Social Media is Dead; Long Live Social Design

A recent survey, conducted by Forrester, tends to demonstrate – again – that people don’t even realize that they’re connected whereas they’re actually online.


“They’re using Google Maps or checking in on Facebook, but that’s not considered online because it has become such a part of everyday life” Forrester analyst Gina Sverdlov.

That’s right: streets are the most connected spaces, because your digital self is currently working for you online, even when you’re just walking to your favorite coffee shop. There you can probably get some offers with Foursquare; and maybe you even went there because you had received a perk from Peerindex or Klout. Your own bed is a hub of communications; you can maybe try to turn off your smartphone, tablets, TV connected, but your social identities are still logged in somewhere. Facts. You cannot control a virtual “social” channel anymore; as a citizen, it’s already part of your real journey.

That’s not the craziest insight: what drives me crazy is that Social Media strategists still don’t know what designers do, and who developers are.

“It’s a small world after all”: welcome to a concrete space

The acceleration of mobile internet, and the growing importance of cloud-based services drive Social Media as a concept to a certain obsolescence; it used to be key to separate “Social” channels from the others (display, OOH, TV…). It was a way to talk about new rules, new expectations, and probably set up the first paths to social scoring and measurement of engagement.It was also a good opportunity to shape change management process, feeding organizations with new methodologies and ideas…

But now, even the earned/owned/paid ecosystem does not describe the real habits: display (paid) advertising can be an extension of your “owned” spheres (ie: a live catwalk on a display box on an external media); Facebook is a mix of paid/owned/earned interactions. And as “open” standards dramatically burst borders of ownerships and transactions, it’s basically a mess.

Moreover,early-adopters are very diversified now. The massive success of Pinterest is not based on techie / geekie / smartie people in the Valley: it’s because some real people with real centres of interests (DIY, cooking…) found great functions for their needs and people like them.

Joliebox is also a good example: it’s not only a “social media” phenomenon, it’s a tangible service which makes online & offline a fully integrated and concrete experience.

Community “management” is no longer a superficial activity which aims to tell you how to run a Facebook fan page: it became a key concern for designers; it’s all about real people, talking to real people with real objects and actions…in real life. So we need the big picture, in which every required social function should be in touch one another.

Social Media is now the oil of Social Design

The thing is that “Social Media Strategies” are now often led by Social Media strategists only…and that they obey to account executives on the agency side, who desperately need to solve a funnel for their clients. Sometimes funnel is a great tool; and sometimes it’s just tremendously wrong: there’s no “one size fits all” social pattern. Rare are the cases like Joliebox in which technologists marketers designers actually work together.

As Andrew Keller, CEO of Crispin Porter Bogusky says:

“A brand is either interactive, engaging, and social, or it’s trending toward irrelevance. If you aren’t talking, you’re either out of business or hiding something. From a consumer’s point of view, social media and digital tools are more closely related to a brand’s products than a brand’s ‘advertising,’”

A first step could be to consider Social Media as one practice of a Social Design process

  1. People, to be “engaged”, need ongoing, global experience: strategists must talk to sales; there must be back-office routines with CRM people: more globally, there must be a coherence with any brand interface. You no longer accept as a customer to start again for the 10th time the beginning of a relationship with a provider, an hotel or a friend. It’s no rocket science, but today, I only know very few businesses who run their marketing as simply as that
  2. Designers should get basic knowledge from Social Media strategists; it can sound very strange, but it’s not because you work in “digital” that you’re actually digital-savy. Designers are not paid to know how works Adobe Illustrator; they’re paid to shape great ecosystems and UX, in which technologies really meet clients’ needs
  3. Project Managers should not be these guys left behind in operations, who never get a chance to talk to “strategists” and creatives. Project Managers have a very strong knowledge of what is feasible, of what does not work, of which start-ups could be interesting to approach. Today, even in global leading organizations, you still have this classic wall between “brains” vs “hands”. Project managers created Agile methdologies: if you want to shape a socially designed brand, you probably need to copy past them to your own workflow
  4. Planners should measure strategies in a “test & learn” approach: in fact, Facebook fans are not very often properly followed; websites’ navigation / metrics are very rarely on strategic planners’ desks

Most of the professionals will answer that it requires money, people, and TIME. But as you know, the “time” excuse is often used when people don’t want to change.

The very good organizations are the ones who started small, but with a big ambition. They shaped dynamic, step-by-step strategies, instead of providing overnight a static global map. The secret is very simple: we need to become again craftsmen, instead of office-thinkers.

New sorts of jobs to come

Let’s dream for a while, and let’s imagine some new roles within organizations:

  • motion designers will dive into designing emotions
  • community managers will disappear, and creative social duet will come: social-writers and visual-directors
  • there’ll only be ONE digital strategist, who will then be the brand director
  • developers will provide some recommendations for contents
  • designers will start thinking in Moleskine, instead of focusing on executions
  • planners will know how to interpret Google Analytics