Working in the social business field has become a frustrating place - the field is littered with examples and advice that should be a distraction but instead has become the focus of the market conversation. What's worse, is that the people who everyone is looking to as the innovators (and therefore experts) don't really get it either. A recent article in The Atlantic, Why the Social Media Revolution Is About to Get a Little Less Awesome, demonstrated this to me in spades. First of all, I do believe Facebook doesn't get part of the revolution that they created for the reasons I wrote about in Facebook's Black Ice. However, to then extend that logic and say that a phenomenal customer experience is antithetical to a successful business model is, well, a bit inane in my opinion.
What is wrong with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a raft of other social networks and the thinking behind them is that they are focused on scale, not value creation. The simple act of connecting a lot of people and then expecting value to flow from that is definitely a 'build it and they will come' mentality that from my experience does not work. Facebook is experiencing on a large scale what I caution clients about all the time on a smaller scale - building scale before you have created an environment that entices people to co-create and changes behaviors typically leads to a quick spike and then a cliff - because it looses peoples' interest.
But because of the scale, these networks have sucked the energy out of the market and distracted people into building Facebook pages and Twitter accounts but without any strategic thought around their business model, their relationships with different constituent bases and how these tools might impact the cost and returns of those relationships. So instead, organizations are paying consultants a lot of money to compare how many Twitter followers they have as compared to their competitors instead of realizing that we live in an environment of abundance and competition is no longer the yardstick by which you should be measuring yourself.
This strategic thinking is stuck in the industrial age and creating a huge log jam in the social business market. Social strategists are doing their best to stay afloat and on top of the logs but they seem to keep piling up. Instead of worrying about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or whatever other new social network has popped up, we should be starting our conversations with questions like:
- What unique value does your organization create, or in other words what value is core to the business?
- What value creation is outsourced or could be outsourced because it is not unique or core?
- Who do we need to help us create that value and what type of relationship with them is ideal for efficient value creation?
- What types of relationships do we have with different constituent groups today? Is there trust? Is it contextual or absolute? Would a better relationship generate more value?
- Where do these constituent groups interact? What do they say about us when we are not in the room?
- How can we build the relationships we want to have with these different groups in the most efficient way possible?
But no one is having these conversations with executives. Instead we are telling them they should blog and when they go glassy eyed or object we try to convince them why blogging is so important. No wonder this isn't working. And yet, these same executives are the ones we need to support social business initiatives in order to really transform our organizations. And some of them, despite our best collective efforts to make this about technology, are getting it.
At The Community Roundtable, we are kicking off a new research effort called The Social Executive to try and learn from both the executives who 'get it' and actively participate themselves as well as those who object so that we can understand how to better demonstrate the strategic benefits of social business in a way that is meaningful to them. So that we can all stop talking about The Twitter and all start building real relationships with each other. That will be a relief to everyone and it will allow the rest of the world to take us seriously.