Allow me to quote Hugh reporting from a social setting:
Social objects - the stuff that connects us, objects that spurs a common interest, the nodes in the social fabric. Not to forget basic knowledge about each other as expressed by relationships to known objects.
"Increasingly I've been using a term, "Social Marker" to describe a certain type of Social Object. I've found it especially useful for explaining certain ideas to marketing folk.
When two people meet, the first thing they try to do is place each other in context. A social context. So they insert some hints into the conversation:
"I used to know your Uncle Bob."
"I work at Saatchi & Saatchi's.
"I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell for years."
"I'm a member of Soho House."
"I was reading Doc Searls' blog the other day."
"I was college roommates with your ex-girlfriend."
"You're a Red Sox fan too?""
With some common nodes connected the social flow can start - discussions, much nodding and trust between the bar patrons is established with the knowledge yielding a feel-good sense of connection while downing another beer.
Allow me to quote myself from a less frivolous setting:
Soon he will be on track to establish what the issue is, or issues are; the main "business object(s)" in their "business" relationship, the thing that he as an expert might add value to by curing it.
"When a patient arrives at the hospital, the first thing the physician tries to do is to unearth the main "business object", the medical condition. So he inserts some questions in the conversation, exploring (in this context) "business markers":
"Where does it hurt?"
"When did it happen?"
"What did you do when it happened?"
"Have this happened before?"
"Who's your physician?""
When the first connecting nodes are found the value creation flow starts - medication, X-rays, tests - leading to the establishment of a core "business object", the medical condition. With that the physician can go about and create value by manipulating that object, curing it through surgery, plastering and medication.
Now, let's expand that to a more "commercial" business proposition - a sales situation. Let's follow two kind of sales people on a sales call for, say, enterprise software:
Would Hugh's bar patron go off on a rant about his excellent career or name drop or brag about his cars and boats and houses? Yep, some would - the social version of sales person type 1. The bar bores. "Sorry, have an appointment in five...".
Sales person 1: Straight into presentation of product, pushing brochures over the table while pouring out a well-learned sales pitch.
Sales person 2: Asks questions - "could you please describe your business?", "any areas that does not work perfectly?", "any daily issues that annoy you?", "could you tell me a user story?" - quite the physician looking for that particular node where he and his expertise connects with the customer.
The one - it be bar patron or sales person, social setting or business setting - that seeks out the markers to find the core connecting nodes will win. Every time. Same thing for business and social life - explore the social or business objects and find the node(s) that connect!
It's what Seth Godin always says about sales - you have to establish a relationship first! Quite, but not quite:
The relationship have to connect through the relevant business object(s) - a patient and physician connecting by a common support for Arsenal would not mend a broken arm.