It’s what’s on the inside that counts

This isn’t going to be a long post, although I’ve been thinking about the subject for a while.  I could probably spend the next few years on the topic, so instead I’ll keep it brief for now.

The use of social computing has evolved over the past ten years (c. Cluetrain) and hockey-stuck over the last four.  Now blogs are the "new traditional" social media, morphing from their early ugly duckling status into slow-moving and elegant swans (overtaken by higher velocity, short-form channels).

But a small problem is starting to emerge along with the mainstreaming of social media.  Although there’s a lot of talk about it – and more businesses feel the need to do something about it – most businesses are not internally prepared to make social media work.  I see this quite a bit when I’m working with clients, reflected in the questions I am asked:

  • What happens if we accept customer suggestions but then don’t make any changes?
  • Why doesn’t our blog have any comments?
  • How am I supposed to formulate a strategy when our IT policy blocks access to social media sites?

Growing up, I must have heard the phrase "it’s what’s on the inside that counts" about a thousand times as I searched for an identity.  Today, brands are experiencing growing pains as well, figuring out how to create relationships with their customers.  And they’re discovering that they need to understand how these things work before engaging successfully with the outside world.

We have hope, because individuals within firms have personal social
media experience – and more enterprises are waking up to the fact that
they need to put resources in place now,
because just like e-commerce 15 years ago…social media isn’t going
away.  Instead, it’s becoming the new way that things work.

Otherwise, brands co-opt social media and fill microblogs, RSS readers, and social networks with clutter, interruption, and irrelevance.  Same as advertising ever was.