How do objects become social?

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Social objects are any reason for two people to be talking according to Hugh MacLeod. (Great definition and for marketing purposes let’s focus on products/services.) A social object could be the Puma shoes you built using their Mongolian BBQ. It could be Comcast’s customer service on Twitter. It could a snowboard or an iPhone. All these are all shared online (and off). Does this mean that anything could be a social object? Could getting your oil changed become a social object?

The answer is yes. The real question is; what makes a product/service social? The answer is; what kind of experience does your product/service create. Back to the oil change example. Let’s imagine that the shop has a Dazbog coffee shop attached with plasma screens on the wall and Internet access. That would create the potential for that “object” to become social.

Back in 99, The Authors of The Experience Economy made the argument that we were now headed into the era of the experience economy and that strictly service based businesses were in danger of extinction. The premise of the book was that businesses should dynamically stage experiences for their customers to create a competitive advantage. (I don’t ever think they imagined customers would be creating those experiences on behalf of business they love, but that is exactly what is happening today.) Experiences are the keys to social objects.

As a marketer you need to figure out what part of your business creates the most compelling experience and then enable your customers to share their passion. Comcast has shown us it can be customer service and snowboard manufacturers have a head start in my book. They provide a product that enables an amazing experience. SCUBA tour groups in the Red Sea are another no-brainer when it comes to creating social objects. Not every business is that fortunate but if Progressive Insurance can do it, you have a fighting chance.

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I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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