Social Objects for Marketing, Engagement & Change

cartoons as social objects hugh macleod

Last night I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Social Object Soiree hosted by Hugh Macleod and Mark Earls.

I’ve been following Hugh’s work as a cartoonist and author at Gaping Void since 2009 and really like his ability to create cartoons that raise issues, inspire and incite conversations.

I’ve also got a copy of his book Ignore Everybody. I’ve read it too. It’s great.

Anyway, the talk was centred around social objects. Something that Hugh and Mark have been talking about, with others, for some time.

In truth, the evening felt quite unplanned and pretty organic with Hugh and Mark telling a few stories and sharing a few thoughts on what social objects are and why they are important in the world that we now live in.

This format engaged folks for a while then many drifted off to the bar or headed out into the rain of London for another rendezvous or home, I presume. However, for those that remained it left room for discussion about what a social object is and and what isn’t in the bar afterwards.

Hugh’s definition of a social object is:

“The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if you think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that “node” in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.”

The thing that got conversation going in the bar was that Roxanne Persaud pointed out that in the small print of the invitation we were asked to bring along out own social objects to the event. Not being mentioned in the Hugh and Mark show it created a lot of discussion amongst the folks that I met on the night, which included Roxanne Persaud, Anne McCrossan and Johnnie Moore. Johnnie was name checked during the Hugh and Mark show as being partly responsible for something. I can’t remember for what. Sorry, Johnnie.

In our discussion we landed on a number of things a social object could be:

  1. It’s something that you can share with your friends
  2. It’s something that you can tell stories about
  3. It’s something that you have as a shared interest or in common with someone else

Why’s that important in marketing or business? Well, for me, social objects are about engaging someone, whether they are a customer or an employee or someone else, in a conversation. However, in order to do that you have to have something to engage them with. That thing or object has to be something they are interested in and not something that we, as businesses or people, think they should be interested in. That’s where the real change is.

What do you think?

When you’ve got time check out the following articles and archives from Hugh’s blog on social objects:

Finally, Thanks Hugh for the signed print. Going to look great on the wall. :)


  1. @gapingvoid @herdmeister Thanks for a great evening last night. Just posted a few thoughts #sosoiree

  2. Social Objects for Marketing, Engagement & Change #sosoiree

  3. Thanks! cc @annemcx #shoegate MT @adrianswinscoe:Just name-checked @commutiny @johnniemoore in a post about #sosoiree

  4. Thanks @commutiny for the cc. Hi @annemcx you're now rightfully name checked in the updated post :)

  5. Social Objects for Marketing, Engagement & Change

  6. Social Objects for Marketing, Engagement & Change

  7. @gapingvoid @herdmeister Thanks for a great evening last night. Just posted a few thoughts #sosoiree

  8. RT @adrianswinscoe: Social Objects for Marketing, Engagement & Change #sosoiree

  9. Thanks for rolling out the social objects Adrian. To me it’s about building that relationship that continues to flourish over time.

    • Hi Vitaly,
      You couldn’t be more right. After all it’s the relationship that counts and not the object. It’s only there as a catalyst.


  10. Adrian, sounds like a fun evening. Social objects have always confused me so thank you for providing a definition and context for their use.

    However I’m still left with the feeling that they are an unnecessary term because as was said on the might we are social as humans, that’s not news. We communicate. That’s not news. In the main we need a trigger for that, whether instinctive or conscious. In other words what is our purpose or reason for communicating. Again that is not news.

    So why rebadge?

    • Hi Martin,
      I couldn’t agree more with you that we don’t need to badge or re-badge something that is a very human thing.

      However, what interests me is the rise in interest and value of building communities in business. I wrote something about this a couple of weeks ago ( Too many companies are trying to jump from a transactional relationship with their customers to building a community of customers and are failing and wondering why. I think is is because they still haven’t figured out how communities start and develop and that is usually around a social object or social objective (forgive the badges!).

      That’s why I think there are interesting.

      What do you think?


  11. Adrian,

    I’m in total agreement about the transactional element. And I think far too many ask when they should give. But the great thing about community is that it cannot be bought( ask Murdoch) and that if the investment in human discourse is missed out then no-one sticks around.

    I’d still though prefer to ask about the
    Communities purpose but that only a personal preference

  12. All great relationships start with a shared point of interest. Which is why when we walk into a networking event, engage with another person and find the commonalities rather than the differences we will get along nicely thank you!

    • Hi Kate,
      Too true, too true. Funny how sometimes we have to rebadge or re-invent things that we do naturally, as humans, when it comes to marketing and business. There goes that Jekyll and Hyde thing again where many people people take on different personalities when they get to work. Weird, huh?

      Thanks for dropping by,


  13. Social Objects for Marketing, Engagement & Change @adrianswinscoe

  14. RT bigredtomato: Social Objects for Marketing, Engagement & Change @adrianswinscoe:

  15. Have you ever considered adding much more videos to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained? I mean I just study through the whole article of yours and it was fairly great but since I’m more of a visual learner,I discovered that to be much more useful well let me know how it turns out. This is good…thanks for sharing

  16. Heya, I have been checking out your weblog quite often and am unsure if it’s an option to sign up to your blog posts other than by rss. I have heard that a few blogs make available email subscriptions for their new posts. Do you do that too? Thanks for any reply! Petra Spellacy from Campinas

    • Hey Petra,
      That is an option. Check out the blue icon with the envelope on it at the top of the left hand column.


Speak Your Mind