Brian Solis
Author Brian Solis. Flickr photo credit: Brian Caldwell

I’ve just finished The End of Business as Usual, the new book from Altimeter principal and much-lauded speaker Brian Solis. At just over 300 pages, it’s not one of those short jaunts to breeze through and check off your list. Spend time with this one; it will pay off. I had a notebook full of questions for Brian, but I trimmed them down to seven. The first three questions and answers are here today, and I’ll post the next four next week.

You recall a dinner you attended in Lisbon, where you really started thinking about why the other guests “took to their iPhones and BlackBerrys before placing their napkins on their laps.” Do our table manners need to be updated for the social media revolution, or should we carve out spaces in which we require people to disconnect?

If Miss Manners attended this event with me, she would have left in complete shock. Perhaps she would have tried to correct the attendees of the dinner that evening, but everyone at the table would have responded in complete disbelief. Manners are in the eye of the beholder. It’s not rude or disrespectful if this is how this particular group of people chooses to spend their time together. However, your question about table manners is interesting. I am not the one to answer whether or not we need to carve out spaces to disconnect as a society. As I share in the book, what if you can’t change behavior, but instead steer it? What if you could channel the focus on the connections behind the device to create an extended conversation?

Disconnection is healthy. Engagement is healthy.

There’s a saying, “everything in moderation,” but it’s impossible to explore these new horizons with anything less than exuberance. This is our time and who we are online and in the real world is ours to define. But without ambition, desire, and focus, social media is a recipe for chaos. Through all of the distractions and fatigue, we must continually renew our focus to bring important goals to life based on our actions and words in each social network.

There are some staggering Facebook integration figures in your book—“2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook.” What’s the most important thing you tell a company trying to decide whether to integrate or not?

Facebook is nothing short of mind boggling. The size of Facebook today, at over 800 million users is the same size as the entire Internet in 2004. And, everything is just beginning. More than 350 million active users access Facebook through their mobile phones…and they’re 2x as active on Facebook than everyday PC users. Imagine for a moment that they decide to visit your website from their mobile device because of a click through from Facebook. What happens? What is their experience as a result?

I ask businesses to consider extending their online presence to Facebook as its website for the social web. To some this may be blasphemy; to others it may seem juvenile. The reality is however, that connected consumers, the people who live and breathe in social networks, require an integrated experience. They don’t want to leave the comfort of their egosystem. Businesses need to embrace the momentum and the wave of transformation that will eventually present an inflection point between relevance and obsolescence. It’s not about what businesses think they need to present and how, it’s about how people consume and share information and also how they are influenced by and equally influence peers. Facebook, websites, apps, other social networks, only enliven a reality of a modern day renaissance.

In short, the most important thing I, or you, can tell a company is here is the extent of the opportunities we are missing, how it impacts our business, and how we can tie it to important objectives and priorities.

I love your phrase, “context is king.” (I often tell people that if content were king, there wouldn’t be so many great writers asking why no one reads their blog, but I digress). How can brands provide relevant content to consumers without limiting choice? Do they have to resort to something like soft paternalism?

First, thank you. Second, bloggers, traditional media outlets, brands, and everyone else who publishes is indeed asking that very thing…”where is everyone? I publish amazing content!”  In the digital space, attention is a currency. We earn it. We spend it. But, we don’t think about it as a precious or earned commodity. We in many ways either take it for granted or assume we’re deserving of it based on what we do or what we offer.

Before we can capture attention and before we create content, we have to first consider the context of the engagement. Who are you trying to reach? How do they consume information? What’s important to them? What are their emotional and sharing triggers? Understanding these elements helps us shape our content, our story, the value proposition, through context. And, it is through context that we can earn attention and ultimately relevance.

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2 Responses to “Exploring with exuberance: an interview with Brian Solis (part 1)”

  1. Thanks! I’m sick of hearing “content is king” over and over (although I’m a content strategist, so I won’t cheapen its power), and Brian’s phrase was very refreshing. We don’t live in a vacuum; businesses don’t operate in a vacuum. 

    Good comment timing, too. Part 2 is up! http://blog.bazaarvoice.com/2011/12/06/when-people-become-brands-and-brands-become-people-an-interview-with-brian-solis-part-2/

  2. Anonymous

    Ian, I love this part: Context is King.  I like the answers you’ve got from Brian too, and I think that social media is not anymore about the media – but the people.  This is why perhaps it’s hard to define it or set standards, as it is based on our thoughts and sentiments.  The person who can come up with such solution is perhaps.. god-like, one who can read through minds and see beyond everyone’s desire.  Anyway, please let me know when part two is out.  Thanks!

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