I made an exciting discovery today! TED Talks and I share a birthday! For those of you who don’t know about TED Talks, the TED organization is a nonprofit with the tagline idea of “Ideas Worth Spreading”. They started as a conference to bring together technology, entertainment, and design and have expanded from there. On TED.com, they spread these videos for the public to view for free. These videos have been attracting millions since they first debuted. This is not surprising, because almost every TED Talk I’ve ever seen is completely mind blowing and makes me want to jump up and do something. Immediately. These people not only are incredibly talented speakers in many cases, but they are also passionate, knowledgeable, and relevant.
I recently watched a TED talk from Simon Sinek, a leadership expert and author. I strongly suggest you watch this video too. Sinek began his journey as a student of anthropology. He quickly became fascinated with convincing people to do what inspires them, which led him to a career in advertising. However, that didn’t turn out to be inspiring to him, so Sinek set out to discover what excites him about life and about work. Through this personal journey, Sinek realized the power of understanding why you do what you do.
In the video, Sinek explains that success depends on knowing not only what you (or your company) does and how, but understanding why. In fact, your understanding of why you do what you do and, more importantly, communicating that is both biologically and practically proven to be directly correlated with success such as the success of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Wright Brothers, and Apple Computers.
As Sinek repeats, “People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.” As a communication scholar, I’ll take this one step further. People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it, but only if you tell them why you do it. Which is where social media comes in. Take Nike as an example. Successful in almost all they do, their use of social media has proved to be incredibly successful as well. And Nike is using social media to tell you why they do what they do. Recent Tweets at the time of this posting include “How are you living the mantra today? Every moment is an opportunity for movement”. And advice to a fan, saying “Dressed like a pro. Now let’s get your game there. Master the mental and the shots will straighten out. Positivity produces”. Nike does it to help their customers reach their potential athletically, that’s why. They told you.
Following Sinek’s example, Nike could tell us what they have and how they made what they have. Which is great. It’s interesting. And they’ll tell you if you want to know. Like here, where they’ll tell you about the Nike+ FuelBand. Fascinating. But I don’t care because I don’t know why I need a Nike+ FuelBand. Luckily, their video tells me. Their very social media friendly video. Their social media friendly video that goes on the Twitter page dedicated to Nike+ FuelBand (@NikeFuel). Once you understand why you need it, that’s when how and what become important. You must understand why you’re lacking something before you have it and, before that, why Nike does what they do. Then the thought process becomes more like this: Do I want to be physically fit? Yes (media tells me this daily, but that’s a tangent we won’t go on at the moment). Nike will help. Do I want my daily movements to count toward making me physically fit? Of course. Nike+ FuelBand will help. Now you have a Nike consumer who is headed to the store to get a Nike+ FuelBand. To spend money on a Nike+ FuelBand. Capitalistic success.
I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll mention it again. Social media isn’t changing everything we thought we knew. It changes communication, but the old rules still fit. It changes business, but the old methods still work. And biology isn’t changed at all by social media (seriously, watch the video if you don’t get this reference), but what we know about biology from before social media still helps us understand social media. Let’s listen to Sinek. Let’s sit down and figure out why we do what we do. Then, let’s tell people about why we do what we do. It will make all the difference in the world.