Corporate Adoption Curve measured against Democracy
This is my first of a series of three weekly posts on large companies trying to reach the state of becoming a “social business”. A “social business” is an organisation that has embraced social media to enable dialogue with its environment, like its customers and employees, to react and adapt to their continuously changing behavior patterns and needs. To be a “social business” or “social organisation” is the new state-of-being companies aim for, because they understand that those who listen and those who are in ongoing conversations with their customers will keep their competitive edge – now and in the future.
The Internet has forced every multinational on earth to rethink and transform their working habits and methods. Social media like facebook and twitter have enabled this. So, what is a social business? For me, it’s any company that makes a real continuous effort to making its employees and clients happier by letting them express, debate, and solve issues and information efficient and fast. Social media tools enable such a dialog and it’s up to each organisation itself to decide what is going to be shared with the public and what stays internally.
A social business is not an utopia, but a state of mind for any company. A social business is dedicated to absorb the huge amount of free think-tank power created by thousands of (mostly) volunteers grouped in existing communities on the Internet. These communities already exists for almost any brand today! The people in these online communities are dedicated to discussing your brand, services, and products publicly, regardless if you are there with them or not. In short, a social business is a company that listens to its end-users (regardless if they are employees or clients) to make sure that your brand will always evolve towards the changing needs of your employees and clients. You just need to be there with them! A nice article in the socialcomputingjournal with clever observations on the topic of social businesses can be found here. Also, Dachis Group, a leading global consultancy group on social business design, provides sharp and to-the-point insights on this topic. My company SOMESSO did a closed summit together with Dachis Group last March at the former French Embassy at 106 Piccadilly in London (now a Limkokwing University campus). Main learning point on this day was that even the considered “thought leaders” in this industry did not agree amongst themselves on the definition of social media. This indicates that we are still at the start of this lasting trend and we have not yet reached a clear adoption. Read more about the summit here. Or read this post from Lee Bryant for an impression of the day.
Someone asked me last week in regards to the „trend“ of companies becoming social businesses: „when is a trend no longer a trend, but adopted into society?“. Although I’ve had countless discussions on this matter, the best answer I received so far is „as soon as society adopted the handling or gesture in daily life, considering it as a normal action without thinking of it“. An example illustrating this is the use of the personal computer: we have reached the point in time that we turn on and off our PC’s every day without giving it a further thought.
How long does it take to insert something new into a society until it is considered to be adopted?
According to Fareed Zakaria (in The Future of Freedom), it takes 80 years on average to insert a democracy into a developing country. It starts with faking it, allowing corruption a free pass. Faking a democracy also means that it is the preferred form of government for the (corrupted) ruling party in that country. Then slowly but steadily the system itself is ruling out corruption and with it the leaders who „inserted“ the democracy model in the first place.
This is the same pattern we see on two sides today in the process of companies aiming at becoming a social business. On the demand side we see companies that, together with their traditional PR firms, try to fabricate a fast way to reach the state of being a social business, while heavily promoting their activities around social media as a new USP in relation to their competition. An example is a company that simply buys an expensive social media „campaign“ from their PR firm, which mostly delivers no more than a traditional marketing campaign that is spread through social media tools. So, nothing new. On the supply side we see more „thought leaders“ and „experts“ today then ever before. Mid 2010 we have landed in a true so called „cowboy market“. A great example are the hundreds of social media monitoring companies that all explain to the world that they are the „leading outsourcing party“ in the field of monitoring corporate social activity. However, when spending a minute on a google search, nearly none of the employees of these firms appear to be on twitter themselves (!), nor do they use any social tools to promote their own business. I’ve visited quite a few of them and I always try to meet them in their offices to see what’s really happening. Most of the time business is done through old fashioned cold-calling per telephone. These guys are all missing the point. I don’t need to explain that the heavily increasing supply of fake social media vendors and consultants leads to more confusion inside corporations to whom they should reach out. A benchmark is needed to spot quality from the increasing quantity of social media suppliers.
Next week I will discuss the corporate adoption curve of organisations becoming social businesses, but then measured against linguistic determinism…
* this article has also been posted on www.somesso.com