IBM, Toyota, even Wells-Fargo Bank, have invested serious money in Second Life and are using blogs to engage customers, people; many corporations are building their own social networks to serve employees and to create commerce amongst customers; major law firms encourage their employees to blog; wikis are often far more powerful and useful than standard resources and have replaced intranets in many instances as invaluable sources of information and communication throughout the enterprise. RSS Feeds, Instant Messaging, Video - all can deliver greater involvement and transparency.
Originators become real, human and influential, and for the new generation of techno-savvy professionals, the opportunities and applications are unbounded.
One of the key challenges for businesses is how they integrate these new technologies within the enterprise and figure out which best suit their needs and the needs of their customers. Another challenge is how to facilitate ecommerce into these social exchanges thus enabling participates to exchange products and services for economic gains.
Economic activity takes place within social relations. For businesses to reach buyers they need to reach people. More importantly businesses need to understand "how" to reach people.
The Dividing Factors between People and Businesses
Today people use the social web for a variety of reasons but the primary aim is relational. Relational in the sense that people connect to people to find affinities, to learn, to share and with the freedom of expression. All the activity that drives the social web today is not represented by a collective strategy of the people rather the activities are a process of discovery fueled by the intrigue of finding, knowing and conversing with people you've never met physically. The discovery process for people follows a common framework which includes:
- What does one person have in common with another
- What does one person know that another may want to know
- Who does one person know that another may want to know
- Where, in life, in location, in stature is one person compared to another
- What possible opportunities could develop out of a relationship between one person and another
All five of these discoveries are facilitated through the information people present about themselves in profiles, in their past communications with others and in the subsequent conversational threads exchanged one to one to millions. From these "virtual conversations" people create an emotional and intellectual profile of others and it is from these profiles that people begin to form active relationship and engaging conversations between themselves and others of like profiles. These relationships are driven by emotional and intellectual profiles formed by virtual conversations. It is the emotional and intellectual profiles which create individual gauges of trust within the virtual world.
Business leaders are just now beginning to engage in the social web however much of what we see today demonstrates a disconnect in purpose and methodology. Businesses approach the social web with a common objective of gaining relationships and converting those relationships into economic gains. The strategic approach to the social web by business follows a common framework including:
- How can we market ourselves effectively within the social web
- What positioning can we gain from use of the social web
- What products and services can we sell through the social web
- What gains would we get from setting up our own social network
- What is our competition doing and what do we need to do better
A business is driven by the need to produce revenue and subsequent profits for its stakeholders. Progress in management practices and technological advances have shaped the mindset of business leaders to focus on productivity, profitability. market share and capital; results. In one hand this progress has delivered the results and on the other hand it has deteriorated relationships with employees, customers and suppliers. The trust factors between people and corporations continue to decline. Corporate actions of the recent past have only reinforced the distrust factor.
As many business leaders rush into the social web intrigued by a new fertile ground for business opportunity the fundamental factors of success will be learning how to go back and connect with people.
Which comes first, the business or the people? What drives business success, the people or management methods? Just look at the differences in framework between why and how people approach the social web and why and how businesses approach the social web. Do you see the differences?
What say you?