Business is a warzone: If you stand still, you
die. No matter how good your product or service,
you’re at the mercy of cause and effect.
The market’s evolving needs must be met by
evolving products. Those needs are increasingly
expressed not in the classic focus-groups of yore,
but in today’s vibrant social media forums. This
fundamentally changes the game between a
company and its customers. Read this article to
discover how to play the new social-business game.
It can be a huge culture shock for unprepared
businesses. Take Microsoft as an example. The
coming Windows 8 Tablet and Windows Phone are
classic examples of the evolution of market needs.
The Microsoft that produced Windows 95 would be
history had its products not evolved.
Love it or loathe it, Windows 8 is a direct response
to the needs of its target audience, which asked for
mobility, touch-centric form-factors, and
compatibility with legacy software.
Business is Changing
But perhaps companies like Microsoft aren’t like
yours? They deal in products that constantly change
and have a short shelf life; change and fluidity are
normal in their particular market.
So what happens when you’re not one of these
companies? How do you deal with the speed at
which social media and the spread of connected
devices has changed the balance of power between
a company and its customers and made it difficult
to market using traditional advertising tools?
Brian Fetherstonhaugh, CEO of OgilvyOne, argues
that the challenges faced by digital companies are
also experienced by everyone else. The market has
shifted from product to experience and those who
are still product orientated are fighting a losing
battle with ever diminishing returns in revenue and
In the transition from Jerome McCarthy’s 4Ps of
Product, Place, Price and Promotion to what he calls
the 4Es of Experience, Everyplace, Exchange and
Evangelism, we also see the morphing of traditional
businesses into social ones:
Marketing is in the hot seat. So many of the
tools and assumptions we grew up with are no
longer valid. … We need a new framework. And
a new tool kit…creating a mission and brand
experience that are so inspiring to consumers
that they engage with you—and share their
enthusiasm with others.
How do Traditional Companies
This kind of change can be difficult to handle, if
what you sell is not computing devices and
smartphones but baby powder, soft drinks or
contact lenses. Your company may be governed by
a hierarchical, top-heavy structure that makes it
difficult to maneuver in a social media
Social media and social business are two sides of
the same coin. One uses social networks to reach
an audience; the other creates a borderless world
within the enterprise itself.
Key to both is honesty and accountability: As the
seminal social-business textbook The Cluetrain
Markets are conversations. Their members
communicate in language that is natural, open,
honest, direct, funny and often shocking. … The
human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t
To be made to work, both require a clear
understanding of business goals and social media
purpose across the entire business. When I talk to
executives about this, they see that their customers
are increasingly socially active. They understand
their market is changing; they know they need to
change with it.
The dilemma that executives face is to effect
change—changing their business to meet the
demands of their market—but without tearing
their existing company apart.
The Social-Business Solution
One way is to look at how social networks function,
and put the model to work inside the company.
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter start off
with a set of connectivity tools that disrupt the
norm of personal communications. Enthusiastic
early adopters become power users who then drag
along their friends, colleagues and families; then
the social network begins to take a life and shape
of its own.
Translated into a corporate environment, this model
starts with the use of communication tools such as
Yammer, which disrupt the corporate hierarchy and
kick-start a collaborative culture. It’s followed by
the re-training of mid-level executives to act as
change agents within the company and it’s crowned
by the company leaders becoming conversant in
the language of social business.
While pundits suggest that this isn’t nearly enough,
the very inertia which corporations experience
when it comes to change, works for them once
change is adopted and new working practices are
put in place.
Tomorrow’s business is changing—from the
inside out. By the time the changes are
apparent, the companies that didn’t adapt
will be mortally wounded… or dead.