Social Objects are the future of marketing

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that “node” in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.

For as long as I’ve been involved with the Internet, I’ve seen the SAME OLD DISCONNECT appear again and again AND AGAIN i.e. the disconnect between how the Internet ACTUALLY works and how the social media marketing dorks like to PRETEND how it works.

Case in point: From Steve Jones’ blog:

Today I received an e-mail that said “Like us on Facebook and win”. Later in the day I walked into a store and on the door was a sign that said “Like us on Facebook”.That’s like Billy Joel asking me to buy his album. It is like walking into a party and having someone say “Be my friend and I’ll buy you a drink”. In a word, it is pathetic.

Damn right it’s pathetic.

Note to Social Media Marketing Dorks: The hard currency of the Internet is not Facebook “Likes” or Twitter “Retweets”, as flavor-of-the-month as they might be. By themselves, they’re worthless.

The hard currency of the Internet is “Social Objects”.

i.e. Social Objects for people to SHARE MEANINGFULLY with other people.

You’re either creating them or you’re not. And if you’re not, you will fail, end of story.

I’ll admit, it frustrates me sometimes. People often think gapingvoid is selling cartoons. We’re not. We’re selling Social Objects. That’s what the Cube Grenades are. That’s what our pitch is.

I guess I probably need to work on it some more…

[The Social Object archive is here…]

2. social objects for beginners

Even though I’ve been blogging about it forever, some people still get confused by what a Social Object actually is. So I wrote the following to clarify some more:

Example A. You and your friend, Joe like to go bowling every Tuesday. The bowling is the Social Object.

Example B. You and your friend, Lee are huge Star Wars fans. You two invariably geek out about Darth Vader and X-Wing fighters every time you meet. Star Wars is the Social Object.

Example C. You’ve popped into your local bar for a drink after work. At the bar there’s some random dude, sending a text on this neat-looking cellphone. So you go up to him and ask him about the phone. The random dude just LOVES his new phone, so has no trouble with telling a stranger about his new phone for hours on end. Next thing you know, you two are hitting it off and you offer to buy him a beer. You spend the rest of the next hour geeking out about the new phone, till it’s time for you to leave and go meet your wife for dinner. The cellphone was the social object.

Example D. You’re a horny young guy at a party, in search of a mate. You see a hot young woman across the room. You go up and introduce yourself. You do not start the conversation by saying, “Here’s a list of all the girls I’ve gone to bed with, and some recent bank statements showing you how much money I make. Would you like to go to bed with me?” No, something more subtle happens. Basically, like all single men with an agenda, you ramble on like a yutz for ten minutes, making small talk. Until she mentions the name of her favorite author, Saul Bellow. Halleluiah! As it turns out, Saul Bellow happens to be YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR as well [No, seriously. He really is. You’re not making it up just to look good.]. Next thing you know, you two are totally enveloped in this deep and meaningful conversation about Saul Bellow. “Seize The Day”, “Herzog”, “Him With His Foot In His Mouth” and “Humbolt’s Gift”, eat your heart out. And as you two share a late-night cab back to her place, you’re thinking about how Saul Bellow is the Social Object here.

Example E. You’re an attractive young woman, married to a very successful Hedge Fund Manager in New York’s Upper East Side. Because your husband does so well, you don’t actually have to hold down a job for a living. But you still earned a Cum Laude from Dartmouth, so you need to keep your brain occupied. So you and your other Hedge Fund Wife friends get together and organise this very swish Charity Ball at the Ritz Carleton. You’ve guessed it; the Charity Ball is the Social Object.

Example F. After a year of personal trauma, you decide that yes, indeed, Jesus Christ is your Personal Saviour. You’ve already joined a Bible reading class and started attending church every Sunday. Next thing you know, you’ve made a lot of new friends in your new congregation. Suddenly you are awash with a whole new pile of Social Objects. Jesus, Church, The Bible, the Church Picnics, the choir rehearsals, the Christmas fund drive, the cookies and coffee after the 11 o’clock service, yes, all of them are Social Objects for you and new friends to share.

Example G. You’ve been married for less than a year, and already your first child is born. In the last year, you and your spouse have acquired three beautiful new Social Objects: The marriage, the firstborn, and your own new family. It’s what life’s all about.

There. I’ve given you seven examples. But I could give THOUSANDS more. But there’s no need to. The thing to remember is, Human beings do not socialize in a completely random way. There’s a tangible reason for us being together, that ties us together. Again, that reason is called the Social Object. Social Networks form around Social Objects, not the other way around.

Another thing to remember is the world of Social Objects can have many layers. As with any complex creature, there can be more than one reason for us to be together. So anybody currently dating a cute girl who’s into not just Saul Bellow, but also into bowling and cellphones and Star Wars and swish Charity Balls as well, will know what I mean.

The final thing to remember is that, Social Objects by themselves don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it’s nice hanging out with Lee talking about Star Wars. But if Star Wars had never existed, you’d probably still enjoy each other’s company for other reasons, if they happened to present themselves. Human beings matter. Being with other human beings matter. And since the dawn of time until the end of time, we use whatever tools we have at hand to make it happen.

As I’m fond of saying, nothing about Social Objects is rocket science. Then again, there’s nothing about “Love” that is rocket science, either. That doesn’t mean it can’t mess with your head. Rock on.

[Link:] Mark Earls has some nice thoughts on this, as well. “Things change because of people interacting with other people, rather than technology or design really doing things to people.”

[N.B. “Social Objects” is a term I did not coin myself, but was turned onto by the anthropolgist and Jaiku founder, Jyri Engestrom.]

 

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