From These Organizations:
- Community and Regional Resilience Institute
- Center for the Study of Economics
- Campbell& Co.Ltd
- Chrobis Limited
- Chrobis Consulting
In all the noise about ‘soshal meeja’, there is a common thread I come across about the value of it all, whether it works, and whether all these technologies are really things that grown-ups and serious businesses should be playing with. After all, haven’t they got better things to do with their time? And given there are new gurus on every street corner, it’s easy to consider these technologies as the latest snake oil and give them a wide berth.
One of the interesting facets of technology is that, one way or another, it has been with us for a long, long time and it has always been a disruptive influence. Many might add, this correspondent included, that unless it is being disruptive, it isn’t really doing its job. Technology is disruptive because it changes the relationships between business functions, between people and business functions and between people themselves. As technologies become adopted, there is always a natural inclination to try to find as many uses for it as possible, some of which might be good and stick around, and some of which might be politely termed ‘experimental’ and die a death when they prove rubbish, or otherwise fail to capture the imagination and catch on. It’s what tech industry analysts recognise as a ‘hype curve’ – I imagine there would have been a similar four-box model had Gartner been in existence when the wheel was invented.
Social Media is a case in point. Much of the initial impetus has come from personal and individual use of these technologies as a way of maintaining contact, forming groups of friends, chatting and sharing pictures about …. well, about what interests them on the personal level – family happenings, baby pictures, holiday photos, the football, what’s going on in the social side of their lives. Arguably, they have now come off the peak of the hype curve, with Facebook grappling with its longer term future post IPO, Google wondering how to compete and a host of other players offering bit parts that all seem to have a possible use, maybe. And get bought by the bug guys when they show promise!
Social Media for Business has still to find its rationale, its angle. The tools have come from a different origin – based around content sharing of a more technical nature. Some of the leading examples use networking and collaboration tools within the organisation, but even there, the real extent of the capability is still to emerge. The internet has still been something that existed ‘outside the organisation’ to connect with customers and suppliers, and Social Media is a customer facing, marketing tool. Many large enterprises therefore have all sorts of controls around what they will let employees do, and in part, this is slowing down internal adoption even though the applications are there, especially in knowledge-based businesses.
One of those reasons for the control is that the enterprise, seeing the chit chat of world of personal networks like Facebook, is afraid of what the troops might say in public. It was Plato who allegedly said that “A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something”. The ability of a human to open mouth and insert foot is as old as the hills.
Refusing to use social technology would be as idiotic as refusing to use a telephone to call someone – on the basis that there are some idiots in the world who also use telephones……. and so, the ‘social’ aspect of the technology thereby lends an aura to it that causes businesses to shy away. Because what they see and hear is the noise. The trick of using technology in business is about working out which bits are useful to you, deploying them quickly and discarding those that aren’t. When it comes to social technologies, many businesses are still at square one, and now need to see and hear beneath the noise to find those ways in which it can help.
Ultimately, it’s about communication. Is there any business that has managed to run on any level without communicating – without telling people who they are, what they do and encouraging the world to beat a path to its door to buy what it has to offer? Or without talking to each other when there is a job to do, to make sure it gets done quickly, efficiently, and at a profit? So why would the technology not provide another way to help with that? It’s a fairly fatuous argument to say that social technology doesn’t work for B2B. It just works differently than in the B2C world, and many of the ways are still to emerge.
On the face of it, social technologies have been built so far around people and connections. As they move more into B2B, they are increasingly about content. Social media strategy should concentrate on the message and not the medium – think about how you can use it to connect with your people and your content to give customers, suppliers and employees what they need – and then select the technologies to deliver it.