I’m not sure if Richard Branson is offering a prize for this one, but the relentless search by our social sisters and brothers to unearth the true number of Cs in Social has left me a little giddy (although there may be more corporeal reasons for this). However the ever-thoughtful Brian Solis has just provided me an analgesic with his single-C Generation C article.

Seven Seas Cod Liver OilThe Seven Cs

It wasn’t so long ago that we had the comfort-food version of Social Business defined as Community, Connections and Communication. A simple 3 Cs, and since 3 is a magic number I liked that.

I even became a little daring in sales meetings and added in Customers on the right, and Candidates on the left just to gauge the effect of my mastery!

Then, belatedly and rather shockingly I discovered that Brian had not only been using 4Cs in public but secretly coveting a 5th! However his declaration of his discovery of the 5th C in The 5th C of Community, Social Commerce wasn’t without controversy as the anti-Cs raised their heads – see comments.

Stirred but not too shaken I battled on when, to my surprise, our own Michael Allan Green came out and declared that there are indeed 7Cs in Social. It transpired that, like the Seven Drawfs, one of Michael’s Cs was D for Dopey and forgot to show up in the article. Still, 6 was shocking enough.

Needless to say when I caught a fleeting glimpse in my Twitter stream of a reference linking Ray “The Rainmaker” Wang to a potential 9 Cs (NINE!) in Social I had to sit down before I clicked. In the interests of transparency I’ll admit that I’m also fond of 9 as another magic number, so I did have a latent affinity with Wang’s proposition.

I see you see Brian sees one C

But really, it was getting to be a triple swipe on the iPad to read these Big C infographics, and something had to give. That’s when Brian Solis popped up with his Are you connecting with your new generation of customers…Generation C? (September 10, 2012) which untangled the C-mess and allowed me to focus on one thing.

“Gen C is not an age group, it’s a lifestyle. While social networks are the fabric of online relationships, it is how technology affects everyday activity. What’s most important for you to understand is that Gen C is different. In some ways, they’re different from you and me. They put the “me” in social media. They’re always on. They rely on the shared experiences of strangers to guide their actions. And, they know that other Gen-C’ers rely upon their shared experiences to find resolution”, says Brian.

I like the Generation C. For one thing I class myself as one, and hence it validates with me as a useful concept. And secondly Solis’s article contains one key message which really resonates with me.

“If you look at the total market for customers, Gen-C today is different than the traditional or digital customers that we cater to today. For some of you, Gen-C is a small, but not insignificant share over your current opportunity. Nevertheless, that was then and this is now. You’re not competing as much for the present as you are for the future. In the grand scheme of traditional, digital, and connected consumerism, only one of those segments is growing.”

And within that quote I like this bit “you’re not competing as much for the present as you are for the future“.

I suppose in other circumstances I might say that was less than blindingly insightful. How I derived meaning from it is in the context of the quotes above and in thinking about Gen C and what it means.  For example I’ve noticed recent comments from some of our traditional retailers that online wasn’t a serious line of business – “only 1% of sales or less“. If you’re thinking Gen C then you don’t want to let yourself be blindsided by the “only 1%” line of thought.

I also noticed today in the Australian Financial Review this article Super funds all a-Twitter over social media (PDF here) which turned out to be far less than the headline promised, in that it says “Twitter remains very low in the retirement savings sector”. It goes on to outline a very weak social presence and performance for the superannuation industry. What struck me was that the representatives of the industry quoted in the article were very content with abysmal Twitter participation rates, even after 2 years effort – e.g. Hostplus with 1900 followers from 1 million members characterised as “young, prolific social media users”.

The failure isn’t that these funds are going to live or die by social media, they themselves make that clear in the article. That’s not my point.

The meaning is in the mindfulness – OR, I see said the blind man!

The failure is in thinking of social as social media marketing, as campaigns, competitions, chances to win something and as “Twitter … used as a channel“. This is all the same old stuff which Axel Schultze mentions in his recent post Over 70% of Social Media initiatives FAIL. It’s the endless brainstorming of new campaigns, pitting your agency against those of Coca Cola, Evian “Roller Babies” and Old Spice. Does that make any sense? Really?

What Brian Solis is telling us is that these organisations need to be stepping back from social as social media. They need to be considering and analysing social as part of the fabric of their organisation, in everything they do, and extending that fabric to fully embrace customers, and guess who in particular? Gen C, of course.

This whole Gen C and social “thing” requires a very mindful approach (and I don’t mean a cautious approach based on legal advice about what you can and cannot tweet – that’s not cautious that’s just prudent and that’s just social media marketing again getting in the way).

Senior on iPad Generation CGen C is not slowing down, it is not getting smaller, it is the volcano at the intersection of cloud, mobile, social and big data and it’s not only going to transform the super fund’s relationship with customers and potential customers but how they operate and run their business from top to bottom, from conception to Resurrection and from recruitment to outplacement. This transformation, the social, mobile, cloud, big data transformation IS the biggest thing since sliced bread, and Social IS part a key part of it, and that’s NOT social media marketing.

What it is, as a first step, IS thinking about what would my organisation look like if I was perfectly linked into Brian Solis’ Generation C world. Do you have that answer? We’d love to hear it.

HINT: To test if you are thinking about this the right way we’ll give you a tollgate test. After you’ve done some serious work, take a break and consider the effect on your work of Pinterest fading, Facebook failing and Twitter down to a trickle. If there is anything other than a superficial need to change what you’ve done so far then unfortunately you’re not in the game yet. You didn’t get past the tollgate. You’ll need to throw it all out and start again, and perhaps you’ll need some help to reset your thinking.


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