of us are connected consumers that exhibit the same behaviour. Sollis neatly described this behaviour as viewing the world through a social media lens, each element of their world labelled as the next Tweet, Facebook update, user generated review or foursquare check-in.

Definition of Engagement – I’m not going to run through his complete definition of engagement (although if you are curious, I’d wander over to his blog – his post about 21 rules of social media makes some of the same points). Although I enjoyed each of the points, I think (from my notes) it was the last one that summed it up for me “understanding the value of being linked in” – in other words the value of breaking into this bubble of influencers, trusted messages and channels, these personal media ecosystems. This last mile of engagement is the hardest, needs to be the most personal and of the highest quality.

Those were my top four from a whole host of great points he made and I think I successfully avoided spoilers and punch lines, as I would encourage you to see Solis speak.

One last point I noted, something that I think highlights the shift in a traditional marketers view of brand definition, of control their over such things and the way brand perception is shaped today:

Can (or more importantly would) anyone tweet your corporate mission statement?

You know, without giggling?

(I admit I added the ‘giggling’ bit)

Fancy more of this?

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