Today, I spoke to Brian Solis, who is a new media leader, principal of FutureWorks, blogger, and author of the new book Engage. In this interview, Brian talks about what engagement means in the social media world, how he came to write his new book, how engagement and personal branding go together, and why he’s re-branded himself recently.
How do you define “Engage” and do you believe that people and business that fail to engage will seek to exist in the next decade?
Engage was inspired by the original Social Media Manifesto published in June 2007. At the time, the manifesto served as a rallying cry for businesses to embrace the new world of participatory media in order to earn attention and ultimately relevance in democratized and highly influential online societies. As people were and are becoming increasingly selective about where they discover and share information, consumers are also expanding their social networks (or social graphs) and changing how they form and maintain alliances online.
In the middle of the essay, I summarized the transformation of business landscapes and the ability to connect with customers and influencers as undeniable, wrapped around three simple, but resonating words that were intended to serve as marching orders, “Engage or die.” If we do not participate and eventually lead online interaction related to our business, then we are walking a path toward oblivion. Consumers, regardless of industry, have choices and if we’re not top of mind where and when they’re seeking information and direction, then we are absent and forgettable.
“Engage or die” became the prevailing mantra of not only the essay, but also the social business movement and honestly, it is truer today than it was three years ago. To this day, it continues to inspire champions and it was also the inspiration for this book. As you can imagine, those words might not attract potential readers in a positive light. The message, and the book overall, is incredibly helpful and motivating and as such, the essence of the title was representative in one word and one word only, “engage.”
Over the next decade, everything changes and while the realization that transformation is inevitable, it will only gather unstoppable momentum. The true value of this book is that it minimizes public experimentation and guesswork and helps businesses, of all shapes, sizes, and industries, to answer their own questions as well as the questions they didn’t know to ask. It’s designed to expedite meaningful and effective engagement strategies and escalate the brand within all communities of influence online and offline.
What’s in play right now is something so profound the we are only on the verge of realizing its true impact and potential. The path that many of us are on today however, place us on a collision course between our personal and professional brands as well as the brands we ultimately represent. Social media requires us to engage transparently and as such, the networks and corresponding social graphs that we’re forming blur the lines between who we are to friends and family, peers and professional contacts, and also those we hope to reach on behalf of our business. Our attention is finite and it’s increasingly thinning to a point of diminishing returns.
We, along with those who follow our online updates, will become selective in those we follow tomorrow, focusing our streams into curated and discerning channels of material contacts and information. Think about it this way, if you’re the admin for a Facebook Fan Page on behalf of your brand, you usually interact with a captive audience, and as an admin, people see and hear the “voice” and avatar personifying the brand. But in order to grow the community, we have to attract attention where it’s focused, which means engaging in outside communities as well. When you do so however, you lose the “brand” facade and are now participating as the brand “you.” Now your streams start to cross as those who follow you may or may not be interested in the promotional updates that hit their news feed.
Engage tackles this subject as it teaches us how to effectively embrace “multiple personality order” to maintain strategic presences for our personal and professional brands and the relationships that are important to each.
You recently rebranded your blog from “PR 2.0” to “Brian Solis.” Can you go over the repositioning? Do you feel that after carving out your niche, you can go for the “more general audience”? Also, if you wanted to shake the “PR 2.0” branding, would it even be possible? How does this decision impact your core audience of PR practitioners?
This is a topic that is heartfelt and one that continues to unfold daily. PR 2.0 was an overnight success over a decade in the making and that’s not something everyone realizes as it is just now starting to get traction. As such, new PR is gaining awareness among the decision makers who can lead the communications industry toward significance and prosperity. However, the true story is the shift from PR to public relations and this crusade was captured in my last book with Deirdre Breakenridge, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations – a book that is a must read for anyone in PR or marketing communications.
Everything is changing. PR is also undergoing a renaissance much like service, marketing, advertising and all disciplines affected by conversational and participatory media. PR is also a topic that is debated in minefields. and I believe that in order to truly transform businesses from a position of introspection to one of an outward view, and in turn, bring about change from the outside in, PR, for the most part, does not travel freely on paths to executive offices, the boardroom, nor marketplaces. While internal groundswells are triggering responses across middle management, my goal is to bring both ends to the middle, evoking a reaction among leaders to accelerate change from the top down.
If it’s one thing we’re learning is that everything contributes to public relations and this is why social media and strategic and meaningful engagement becomes paramount to the future of any business. Everyone on the front lines within social networks as well as those responsible for the creation and dissemination of social objects are now part of the public relations team. As a result, this becomes so much bigger than PR 2.0. This is now about the personification of a brand and its culture and the ability to connect it to those who can benefit from the interaction and alliance. My work is dedicated to every aspect of business to contribute to the socialization of the brand and every touch point that connects companies, audiences, influencers, and consumers. This is now the minimum ante for businesses to compete for market and mind share today and in the future.
Brian Solis is globally recognized as one of most prominent thought leaders in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has influenced the effects of emerging media on the convergence of marketing, communications, and publishing. He is principal of FutureWorks, an award-winning New Media agency in Silicon Valley, and has led interactive and social programs for Fortune 500 companies, notable celebrities, and Web 2.0 startups. BrianSolis.com is ranked among the top of world’s leading business and marketing online resources. Solis is co-founder of the Social Media Club and is an original member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup.BrianSolis.com is among the top 1.5% of all blogs tracked by Technorati and is ranked as one of the leading voices in the Ad Age Power 150 index of worldwide marketing bloggers. He is also the publisher of bub.blicio.us, a popular lifestyle and technology blog, and is also a contributor to TechCrunch, BrandWeek, and Mashable. He is the co-author of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, and his latest book is called Engage.