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Socialize what you do – don’t try commercializing the social

Everybody will agree that the social has reentered business and commerce as we know it.

In fact, in the beginning, all business was social. If someone sold you a bad chicken, you would badmouth the business and others would shun it until the merchant cleaned up his act. Then the business infrastructure scaled and we ended up with large multi-national companies. People were still social, but the impact of them being social was no longer affecting business – we became at their merci and the social all but disappeared from business. That is when businesses started to develop real bad habits – treating their employees as commodities and waging war with their customers. With social media, a massive platform of participation, the social infrastructure scaled to the point where the social made a difference once again. And because humans are hardwired to be the only Hyper-Social species without all being siblings – the social made a comeback in business with a vengeance.

So what do you do with that? Smart business people, like many of the ones I interviewed as part of the CMO 2.0 Conversation, will tell you that the only thing you can do is to allow your business processes to become social. Barry Judge, the CMO from Best Buy who I interviewed said: “So to the extent that we can basically be human with what we know, and share it as freely as we possibly can, I think we’ll go a long way towards gaining a higher or stronger level of trust with the consumers.” In talking with Luis Suarez recently, he told me that IBM went as far as letting its complete knowledge management process go social. Pfizer’s Sr. VP of Strategy and Innovation, Kristin Peck, was recently quoted in an interview about their innovation process as saying: “when we thought about innovation,we asked ourselves “how do we make it more social?”"

It looks so obvious, right? Yet what do many companies do? Looking at how to commercialize the social that is happening between their customers and prospects. Buying ads on social networks, trying to develop buzz networks, and paying people for recommendations and word of mouth.

That unfortunately will not work much longer. Let’s just hope that those who try to commercialize the social do not muddy the waters with decreased levels of trust among customers and prospects for the rest of us.

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