When you can’t create a social object…

Your next best option is to create an adjacent social object.

First, let’s talk about “social objects.” The term was coined by Jyri Engestrom, founder of Jaiku. A “social object” is anything around which conversations happen. Good example – pick any product from Apple. Almost every one of them is designed to serve as a social object. In fact, it gets better. When iPod came out first, it came out as “social object twins” – first iPod itself as a social object and embedded within that social object was another social object – a set of earphones in white color.

Creating a social object is not easy. Exceptions exist when social objects seem to appear from nowhere. Banking on exceptions is like hoping and praying for a jackpot. Money simply won’t be enough – otherwise all big companies would be constantly creating social objects and we would only be talking about what these companies are creating. Ability to flood the market via all channels (including social media) doesn’t help either because everyone else can do it too. If what you are offering is not remarkable, it becomes noise and instantly boosts something else that is remarkable (the signal)

So, what is the solution?

One option is to create “Adjacent Social Objects” ( my first post related to that ) – where you align yourself with something that people are interested and link that project back to your company. In other words, go where the attention is already flowing and latch yourself with a project. Even here, there are many ways to do it.

Toyota recently used one of their R&D projects in the area of crash testing. They partnered with an University to lend their research to be extended to prevent injuries in the football field. This was no doubt a good gesture but also created an Adjacent Social Object for Toyota

Volkswagen on the other hand took a different route. They partnered with folks from FunTheory on very simple projects. For example, one project was to see if including fun would make people take stairs instead of an escalator. Results were not surprising but the entire film on this topic became an Adjacent Social Object for Volkswagen

As you start the week, think about what kind of an adjacent social object can your organization create. It’s well worth your time.