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By John Huntsman, Contributing Writer
An interesting perspective described by Brian Solis in his new book, ‘The End of Business as Usual,’ is that all of us who participate in social media are actively working together to architect the next generation of information network; aptly coined by Cisco as the ‘human network.’ The dominance of traditional search engine algorithms is on the decline, quickly being eclipsed by a new way of finding information that relies more on tapping into networks of people, and less on search engine indexes. Instead of manually combing through websites, articles, and databases that search engines point you to, you can connect to informed people (via social media) who can then help guide your discovery process. If there is any indication that things are trending this way, look at Google’s push to make Google+ viable.
From a marketing perspective, there is a big opportunity for brands to act as ‘architects,’ in which they make the information discovery process more effective and efficient for their target market. The key here is to provide quality and relevant information that speeds up the learning process, as opposed to simply providing sales copy that leads people directly to your website. Social consumers are more savvy than traditional consumers, and can spot a salesy approach from a mile away, so a major focus in social media for businesses needs to be on education.
With that said, how do you become effective architects of the human network? It starts with a top-down commitment to social media at your organization. However, once the resources are put in place to support a social media initiative, developing a strategy from that point becomes a little less straight forward. What content is most relevant to information-seeking prospects? Where do prospects typically start when searching for information? Where do they end up? What is the typical ‘click path’ that they follow before they are even ready to interact with a brand? The list of questions goes on.
How do you derive data-driven answers to these questions? Through using social media analysis tools such as Collective Intellect, Radian 6 or Netbase, in conjunction with tools like Klout or Twitalyzer, you can begin to uncover insights that can help you reverse engineer the information discovery click path. This type of research is based on ‘grounded’ or ‘empirical’ approaches, which takes the opposite approach of traditional research. It involves finding clues and opportunities, and letting that data guide the development of insights, instead of starting with a hypothesis that guides the direction.
It’s sometimes apt to think of a social media analyst as a detective. Just think of a classic detective movie where they pin up the various pieces surrounding a case on a cork board, and use strings to show how the different pieces are connected. This is essentially how social media analysts can go about trying to figure out the click path of their target market.
If the social media detectives are able to provide this type of information to the rest of the marketing department, they will essentially be providing the key background for architects to design effective blue prints in the human network. As social media becomes more ingrained in our culture, this architecture is going to become even more critical for awareness and ultimately the conversion of new leads.