Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's not social media if it doesn't change your business

It's not social media if it doesn't change your business - to borrow and adapt from my good friend Ted Shelton (his line, for the record, is 'it's not marketing if it doesn't change your business').

It's a description, a rallying cry - and a warning.

It explains and encapsulates a fundamental truth for any business which has traditionally made its money from mediation. I mean (though certainly not exclusively) those in the media, advertising, marketing and marcomms of all hues (ultimately any middlemen in any supply chain, but that's another story).

Some believe the exodus of attention from mainstream to social media means the peer-to-peer realm of social networks must be the new place to go fire messages at people.

But those who consider what is happening to be just a new channel are at a disadvantage.

They attempt to layer the 'use' of social media on top of what they already do - without allowing it to change what they do.

It's a kind of thin icing on an unpalatable cake. It may make it look better, but it won't make it better. (image courtesy)

This approach creates the single biggest risk to their (and as often their client's) futures.

Media is seeing a decline in fortune for a relatively simple though structural reason: In a world where we can organise for ourselves in webs of co-operation (communities of purpose) there is less and less demand for mediation.

Our increasingly relentless expression of self through digital data (the metadata of ourselves) outpourings via facebook, twitter, blogs, forums etc etc puts the formation of communities of purpose in our hands in real time.

Our peers have become our trusted filters of introductions to things and people we didn't know we needed to know. As we get together we talk, and our talk leads to action. Value created.

In this world there is less need of mediation, less demand for mediation - less value placed on mediation.

So what future for media?

Evolution into social media equals becoming a change agent. Big time.

The value social media brings to the table - if it's done right, if everyone is listening, and if everyone is prepared to change - is not just to reach people where they've gone. It is to adapt your business to the networked world.

And what does that really mean?

At it's cold, hard, business logic (planet saving) guts? Efficiency.

An organisation which adapts to the networked world is co-creating itself and the value it can share in with the people it would otherwise be seeking out (at high cost) researching their desires (at high cost ) trying to second guess how those desires translate into products (at high cost) advertising the results (at high cost) providing customer service to (at high cost) etc etc.

It will join with the people who care about the same things it does to create things they all care about together. They will join together in marketing, advertising, evangelising. They will create what is needed - together.

The people who can make the biggest difference to your company don't work for it. Adapting to the network means they can.

Solutions driven by an adhoc group-forming, peer-to-peer approach
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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?