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17 Aug 2011

Social Media Expert Interview with Brian Solis

Expert Interviews

We’re in book mode over here at Vertical Measures. It’s like when you pick up a new hobby and all of a sudden you’re immersed in a whole new world. I am reaching out some fellow authors to discuss what being an author has meant for them and their business. Brian Solis is a busy guy and I am extremely grateful he took the time to speak with me about Engage, Revised and Updated: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web and a few of his other projects. Let’s jump right in!

Sarah: This is the updated version of Engage or Die! What are the main events in social media that have occurred since the last version?
Brian Solis
Brian: The difference between Engage 1 and Engage 2 is less about events or technologies and more about the presentation of information for a different group of professionals interested in social media. Engage 1 offered a deep dive into the evolution of social media and how its impact on business grew more profound over time. Social science also played a larger role in Engage 1 where I explained why people raced to social networks and how their connections changed shape and how they expanded over time. This was important as it explained how brands could expect to engage based on the needs of their consumers.

When I was asked if there was anything I wanted to change before the release of the book in paperback, I opted to make it a meaningful update rather than push the same content out there. I listened over the course of a year to the experiences people had with Engage and also other books. I took that feedback and focused the content of the new book on helping strategists develop an infrastructure for social media and design programs that were quite literally more engaging. I also focused on how social media could be tracked to demonstrate momentum and success within the organization to grow the size and scope of social media within the organization.

Sarah: Many authors just hope their book sells, but it’s great to hear you monitored the experience readers were having with your book and incorporated your findings into your new book. The foreword was written by a pretty well-known celebrity, Ashton Kutcher! What is your relationship with Ashton and how have you worked together?

Brian: I had the opportunity to work with Ashton’s company Katalyst over the years where we partnered on creative social media campaigns for some of the world’s leading brands, organizations, and of course celebrities. To this day, I still see Ashton and the team at Katalyst. They really are quite brilliant.

Sarah: Humor, good looks and intelligence, Ashton is the total package! OK sorry my inner teenage girl just revealed herself for a moment. Katalyst is indeed a company to watch as it was named one of the Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. In the introduction to your book, you say “The truth is that social media may very well cease to exist as a category one day.” What?! Can you expand on this?

Brian: Social media is but a chapter in the ongoing development of new media. At some point, social media becomes pervasive and will likely represent an everyday layer on top of the web as we know it. Soon new media will force us to think about how to engage within online channels in ways that might be social in nature, but designed to facilitate new experiences such as augmented reality, gamefication, etc.

Sarah: Makes sense. We currently see social media as a separate channel, where in the future it will be integrated into everything. Your bio reads: “A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture.” What are the current emerging trends and what do you predict will be the next “big thing” in new media?

Brian: You’ll have to read my new book, “The End of Business as Usual.”

In all seriousness, social media is maturing. Think about how companies engage in social media today and how they measure activity. It’s only just the beginning. Technology, metrics, consumer needs and expectations, will force businesses to rethink their approach. As a result, strategies, engagement programs, and metrics for success will only become more sophisticated. The next big thing is nothing short of the reexamination of business models and the role customers play in the evolution of business.

Sarah: “Social media is about speaking with, not “at” people.” Can you highlight some companies and specific cases of superb engagement?

Brian: In the book, I talk about the importance of engagement and risks of talking “at” people. Part of the problem is that brands only know one language, marketing speak. I think back to a cartoon a friend of mine Hugh MacLeod (@gapingvoid) once published. It said something like this, “If you talked the way advertisers talk to people, you’d get punched in the face.” Businesses know how to talk at people very well. Even in their current social media programs, they’re more antisocial than social in how they engage with people. Antisocial is defined as going against the norms or rules of society and that’s just what social networks are…online societies. It takes more than a conversation, it takes value time and time again.

Sarah: Wow, that sure does put things into perspective. You have to imagine that you’re actually having a real conversation with someone. Were you concerned at all about publishing a book in such an ever-changing industry? Will you continue to publish new versions of Engage?

Brian: This is a good question as I didn’t really foresee the development of Engage 2 when Engage 1 was on the market. I haven’t really thought about whether or not there will be a version 3 yet. I intentionally focused less on the tools and more on the business case for effective social media engagement. There are no shortages of great books out there that focus on how to use the tools and networks for business. Instead, I brought it up a few levels to help businesses make more meaningful connections with their customers.

Now, this strategy isn’t timeline, but it’s slowly evolving and this is the time to show how social media is impacting traditional business philosophies and frameworks.

Thanks for sharing with us! You can find all of Brian Solis’s books on Amazon.