In the recent eBook that Valeria Maltoni assembled I described the main reason for why social media may not go mainstream in the near future as follows:
For starters, many company executives don’t understand the fundamental forces that are changing their business. Sure, they realize that their cost of sales is increasing dangerously, that it is increasingly harder to engage with customers and prospects, that loyalty seems to have vanished, and that switching costs and barriers to entry do not carry the same weight as before. But what they don’t understand is that with social media as a platform for participation, people can behave the way they were hardwired to behave in the first place – humanly, tribally.
These executives think of their business as “controllable” processes that need to be optimized. And they evaluate their business in terms of assets and liabilities. Which leaves little room to truly understand the impact of the exploding mass of newly empowered individuals who are now free to hang out and share information with peers, help one another in finding the best products and services, and bad-mouth organizations and people who depart from the social norms that have made us the hypersocial (and hyper-successful) species we are.
This freedom to associate, speak and share is what is fundamentally transforming the game of business – not just the rules; but also the players, the scope of the game, the tactics and the added values.
Another way of thinking about this is that social media enabled the social messiness that characterizes humans to invade all our business processes. You cannot fight this fundamental disruption with command and control approaches, nor can you do it through process optimization or re-engineering – which many companies have grown used to, if not addicted to.
What you need to do is to empower the people through transparency, embrace the messiness, and provide leadership to bring the best out of people. Sure some people will cheat, and others will have their own agenda of gossip, but in the end what will emerge is much more powerful than anything you can create through command and control.
In fact, we may have a perfect model to follow coming to us from the world of politics. Check out the Obama campaign and the first signs of the Obama administration. Look where it leads when you empower people through transparency, embrace the diversity and messiness, and provide clear leadership…