Social Application Optimization

Alec Saunders points to a great post by Jeneane Sessum on Social Application Optimization – likening it to Cluetrain Manifesto with its suggestion that marketing is conversation.

Jeneane suggests there’s a need for a strategy and programs to have those conversations in social spaces creating an integrated presence across social sites or as she calls it Social Application Optimization. As she says it’s:

“the opportunity for companies to engage in social spaces — to find new ways to interact with their customers, partners, and the watching world — without making a pain of themselves”

She provides more details about what she’s thinking about when she answers some questions in the comments section:

“Gonzo Marketing really. Businesses can underwrite and sponsor participants, can step outside of their “business” in order to do that. Business becomes enabler of people doing cool things, not pusher. … And there will be others too–the ones who do it wrong, which will give all the more props to the ones who do it right.”

Of course it’s a welcome idea – and increasingly practiced. It’s the last part that critical – because as Cluetrain proposes it’s about authentic conversations and those can be difficult to do if you’re too focused on immediate return or your side of the conversation (same as in any social interaction).

This type of optimization is not without other difficulties. While social sites have recently opened up a bit (API’s announced for FaceBook, LinkedIn and rumored for MySpace) – they will probably always define who and how you can access people’s networks (as though user’s personal connections were THEIR network). It’s this mediation of relationship that can confound the discussion – making it important when choosing sites to know your audience is there –and to match the type of interaction to the sites meme.

More difficult is to recognize that users of social sites are mobile – sometimes using a variety of sites each for a distinct purpose, or moving form site to site (more on this in an upcoming post).  Keeping an authentic brand conversation across sites is difficult as the more one matches one sites meme making adoption and conversation easier the more a different style for other sites may look contrived – especially if there is any drift from the brands core ‘personality’.

Further complicating this is the fact that users do not carry a single identity with them from site to site. This limits your ability to ‘understand’ users interests and networks while making conversations (services) more basic than they could be if users could carry their behavior from site to site – making personalization richer while allowing continuity of discussions in different environments.

Regardless of the difficulties engaging users of social sites is going to increasingly be part of many companies marketing mix.