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Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business, by Erik Qualman

September 11th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Book Review

It took about ten years for Brick-and-Mortars to figure out how they could best exist within the Web 1.0. They will have far less time to understand that marketing is turning into a completely new social and linguistic genre. Erik Qualman’s book, Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business is an effective wake-up call for corporations and marketers, and is written by a sincere and authentic practitioner.

Amazon, Qualman reminds us, did a stellar job when it introduced the concept of affinity marketing, but as efficient as it was, it had its shortcomings, especially if buying My Little Pony for your niece was a one-time thing. Going a step further, Amazon started to showcase other books that people who bought the same book as the one you are looking at, also bought. The social media approach is a next era and shows that in the “people-driven economy,” effective affinity marketing is a contagious recommendation process operating within affinity groups. Instead of being told what people in general are interested in, we want to know what people in our network, people we appreciate, would advise based on their experience – an experience to which we tend to pay attention because we generally trust our friends.  “People referring products and services via social media are the new king. It is the world’s largest referral program in history.” This is a new world that Qualman calls “the world of socialnomics.”

A few years ago, the very notion of “socialnomics” would have sounded like an odd linguistic construct, and, in the end, simply meant “management/rules of what is social,” just as economics originally designates the management/rules of a household. In many respects, the term “socionomics,” coined by Prechter in 1999, could have also been used, as it is the “study of social mood and its results in social actions.” However, through the word “socialnomics,” Qualman wants to emphasize the idea of an economy governed – I should say “mediated” — by social media as it leads to the creation of innumerable communities and tribes. This “social-media mediation” is perceived by individuals as a form of disintermediation and deliverance, shielding them from the marketing litanies imposed upon them by impersonal marketing machines. What we hear in our social media world comes from people we have chosen to listen to. The intermediaries are not mercenary message-carriers (or so we hope), they are peers of sorts and therefore, are not perceived as middlemen (even when there can be a bit of a sandwich man about them). This is why the world of “socialnomics” is not felt as yet another form of social pressure. We have the freedom to select the circles to which we belong, ensure that they mirror our needs and tastes, exchange points of views and ask questions with the hope of getting a candid response.

The eight chapters of the books analyze the new challenges and opportunities that the social media re-segmentation and restructuring of the market will present to businesses. Are customers going to reduce their reliance on the results they get from search engines? It is most likely. “I care more about what my neighbor thinks than what Google thinks,” if I want to buy a baby seat. It is also obvious that customers expect companies to converse with them in “open, two-way conversations” and that customer “services” are poised to become the customers’ voice and, consequently, a central part of marketing departments. Therefore, “businesses need to fully transform to properly address the impact and demands of social media.” And companies that fear to venture into the open, display their customers in the social media fora, will atrophy much faster than they think. Installed bases are joining the “Glass House Generation” at a fast pace, and follow its lifestyle — hang out anywhere and at all times in public view. Qualman indicates that “by 2012, eMarketer projects that more than 800 million users worldwide will participate in social networks via their mobile device, up from 82 million in 2007.” Meeting these new challenges as well as leveraging these new opportunities will definitely require new skills and new tools! 

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis  

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