It’s Time To Transform


Let’s get serious about social business.

The reverb in the echo chamber has become deafening.

Have you noticed the lack of original content being published lately?  I have.  There’s a term to describe what’s going on and Steve Rubel called it a year ago: The Lazysphere.

“Rather than create new ideas or pen thoughtful essays, [some bloggers] simply glom on to the latest news with another ‘me too’ blog post.”

I use Google Reader as my gateway to social media.  Almost all blog content falls into “to know” (RSS) vs. “to do” (email).  And lately, I’m feeling that there’s less “need to know” content being produced.  The best – and worst – content spurs people into action.  So what I’ve done is unsubscribe from about a dozen advertising, media, and marketing blogs that have lost their edge of insight and/or integrity.

“This social marketing niche is getting way too incestuous and repetitive and frankly, stupid in its repetitive back slapping, re-affirmation, ego stroking, and over amplification of the same desperate case studies.” – “Shooting fish: Blog Sluts,” David Churbuck, VP Global Web Marketing, Lenovo, 12/15/08.

Do we really need any more posts on how to use Twitter?  Early adopters used to scoff, “once it’s in the mainstream news, it’s history.”  If you agree, then please read “Birds Of A Feather Twitter Together,” Wall Street Journal, 12/3/08. Mashable asks, “should tech blogs shut up about Twitter?”  Answer: Yes.

Marketing causes social computing impotence. 

The presence of reverb doesn’t surprise me.  I’ve been thinking about hundreds of social media marketing examples and the majority appear to be the unfortunate output of unevolved agency thinking on channel integration.  The old thinking went something like this:

“Most senior ad execs appear more comfortable with conventional channels, which they claim are ‘integrated’ because they have tacked on a Web site.”A survey respondent from my work in February 2008.

One way to look at social technologies would be as “social media,” with 22 potential channels to consider for campaign integration.  And once you start thinking about using social tools as campaign support, you’re thinking in terms of one-night stands with your customers, not building long-term relationships.

You want “bad profits?” Then use social technologies as part of a campaign strategy.  Case in point:  Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice Facebook application.  Funny?  Sure.  Increase in customer LTV?  I don’t think so.

I’ve discovered that social technologies employed for marketing campaigns encounter problems:

Nobody will change the world with social media marketing.  Social marketing using technology, maybe.  But marketing has too much short-term focus to employ social technologies to their full potential.

But before you get too comfortable in your IT role…don’t.  IT’s track record with game-changing technologies has been dismal.  The promise of ERP, KM, and CRM?  Lost in technical requirements, specifications, and internal politics.  Let’s face it: the term Web 2.0 connotes incremental change and evolution, not revolution.

Similarly, the term “Enterprise 2.0″ should be discarded as an inadequate moniker to describe the full extent of recommended and required change.  Existing definitions struggle to break free of underpinning technologies.  Calling social business Enterprise 2.0 sets our efforts on a path to fail like to many technologies before.  

We need to set our sights on a bigger goal.

I believe that social technologies have the power to transform the way we live and work.  So why should we have anything less than transformation in mind when putting social technologies to use?

Our efforts need to aim forward, not backward.  We need to improve what we do today with the ultimate goal of changing the way we work and connect with co-workers, customers, suppliers, shareholders, and other system participants.  Social technologies should change the world of work – applied to not just to marketing and IT, but also HR, finance, legal, and every other functional area.  And potentially change the functions that exist at all.

The end game should be an entirely social business.  Not just point solutions to improve existing processes or programs – new ways of connecting and collaborating.  Business models will change.  Customer-centricity becomes a moot concept, as “us” and “them” no longer exist.

I don’t have a neat little acronym for this.  Or a regular business term with a numeric modifier.  Social business is simply how work needs to be done – and it’s different from how it happens today.

Let’s work together on this.

I’m building a company that intends to make social business a reality.  The great thing is, we are starting from scratch with a lot of lessons learned.  Naturally, we’re making it social from day one.  You can access my thinking here and on Twitter, along with Kate Niederhoffer (blog, twitter) and Jeff Dachis (twitter).  But don’t expect us to reveal any critically-sensitive information; social media isn’t socialism.

I’ve added some new voices to my feeds for fresh perspective on social technology.  You might find them interesting as well:  Jevon MacDonald.  Dion Hinchcliffe.  Susan Scrupski.  Sam Huleatt.  O’Reilly Radar.  Andrew McAfee.  Mike Gotta.  Waiting for former colleague Oliver Young to really turn it on.

These people don’t seem to intersect too often with people like David Armano.  Greg Verdino. Max Kalehoff. Mack Collier.  Imagine the possibilities.

Some people are already operating in union between marketing and technology, like Deb Schultz, Jeremiah Owyang, Charlene Li, and Steve Rubel.

There are many others, of course.  Feel free to give me a heads up in the comments below.

I’ll be exploring the building blocks of social business going forward – its elements and archetypes, its opportunities and challenges.  We are collaborating with individuals, companies, and groups, and I’ll talk about those as appropriate.  Soon we’ll have a name – if you understand our philosophy, you likely understand why this hasn’t been a top priority.  I’ll tell you more about how we’re working with businesses – we believe that our approach isn’t offered today and quite a few people have affirmed that position.

The best still lies ahead for all of us…and I believe that so far,

We have merely scratched the surface on the potential of social business.