Back To Social: Everything has Changed and Nothing has Changed

Peter Ecomomides of FelixBNI tells a story of his neighborhood market to illustrate how everything has changed & nothing has changed. Peter talks about conceiving creative & human ways to interact with customers. Applying common sense marketing to social tools (Social Monitoring Tools) & social networks (The World Wide Mind). The importance of adapting social technologies to ways humans have always spent time is vital. We gossip, watch movies, check out photos, listen to music, check the news. The most successful social networks, apps and tools are digital software that serve timeless human actions. This is the beauty of what Mr. Economides recognizes in his statement about “getting back to social”. He acknowledges that social objects – tweets, status updates, photos posted to Flickr, video posted to YouTube, ARE the medium. Mr. Economides writes, “Twitter is not a medium. Your tweets are the medium. Your blog, your Facebook page, etc.”

AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MR. PETER ECONOMIDES OF FELIXBNI

ON CHANGE: You’ve emphasized that “everything has changed and nothing has changed”. What are your thoughts on that today and why is this an important message for those getting into marketing via social networks?

Everyone in marketing was educated BDSM – Before the Development of Social Media. And the marketing we learned was focused on the Broadcast Economy. Mass media. Mass retailing. The consumer as a demographic number.

Social Media has given birth to the Conversation Economy. Massive media which do not broadcast. Messaging has become stream of micro conversations. The consumer now has a highly individual profile.

My point is that this is the way it has always been. Mass, if you think about it, is the aberration. It’s back to village, where conversation and word of mouth rule supreme. It’s just that this time the village is global. And the main road running through it is the internet and social media.

The irony is that the largest medium in the world has taken us back to a world filled with individuals, conversation and word of mouth. But as Gary Vaynerchuk says, it’s “word of mouth on steroids.”

Social media is influencing consumer behaviour way beyond the internet. And this is the most important thing for any marketer to bear in mind. Great marketing rests on powerful consumer insight. And if marketers don’t understand the 360º effect of social media on consumer behaviour, they’re in serious trouble.

I often illustrate this through my local butcher.
I believe that he has the best meat in Athens. Now, I am not an expert. I do not know this, but I believe it. Not because of what he says but because of how he behaves. He does not impress this on me. He expresses it in everything he says and everything he does.
He has not studied marketing. He knows nothing about social media. But he is an insightful human who understands what makes people tick. His reputation has been built entirely on word of mouth. He knows that. And he also knows that his reputation can be ruined by word of mouth. In a flash.

Smart people have always known this. And the best butcher in the village has always behaved like this. Ask your grandmother.

Everything has changed and nothing has changed.

ON TECHNOLOGY AND CONVERSATION: Danny Brown writes, “Every single one of us is connected, from the tech savvy to the Luddite to the in-between. And if we’re all connected, it becomes easier to help. And if we all help each other, maybe there’s just a chance the world might be a better place.” Do you see social technologies as accelerators of helping each other and making the world a better place? What can humans do in the context of social technologies that is different than via telephone, fax machines, and the Pony Express? Is it only about speed or is there something more tactile about social technologies now?

Conversation is the key.
Good conversation is a dialogue that consists of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. In other words, it is dynamic. It moves somewhere. Social media facilitates synthesis in a way that the telephone, fax machine and the Pony Express never could. It’s immediate. It’s massive. And it’s open. It’s like a perpetual town hall debate.

Television? Just thesis. No antithesis. Certainly no synthesis.

ON TWITTER: What is Twitter and why do you use it?

Twitter’s a cocktail party where you are free to drop into a conversation, plant a seed, pick a fruit, shape a thought, learn, share, contribute … and move on to the next conversation. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

Twitter is also the most immediate news source on the planet. I witnessed the Egyptian Revolution earlier this year by switching between Twitter and Al Jazeera on my iPad. I was in Tahrir Square through Twitter. Picking up news and personal drama. And I’d see the images a little later on Al Jazeera. No other medium could have done that for me.

The evening news? Forget about it!

ON FACEBOOK: Why have so many people flocked to Facebook?

A market is always built on a great product.
And I think Facebook is a great product.
Easy. Intuitive. Lots of ways to share. And, importantly, lots of reward through the Like button.

But there are a lot of great products out there which do not succeed ….
Facebook’s initial appeal was to the high school and college crowd. Important influencers of the older crowd. Facebook crossed the chasm into mainstream through kids. And once they had the critical mass, the network effect kicked in. One billion users by the end of 2011 … remarkable. But that;’s the network effect in action.

Facebook has played an important role as most people’s first step into social media. But it runs the risk of becoming the “low rent district” of the internet.

EXPLAINING SOCIAL TECHNOLOGY TO GRANDMA: How on earth do you explain social technologies and social networks to grandma? Or the crustiest of CEOs?

Back to the village! And back to my butcher story.

You’ve seen many approaches to marketing over the years. What are two of your favorite campaigns, in the past or now? What could social technology and social networks facilitate that maybe would have been tougher in the past?

I’d rather talk about great brands.
Because a campaign is just a stage in the life of a brand.

Every category has a protagonist brand.
And it should be the ambition of every brand to be the protagonist of its category.
Think of a soft drink. Coca-Cola?
The Coca-Cola of vodka?
The Absolut of computers?
The Apple of beer? The Heineken of sports shoes? The Nike of coffee shops?

Starbucks hardly advertises. But look at the quality of the conversation it has with its customers. In everything it says. And everything it does. Everything communicates.

Starbucks knows what its “Starbucksness” is all about. And so does every barista who works there. That’s the key to a great brand. Consistent behaviour throughout the organization. In everything it says and does.

Great brands have always understood the conversation. Great brands have always understood that they sell product to individuals and not to numbers. Great brands have always “got” what the social media experts are preaching. Nothing is new.

Naturally, social media open up new opportunities to connect with consumers through thesis, antithesis and synthesis. I wonder about the future of consumer research …..

ON GREECE: You have lived all over the world – in New York, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Johanessburg, Athens. You’ve marketed huge brands like Apple and Coca-Cola. You’ve been in leadership at major ad agencies like McCann and also done your own thing. Now you live in Athens, Greece. What is happening in Greece right now and how can OR are social networks play(ing) a part in this?

There’s a huge conversation going on on Twitter, revolving around current events in Greece. Also a number of great forums on Facebook. But I don’t see much traction. I am working on a public forum in the style of Quora which I hope to launch soon.

GREEK FAVORITES: Who is your favorite Greek musician? Film director? Playwright? Journalist?

Konstantinos Beta (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiuSbj-PrvA)
Costa-Gavras (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Costa-Gavras)
Dimitris Papaioannou (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimitris_Papaioannou)
Alexis Papahelas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_Papahelas)

Find more on Peter Economides at FelixBNI (http://www.felixbni.com).

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