Do you think social media is something to assign to the marketing department?
Do you think social is mainly about getting out your message?
Do you understand that the Social Age changes everything?
Adapting to a Social World
I recently had the opportunity to talk with my friends, Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt about their new book A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive.
They are both social media experts who help leaders and companies understand and thrive in the new social age. Ted Coiné is co-founder of one of my favorite leadership communities, Switch & Shift and he was named a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer. Mark Babbitt is CEO and founder of YouTern, a social community for college students and young professionals.
Talk to the corporate leader who really is not online; the executive who maybe has a Twitter account but hasn’t signed in for a year. What does she miss?
Business leaders not active on social are missing an asset that decision-makers in the Social Age desperately need to remain relevant and to spot trends: real-time, unfiltered market intelligence.
Through social listening, we learn what our customers are saying about us as they say it. We observe how our brand is perceived. We also see what our competition is up to – and perhaps even opportunities they’re missing because they are NOT listening.
Suggestion boxes? Focus groups? Surveys? Those tools were all great in the Industrial Age – but they can’t begin to compare to the real-time market intelligence available to us for free on social.
Downsides of Social Media
Let’s flip to the other side: What are the downsides of social media?
Social media is an equal-opportunity amplifier. It amplifies the good, certainly. But it also amplifies the bad. Be insensitive, act unethically, mistreat a customer or employee, kick a dog in an elevator, put short term profits over people – or even this-quarter profits over common sense – and your brand will suffer. Because today – through what we call the “Social Robin Hood Syndrome,” where the public is more than ready to rally in order to right a wrong – a complaint can very quickly become a tsunami of bad press.
While these downsides of social are very real, the vast majority of social horror stories are caused by ignorance, corporate arrogance, unethical leaders, uninspiring or even abusive employers – all who become easy targets when customers, employees and watchdogs turn to social for justice.
Fortunately, this phenomenon is also a positive; this forced accountability helps leaders realize that we must run our organizations in an ethical, honest fashion. And if you’ve been leading in a commendable way all along, this amplification feature of social is your company’s best friend. Over time, you’ll earn the market share of your less-than-exemplary rivals.
“If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” -Jan Carlzon
Adapt to Survive
The subtitle of your book is “How Companies Must Adapt to Survive.” What are some of the dangers of a company largely ignoring social media?
What we learned from trend watching over the last five years is that social isn’t a technology radically affecting how we lead our organizations. Rather, the Social Age is a new era; social has changed business forever. The Industrial Age had a good run, but it’s over.
The business world is already showing us what happens when companies continue to operate under Industrial Age “best practices.” Look at the fate of JCPenney and Sears versus Amazon and its 17 million likes on Facebook. Ford, with its exceptional community building, and to a certain extent, new kid Tesla, are doing amazing work on social compared to competitors General Motors and Chrysler. And think about all the old-school beverage companies that are struggling while Red Bull rocks social media with 36 million likes on Facebook and 1.5 million followers on Twitter.