Adjacent Social Objects

I have been thinking about Social Objects. Social Object in simple terms is something on which you can have a conversation. For more thoughts from bright people on this topic, please refer to these links

1. More Thoughts on Social Objects by Hugh MacLeod

2. Social Objects in Education by Martin Weller

One of my heroes, Seth talked about this too in the context of his new book Meatball Sundae. If your company happens to be offering a service or a product that is close to a social object, congratulations! You have a good first step to building a community. But what if you are company does not have such a product or service.

In a recent interview at US News and World Report, Seth answers one such question

How should old-line companies approach these technologies?

First, companies have to decide: Either they’re in or they’re out. You either make meatballs, or you’re part of this new regime. But if you only want to use the regime to just sell more [meatballs], you’re going to fail. Gillette invented the safety razor on the back of two things: a really good factory and aggressive mass marketing. And they’re really good at it. The question is: Why do we think Gillette deserves to succeed in this new medium? My answer is: They don’t. There’s nothing about what Gillette does that makes them worthy of conversations online, that makes their ads in Google clickable, that makes you want to visit their website.

Read the full interview here (it’s simply great)

This is where Adjacent Social Objects will come in. Adjacent Social Objects are those that objects that are not directly related to your product or service but are close – they are in the periphery.

Let me take an example (thinking out loud here) – Considering the same company (Gillette) mentioned above, let us think of a few adjacent social objects. I can think of two:

1. Gillette could start/sponsor a site related to anything and everything about grooming.

2. Gillette could partner with a world-renowned modeling agency to create a contest for “best face on earth”. One of the rules would be that it has to be clean shaven face.

Adjacent social objects need not thought of only when your company can’t create social objects. They can be perfect add-ons and complement existing social objects. I can think of one more example. My super-smart friends Gautam Godhwani and Dave McClure created a site called SimplyFired (stories of people being fired for odd and not-so-odd reasons) to complement the site SimplyHired. SimplyHired (vertical search engine for jobs) was a social object already – but Gautam and Dave brilliantly complemented it with an adjacent social object – SimplyFired.

What about in your business – what adjacent social objects can you create?