The most basic role of the social object is driving conversation. In the business applications discussed previously, the social object brings participants together based on a common interest around which a conversation occurs. It also provides a relevant context for a brand, product, or service. Pepsi’s The Juice program built around its low calorie, all-natural Trop50 orange juice provides an example of the central role of the conversation in a social setting, and the role of the social object—women’s health and well-
Being—while clearly tying the customer and product together. This clear connection is important: Recall that a basic fact of social media is that in comparison with traditional media, it is harder to interrupt. This differentiator plays out in two ways: First, because it is harder to interrupt the activities of participants directly—like the way you can interrupt a TV program with an ad or an online page view with a pop-up—your activities with regard to your business objectives have to have an obvious relevance. Otherwise, you’ll be ignored (best case) or asked to leave (worst case).
The Social Web isn’t a marketing venue, though it is a very powerful marketing platform. Second, because it is harder to interrupt (if not impossible), your message, your value, and your contributions to the community must be delivered within the existing conversation. In an analogy to TV, think about the difference between product advertising on TV versus product placement within the TV program. In the case of product advertising, there is a clear distinction between the program and the ad: In the case of product placement, the product becomes part of the program. Your participation in communities built with or around social objects is much closer to the product placement model.
While you cannot “buy placement” on the Social Web, your participation needs to blend with its context in the same way that effective product placement does, to be part of the community rather than an interruption, or called out with a “brought to you by” message placed alongside it. Note here that “blend in” does not mean “hidden” and certainly does not mean “covert,” but rather that as a transparent, disclosed participant, your message should be a natural element of the surrounding conversation.