Monday, November 30, 2009


Going Beyond Social Media at the MN AMA 2009 Annual Conference

By John Olson

My November 10 presentation at the MN American Marketing Association 2009 Annual Conference advertised that it would go “beyond” social media. Beyond would refer not to the next hot trend but to an ancient ideal: Connection is the heart and soul of our species. In fact, I brought examples of how so-called social media can prove to be antisocial in the extreme, with companies parodying the online memorial format, or creating anonymous blogs to deceive shareholders.

Rather than touting emerging technologies, we talked about the Great Leap Forward of some 70,000 years ago when our species used the nascent tools of community—fire, language, social structure, —and ritual to become a civilized race. It was connection and not aggression that allowed our earliest ancestors to flourish (organized warfare didn’t appear until about 16,000 years ago). Harvard researchers posit that there are four human drives: to learn, to acquire, to defend and to connect. Of these, connection is the defining gene. It is the urge to connect that suppresses destructive impulses and allows collaboration and social structure to arise.

Much of what we’re discovering about great civilizations is the power of connection, and much is contrary to what we thought we knew. For example, archeologists now believe the tens of thousands of Fellahin who built the pyramids were not slaves but paid laborers, workers with specialized roles in construction. The great civilizations that followed were marked by sustainable behaviors, most notably, joining and belonging. The United States in the mid-20th century was the most connected country in history, with citizens active in everything from bridge clubs to political groups to the Kiwanis.

At OLSON, we developed an anthropological approach to brand building—we call it the “science of social circles”—a decade ago, before the advent of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Craigslist. From this vantage point, we can use media of every kind to create a sense of connection to brands. What’s the next “beyond”? The rapidly changing field of ROI measures for brands, employing state-of-the-art metrics, data and technology. Thanks to the MN AMA for putting together a successful conference in such a volatile era.


John Olson, Founder and CEO of OLSON. Follow John on Twitter @OLSONagency

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2 comments:

Sabera said...

OLSON has a truly interesting perspective to approaching Branding. I've been reading so much about 'Social Media' as we define it today, being just another 'phase' in the evolution of human communication. I feel lucky to have been witness to so many changes in our communication culture - internet, mobile phone, mobile web, social media, convergence, and so on. I can't wait to see what comes next!

Insightful and thought-provoking post!

Vanessa said...

It is always a pleasure to read a conversation about social media that is concentrated on "social" rather than "media." Media is always changing - from the campfire to Twitter, but the social part of the human existence remain the same.

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