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Monday
Aug292011

Social Media Are Not Dead Yet

By Dennis D. McDonald

The Rosy Fingers of Dawn on February 14, 2011I agree with a lot of what Brian Solis says in The End of Social Media 1.0 especially this statement:

Consumers want to be heard. Social media will have to break free from the grips of marketing in order to truly socialize the enterprise to listen, engage, learn, and adapt. You can’t create a social business if the business is not designed to be customer-centric from the outside-in and the inside-out.

One cavil with the above is his use of the term “social business.” I suggested the following in my recent post Let’s Stop Talking about “Social Business”

Let’s stop talking about “social business” as if it were some sort of change in how organizations behave. By promoting the concept we might be creating as much confusion as we did when we popularized the vague and ill-defined phrase “Web 2.0.” 

As I suggested, all businesses are social and always have been. Treating social networking and social media as technologies to be “managed,” as we used to do with older more traditional software applications, takes us down the wrong path by defining responsibilities by tool rather than by the outcome the tools are designed to promote.

Just as Solis suggests the need to break social media “… free from the grips of marketing,” we also need to rethink the role of IT in managing the implementation of new technologies that depend so heavily on business process change for their effectiveness. Traditionally IT departments have managed technology projects since IT has been responsible for technology based tools. As more technologies become commodotised and cloud based, this is bound to change.

I’m not convinced that every employee of an organization needs direct access to the customers or the public and vice versa. The larger the organization the more benefits arise from specialization. It’s one thing to say that an employee with specialized knowledge may need, now and then, to communicate directly with a customer, constituent, or member of the public. It’s quite another to suggest that a CEO needs to spend most of his or her time handling product feature requests and billing questions.

There obviously needs to be a balance between the social enablement of businesses on the one hand, and how much individual responsibility and initiative must be exerted in particular cases on the other. Just as “crowdsourcing” a decision doesn’t always make sense, there are some actions and decisions one needn’t (or shouldn’t) take on by oneself. Sometimes making such a distinction just requires common sense.

At other times, though, it’s not always clear how to strike a balance. The complexity and uncertainty of doing so is why it may take many years for some organizations to figure out how to best implement and manage social media and social networking. 

Copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald. Dennis is a management consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His contact information is here.

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