IPAsocial principle 02 – Social agenda not business agenda

Social Media is a conversation. That seems to be the one thing that we can all agree on.

But given that Social Media is a rather noisy and opinionated conversation, what value do we think we will have by adding our voices to it?

We are not Social Media gurus. In fact, we are rather sceptical of people who claim they are. We are simply 10 people from across a wide range of communications disciplines in the UK and the US who would like to share some thoughts. Thoughts that have either been bugging us or inspiring us, thoughts that we believe could form some of the building blocks for successful social campaigns or on-going activity. We came together to respond to and add our voices to some work that the IPA had done earlier in the year.

We have each defined a principle which we feel is important in this social world. The second principle is here,  but you can also find all ten in their entirety on the IPA website and on the others’ individual blogs where we will be curating the conversation which we hope they will generate.

The only thing that we ask is that as part of the advertising and communications community that you become part of the conversation. After all, the more opinions that are being shared and built on, the more interesting and stronger the outcome.

To kick it all off, have a look at the wonderful summary of ‘the Big Picture’ by Mark Earls here and all of the ten starter principles here.

As you can see by the title of the blog post, the principle I’ve volunteered to articulate is:

IPA Social principle 02: Social agenda not business agenda

Businesses must understand people’s social agenda by looking at social actions / behaviours that sway purchase

business In the age of the shareholder, the agenda of businesses has been orientated around generating maximum profit and consequently, they have focused on engendering behaviour that is centered on the usage / consumption of their products and services. Revenue created from these actions will benefit the business, the share price and the shareholders.

However, this agenda can fundamentally clash with the social agenda of real people, which centers on actions, behaviours and new and old technologies that allow them to share, connect, interact, learn, love, have fun and enjoy new experiences.

For businesses to operate effectively in this new age of communication, it’s fundamental for them to adopt an approach that hinges on understanding the social agenda of real people. They must get amongst the people who use their products / services, not strictly to look at purchase behaviour, but to look at social actions or behaviours that may influence purchase. Inherent in this is a study of the new ways that people connect, socialize, interact and communicate with each other.


Although businesses will never achieve 100% understanding (humans are highly complex creatures, after all), those that succeed in such an approach will then be able to market with people, rather than at them. Ultimately, these businesses will be able to communicate in more meaningful ways and create more evocative experiences that connect with and enhance people’s lives and social agendas.

Unsurprisingly, Nike is a company that has fully embraced this ethos. Simon Pestridge, their UK marketing director said recently that, “advertising is about achieving awareness, and [they] no longer need awareness.” He believes that they “need to become a part of people’s lives,” and that they want to “inspire consumers to seek out their content” and “this is the model [they] will be following from now on.” They believe that they understand their customers much better than anyone else and continue to learn by doing things like “running ideas past a kid on a football pitch. If [we] don’t get laughed at…then they’re probably on the right track.”[1]


These ten principles are just a starting point; provokers of conversation, thoughts, ideas… an invitation to you (yes, YOU) to join in. Why?  Our aim with this project is to move the debate beyond simply the theoretical, and into the practical; examples of approaches that have worked, and which have not.  What does success look like?  What do you need to do first?

We believe that by sharing information and case studies around ‘social communications’ we will all, from the largest agency to the nimblest freelancer, from the most traditional client to the youngest start-up, benefit from this open source of knowledge.

So please, join the debate…

[1] http://www.revolutionmagazine.com/news/889695/Nike-Just-digital/

7 thoughts on “IPAsocial principle 02 – Social agenda not business agenda

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