commerce is necessarily social – micro post

It came up in some of the comments as I relayed a story about a pineapple street vendor my wife and I stopped buying from in Thailand: my realization that commerce is always social. There often are suppressed social components (emotional investments, norms of reciprocity, identifications, assumed shared values, etc) in purchases. Which is to say they are operating, but we are not always aware of them. In fact we usually only become aware of them when they are violated. This social dimension is why marketing and social media actually braid so well, commerce is social. The problem of course comes with business culture self-interest, a deep and lasting expectation that commerce is not social. It is asocial: that businesses are pre-disposed to not caring, and in fact being anti-community. We in social media fight between these two predispositions.

[micro posts should be a one thought kernel, easily considered, I hope.]


7 thoughts on “commerce is necessarily social – micro post

  1. Earlier this evening, I typed these words to a fellow tweeter in an email prior to reading this micro-post of yours: “Business transactions take place centred around one thing: money. And this cold, hard reality seldom seems to take the human factor into account. By that I mean, the fact that it is people who conduct these transactions and people who are influenced/affected by these transactions. So when a business transaction like the big company take-over you described takes place and turns the lives of so many faithful employees (who are people too!) upside-down, it saddens me immensely. My husband would say: it’s not emotional – don’t be sad. It’s just business. But that is only one side of the coin in my opinion. I am in the business of people. Perhaps that’s what attracted me to social media in the first place. It’s also what keeps my focus in the right place with regard to the interactions I have. How can I help? How can I serve? Is there a way we can join hands? What can I learn? These are questions I often ask myself.”

    • Perhaps this is why we get along well Jacqui. There are similar values that drive our thinking. Pretty cool that we were on the same wavelength today.

  2. Commerce is always social. I absolutely agree.

    Being social does not exist for itself, but about something else. When we are social, we are asking about someones day, or talking about the weather, about our car or our kids, there is a subject we are discussing. I think we have a need to be understood, to be acknowledged, and being social, in part, fulfills that need.

    So what should a company be social about? Their product or service is the first thing, but in every communication, we show who we are, what we value. I think a company needs to communicate those values through each of the people that represent it. I love that you communicated the core values of Tonner Doll, and what makes them tick in your comment to mine on the last blog post.

    What Tonner is offering is play, abstracting, the use of imagination, these are essential parts of being human, and you are offering those things through these dolls… to people who want them.

    • I think hospitality is one of the things that really come to mind when we think of how commerce and social touch. Not just being a host, but carrying with us the values of what a host is. This involves opening one’s home, it involves connecting others to each other through yourself. It involves treating people as esteemed. This is also something that really does, or should come through in social media marketing. In reverse, you would never step into someone’s house and start pitching them. The commerce comes out of, is born out of the relations we establish. On the larger brand level of course the person touch may not be possible, but the values of it can be carried forward.

      And thank you Chris for your kind words on capturing the core values of Tonner. It think this is something all businesses must do. What is the spark? What is the reason you exist for others.

  3. When Chris asks “what should a company be social about?” and answers “in every communication, we show who we are, what we value” I think he’s saying something really important. Social isn’t only talking about the weather, because our social lives are our human lives. The true content of our social lives, honestly considered, is the entirety OF our lives. It’s what Jacqui is passionately pointing to as well – the human factor. The word human is important here.

    When we take the human factor seriously, and recognize that part of the human factor is absolutely our practical well-being, there’s no reason why that can’t include business concerns – as long as the business concerns are genuinely considered and genuinely discussed in “experience-near” terms, terms in which our customers understand their real-life commitments. So when Jacqui sincerely asks, “how can I help, how can I serve?” there’s a way to answer that which makes a substantive contribution to their real human life.

    Trying to convince people that they have a need which they really don’t, and trying to manipulate them into making a purchase to satisfy that created need, does not make a substantive contribution to their real human life.

    Moving into the realm of meaning it with our customers (or with anyone in our life) is a one-way road. If we’re going to mean it about our customer’s humanness, we have to mean it about our own, and we have to mean it all the way. Not that this change necessarily happens instantaneously, nor does it need to… but I don’t think we can go back to lying, once we start really telling the truth.

  4. Business to make money is an abstraction of commerce that is relatively recent in human history. Most commerce was done in trade.

    I need this. You need that. Let’s trade. This guys has good salt and always gives me a fair trade. My neighbors pool resources and we go in together to get a tractor for our farms.

    The asocial side of commerce is also very, very new in our history. Related to what you have explored in previous posts about the shift in marketing language and perspective as we bring the customer into the process: Won’t making my social media customer community a part of my “marketing department” create a new social commerce, naturally? (over a long period of time, perhaps…)

    • Anthropologist David Graeber in Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value tells us and interesting fact, that in the tribes he has looked exact exchange (payments for items) is only something done with enemies. Exact payment signals the end of a relationship, not its continuity. It is pretty interesting that the over-riding “asocial” dimension of commerce that we treat as a norm may have its roots on both abstraction and how enemies traditionally were dealt with.

      What your comment makes me think about.

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