The Why of Social Media (part 1)

Yesterday in at the Advanced Learning Institutes Social Media in Government Conference in Vancouver, I talked about the why of social media. I’ve based my thoughts on Simon Sinek’s golden circle (see TED Talk) of 3 concentric rings of why, how and what. Simon talks about the importance of why in marketing products. (The why motivates people to buy). Most companies start with the what and then move to the how. For example, a car manufacturer’s what: We sell great cars. Their how: We have leather seats, mp3 players, sportscar suspension, and great gas mileage. Most companies don’t even have a why. Profit is not a why; it is a result.

Sinek uses Apple as an example of a company that starts with why. Apple’s why (‘why’ is always a belief): We believe in doing things differently. We believe in challenging the status quo. Their how: We challenge the status quo by making products that are easy to use, beautifully designed, and user friendly. Their what: We make great computers. Want to buy one? Compelling.

Social media is the same way. Whether you are thinking about engaging customers, citizens or employees, start with the why. The why for social media is that people want:

  1. To contribute
  2. To be part of something bigger than themselves
  3. To make the world a better place

The how is Social media. Sharing authentically and passionately about what matters (to the person sharing).

The what is blogging, microblogging, tweets, status updates, uploading video and photos.

The golden circle for social media looks like this:

Golden Circle for Social Media