I had a inspiring session during the Sweden Social Web Camp (SSWC) at Tjärö a few weeks ago. We were ca 50 social media evangelists that did discuss what ever a company has a social graph or not? And if it does exist; how does it look like, and how can the company use it?
At least my conclusion was that I don’t think the company itself nor the brand itself has a social graph. Because a brand is not a human being. Anyone may be connected to, and even have relations with brands but not social relations. Because you got to be human to socialize. But your brand is a social object and your products as well. Because people are talking about them. Some are more engaged than others, and some more angry than others. But people are sharing their thoughts about your brand. And I guess the sum of these people, that have your company (and/or your brand) as a social object, are the same thing as the company’s social graph, or at least the sum of the parts of their social graphs that are related or relevant to the company and/or their brand. We’re talking about the company’s employees, customers, stakeholders, and others.
Further on – if that’s the case – I do think the company can use and cultivate that kind of a social graph – with an extreme outcome. I’ll tell you why and how further down in this post. But first – let’s take it from the beginning:
We’re all human beings, right? We’re people. And people are social. We group ourselves into social networks, and talking to each other about different kind of social objects, and engage ourselves in communities.
It doesn’t matter if we’re consumers, suppliers, communicators or journalists. We all got to understand how we socialize, which is “the process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies through conversations, behaviors, practices, rituals and education”…. that “provide the individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within their own society”.
A network is just elements connected to each other. But social network is individuals connected to each other.
And the Social Object is “the node” in these social networks. The Social Object is the reason why two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else.
And a group of individuals that have these social objects in common and share these interests with each other – are members of a community. Everyone on this planet is a member of a community, I guess?
Then Mark Zuckerberg took a part of this social environment to the web, and more or less invented the term “Social Graph” which describes the relationships between individuals online. Frankly it’s the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related.
My experiences are that companies and their marketing staff intellectually do understand the situation, and are in some sort of consideration phase, but that they are truly stressed about this “social graph” and the relationship-humbo-jumbo talk.
But if we do agree that “the sum of the people, that have your company (and/or your brand) as a social object, are the same thing as the company’s social graph, or at least the sum of the parts of their social graphs that are related or relevant to the company and/or their brand”. Then it wouldn’t be to hard for the company to benefit from this social environment. Let me give you a few examples what you as a communicator can do:
- Identify who’s connected to your brand.
- Find out if your brand is a social object (with sub subjects), and if that might have resulted in different kind of communities.
- Find out how these communities look like.
- Who are members.
- What exactly are they talking about.
- Become a member by yourself and serve the other members in these communities.
- Inspire those who are only connected to your brand but not talking about it, to become members and engage, the company’s employees in particular.
- Help these communities to grow and flourish as a whole.
I think for an example these guys (and organizations) might be connected to your brand, among many others:
- Employees (and former employees)
- Members of the Board
- Customers (and former customers)
- Industry spokesmen and thought leaders
- Industry colleagues
They know your company. And they are all connected. And they all are important to you. But that doesn’t mean they are talking to each other nor with you or your staff about your brand. They might only be connected. They might be connected to your brand and talking to each other about it, but not with you and your staff. They might be connected to your brand, yourself and your staff as well, but not talking about it with anyone. Or they might be both connected to your brand, yourself and your staff, and talking about it with everyone.
These ones who are talking about your brand, have for sure different kind of needs and wants. And they probably talking about that specific angle of your brand in different kind of forum, in different sub communities.
No matter what group they belong, they all can be a member of these communities that talking about your brand.
Can your company own a such communities? Probably not. You can’t own a social object. You can’t even own your brand as a social object. They all are parts of the social environment!
But you can help an existing community to grow and flourish. Especially the ones who are connected to your brand.
You can be a proud member of the existing ones. You can invite other peoples to the existing ones. You can also set up “your own” (another) forum for an existing community to help it grow. And you can call that “your community” if you like. Just because that’s the community you’re involved in, or created a new forum for (as the owner / administrator).
But a community is boundless. Some of the members can easily pop up somewhere else, and the rest of the members will follow.
If you’re interested in this topic, please read “Your company has a social graph” as well.