Many business executives want to discard that which they don’t understand labeling it with something they do understand. Many business executives say “I don’t understand the ambiguous “it” that everyone refers to when talking about social media. What is the “it” in terms that we can measure and consider applying to our business?” To which we responded “Do you currently measure the value of email, cell phone usage, customer interaction or time spent engaging your market?” Most would respond “No those are just tools we use and things we do as does everybody”. They answered their own objections but still don’t get “it”.
What is the “it” that everyone talks about?
If we could describe the “it” as one thing or one tool then the comprehension of “its” value might be easier but we can’t. If “it” represented a public stock or hundreds of stocks that were hot then we could point to “it” and also understand why some call “it” a bubble. If “it” represented one new technology then businesses may be able to comprehend “its” value but “it” isn’t any one new piece of technology. If we could point to one company that made a ton of money with “it” then every business would want “it” but we can’t because “it” is free. When we describe “it” as a movement, an open conversation or human connectivity “it” become ambiguous and labeled as just another buzz word that businesses reject because they can’t but “it” into a container and point to “it”.
The “it” is a mindset wrapped around the intersection of technology and human expression with no limitations, the freedom of speech. Just thinking about the meaning of the previous sentence becomes a mind warp for most businesses because “its” meaning is deep and wide and cannot be condensed into “sound bites” or “contained into one thing”. The entire value proposition of the social web is aimed at human emotion and intellect fueled by enabling conversations, one to one to millions and “its” free.
As more voices join in conversations…………..scholars, business leaders, authors, journalist, inventors, engineers, politicians and others…the quality of the conversations increases and participants tap into a “learning channel”. It wasn’t long ago, it was a notable event, when main stream media picked up on “these conversations”. Now it is happening all the time. Main stream media has become so dependent on social media, in fact, that is is hard to imagine that professional news organizations would let this channel of conversations simply go away. But most businesses have yet to truly engage because “it” simply doesn’t make sense to the traditional mindset shaped by past experiences.
Will Businesses Get “It”?
Most businesses do not realize that everyone of their employees represents conversational intersections with both existing and prospective customers. Oh yeah I forgot, employees fall under human resource management rather than marketing, sales, customer service and never shall they cross the holy grail of “leadership”. To add to the constraints, employees are banned from engaging in social media during work hours because “it” robs productivity and businesses worry about what their employees are saying in these “spaces”.
I’ve talked to many large corporations and the managements response usually is “I don’t want us to spend money chasing a fad or starting yet another initiative that doesn’t provide us with measurable payback”. Well you know what you shouldn’t and if you treat this as an initiative or a fad then it will bite you in the rear end and when it does you won’t understand why rather you’ll simply find someone to blame because you never really understood “it”. Why? As we try and engage business leaders in conversations about the social web they are more inclined to tell us what “they think” vs. what the people who make up the social web are saying. It is a problem of listening and comprehending the essence and dynamics of conversations happening globally.
Is This Frustrating or What?
A 64-page report is called The Authentic Enterprise: Relationships, Values and The Evolution of Corporate Communications produced by Arthur W. Page Society of Public relations states: “We are no longer in control of our traditional spheres of professional activity. Indeed, all business functions are at the dawn of an era of radical de-professionalization. For business, globalization has long been transforming markets for capital and labor. Now it is reshaping the footprint – and even the idea – of the corporation. This institution is shifting from a hierarchical, monolithic, multinational model to one that is horizontal, networked and globally integrated.”
“All of this makes the 21st century enterprise vulnerable at a wholly new level to unexpected developments that can damage the brand, negatively affect employee commitment, undercut outside relationships and destabilize management, including the CEO and other corporate officers and Board members. This, in turn, means that the stakes are much higher for what corporate communicators do. Message ’segmentation’ is no longer practical or desirable. Despite the proliferation of diverse stakeholders, all are now on a level playing field.”
“Realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people. The strongest opinions – good or bad – about a company are shaped by the words and deeds of its employees. As a result, every employee – active or retired – is involved with public relations. It is the responsibility of corporate communications to support each employee’s capability and desire to be an honest, knowledgeable ambassador to customers, friends, shareowners and public officials. The greatest danger corporate communications faces, ironically, may lie in our very success over the past two decades, if that success blinds us to the new demands that lie ahead.”
Even when leaders within traditional business communities are confirming the transformational power of the social web businesses simply want the short answer that enable them to produce results. Here is your answer, listen, learn and allow the conversation to change your mindset.
We know it is scary but if you let go of your frame of reference you’ll understand why people, your customers and your employees, are being influenced by the power of conversations unleashed by “it”.
Get it? What say you?