"You are not going to be bring about change within the organization because of Facebook and Twitter, but you are going to be able to make the change to the point you are learning through that experience.... I call that the idea of Social Darwinism -- which is the evolution of consumer behavior (while) society and technology (are) evolving faster than (our) ability to adapt." Brian Solis to Maggie Fox, on Social Media Today, November 9, 2011
Reading Brian Solis's new book, The End of Business As Usual, is so stimulating and all-encompassing that it constantly challenges your ability to focus, but bravely marching ahead I decided to concentrate on whether he proves the point, also raised by Maggie Fox and Brian in the Social Media Today interview, that we are truly facing the end of "business as usual." Another great futurist and author, Seth Godin, whom I interviewed in 2008, offered the notion then that digital and social are actually a return to the way business had been conducted in an age of greater customer intimacy, say the nineteenth century, before mass production and broadcast marketing. In his example, he talked about how in the old days you could go to a hat-maker and have a conversation about what you wanted and when. While Brian acknowledges that social brings us the ability to create that same level of collaboration and intimacy, it also brings us a completely new group of customers, the Millennials, for whom the internet has truly changed their attention span, their ability to connect off-line, and most importantly for Solis, their customer expectations and experiences.
His book plainly states: "In order to succeed in the business of the future, we have to become the very people we are trying to reach." That would require a certain amount of mutation for Boomers like me. But reaching them is not just about putting your ad on a Facebook page:
"What we're doing today is just marketing to people using social channels... You don't know that that's what people want; you're just doing it.... Some people are going to want to communicate via email... some through mobile platforms or social networks. But each one requires dedicated strategies that contribute to a holistic experience."
All well and good, but marketers today need to make tough calls and also require focus to best leverage their resources. His writing on Millennials is so strong, you might be tempted to ask yourself: Should you just bag the Boomers and focus limited resources on this present and future generation?
Another implied direction is to pretty much put all your marketing focus on Facebook. Although arguably this would not be the "take-away" of the business-to-business marketer, it surely is for everyone else involved in what we now refer to as "f-commerce." Here's the trenchant observation from the book:
"The digirati are not going to your website, and attempting to lure them to do so is becoming a pointless game of 'catch me if you can.' This is a game businesses cannot win, and trying to do force this contingent of influential consumers is nothing short of trying to change the behavior of the market."
One of things I always appreciate is a writer who tackles the Great Apple Exception. Brian does this frequently and is able, further, in his chapter on The Last Mile, to make Apple fit his mostly-social way of doing business in their continued, if rigidly brand-controlled, attention to the human experience. Although Brian does not make this point, it could be argued that that is why Facebook has been so successful, in that it virtually mimicked from the outset the most human of needs. Taking this further, although some brands seem to require internet-based collaboration to remain close to humanity, and Brian might argue, find success that way, the real innovators have gone deeper into the pre-Web 2.0 days to find inspiration, to a land and time when the human was defined by the arts and literature, and was most decidedly not real-time. (Mark Zuckerberg, did you study Milton at Harvard?)
Brian (I use his first name because he is a friend of our community and of mine) is the Tom Friedman of the social media set. He is global in his research and views, and is able to extrapolate from interesting personal experiences, such as a dinner without Internet connection in Portugal, a vision of the connected future. My only criticism is that there is so much here, and it is so dense, that you need to schedule several sessions with yourself to complete the book. And to answer the question, is this really the end of business-as-usual? Except for the Millennial mutation, which is admittedly a major exception, and perhaps the proof of his title and concept, I think it is really more plus ça change, plus ça même-chose.
But definitely put it on your gift list for your upper management; they'll be impressed by its breadth, its detail, and hopefully, willing to bring about in the New Year an end to your own "business-as-usual."