Chapter 20

Focus on Culture

The hallmarks of social media, interaction, and communication should focus our attention on culture—the behaviors, values, and meanings people express and share. Culture provides the context through which people are able to understand one another. Just think about what it's like when you visit an unfamiliar part of the country or the world. Before you even travel, you want to find out about your destination's culture. This information will give you important clues about how to go about your business or leisure enjoyably and successfully.

Too many marketers and advertisers listening to social media conversations focus on the superficial aspects—that is, the words—without paying enough attention to the cultural context in which those conversations occur. They understand some things, but they still miss a lot. After all, what good does it do us to know that moms talk about a diaper's performance when it's not informed by the way moms view their role, and the emotional underpinnings of their infant care? Or that people are more frequently searching for terms like “foreclosure” or “consumer debt” without knowing what they are thinking about and how they are coping with changes in the economy, their jobs, and their families?

The matter of culture becomes more important when a company's social media use moves from being a superficial add-on to a primary method for doing business. Companies participating and engaging more often need to be culturally literate ...

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