Friday, January 16, 2009

Is it time for Social Media to grow up?

Jevon MacDonald has written an interesting post about the bigger goal of social media (SM). He writes

The larger conversation about using Social Software to transform the enterprise is one we have been having here on the FastForwardBlog for over 3 years now (can you believe that?). I like to think that while the world of Social Media Consultants have been out there giving eachother back rubs, the Enterprise Social Software community has been hard at work. Progress has been slow, but we are starting to see value emerge.
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Once you can create real value however, you are able to produce and scale. Learning how to generate simple returns just means that you have to keep working harder to keep returns coming.

And there is the difference for me. There is still a lot of work ahead, years of it probably, but once we start to solve the problems of creating an organization that is built on Social principals, we will have created something new, not simply incremental. This is not Marketing with “Social Media” tagged on the front of it, this is not “Change Management” using Web 2.0 tools. This is something completely new, yet unknown but with the promise of real change and real value.

I agree that we've only just begun. Hey, remember that 16, 17 years ago we were still sitting on trees with regards to web technology use. It is always sobering to read again the Newsweek interview of Clifford Stoll from 1995 "The Internet? Bah! Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn't, and will never be, nirvana". So, we just started to crawl and, BANG! there is SM as a new tool to connect, communicate, network and co-create. At least here in Europe, the majority of people in organization have not yet got the point. It is a bit like the period of 1995-1997 where many people said "Why would I need a website?" (the same people said a few years earlier "Why would I need a mobile phone?"). Now, the same people say "Why should I engage in social networks; it's a waste of time?" So, let's be patient. I predict that in 5 years SM will be part of our normal life (like now Internet shopping etc.). See my post from yesterday.

I come from the field of organizational change and here we had been talking about whole systems change for the last 10, 20 years and we had a couple of good tools like Open Space Technology, Appreciative Inquiry, World Café, Real Time Strategic Change etc. So for me SM is just a matter of scale. What we did in workshops with a couple of hundred or thousand folks before, we can now do with the whole world.

I also believe that hardware and software that support SM are not yet developed far enough to make participation in SM for the average technophobian person intuitive and easy to use. Also, most people have not yet comprehended that we are about to compose the orbituary of traditional organizations. Newspapers? Banks? Insurances? Do we still need them? Governments? Bah! I still wait for the first virtual government to emerge (or, at least, the first traditional government to fall because of SM).

Let's be patient, and, more important for those of us for whom living in cyberspace has become natural, let us continue explain the revolutionary and transformative potential of SM to the folks sitting next desk. And let us work on simplification of things.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're right in that social media isn't just incremental but is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. I mean, when Twitter went down it was on the news! We're moving too fast now to slow things down, so people and businesses are just going to have to learn to play by the new rules which are slowly starting to solidify. Core fundamentals of relationships and communication cannot ultimately be replaced by technology though they may be largely influenced. I think we're in for a ride that will probably carry us through the next 10-15 years before we start to tame the internet/social media beast.

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