Based on the ebb and flow of the social web in 2007 this new year promises to bring more disruption facilitated by the cascading conversations of individuals, one to one to millions. We are likely to experience significant adoption of the social web by businesses representing every market segment and industry.
The force that fuels significant growth will be the "noise" created by cascading conversations at velocities never imagined or experienced. Conversations are markets and unless businesses learn to engage they will loose their market positions, some slowly and some overnight.
A cascading conversation is a consecutive series of organic conversations which often proceed via social networks, one to one to millions. It allows the conversational synthesis of topics from a single user's creation to spread at the click of a mouse and with no geographical boundaries or other limitations as to who chooses to engage in the conversation or who is touched or influenced by the cascading affect.
The cascading conversation contains many functional streams that take part in the conversation's transformation one at the time. Often another cascading conversation is generated from a previous conversation. The social web accelerates cascading reactions from conversations due to the dynamics of one to one to millions conversing about anything and everything, including businesses.
Cascading conversations carry an idea forward in ever-broadening circles. The very nature of cascading conversation implies, "the conversation creates the results." The social web creates the medium to engage thousands...then millions...of people. These people create conversations centric to topics of interest and issues of affinity with others who have migrated to groups-commonly known as swarms.
The Social Web: A Conversation-driven Process
The social web created a two way conversation between people. At first its appeal attracted the younger generation looking to be heard and wanting to converse. Now more and more adults are finding satisfaction from the conversational web. Whether engaging for personal or professional reasons, adults are finding the creativity of the social web and the dynamics of virtual relationship appealing. The subsequent cascading conversations have fueled global conversations about business, politics, causes, opportunities, knowledge and any other thing which one would classify as adult conversational topics. People are connecting in the virtual world and finding ways to help one another, including finding jobs, finding friends or finding stimulating conversations.
What is the effect of these conversations on businesses?
The essence of any business is primarily about conversations. Business leaders spend most of their time engaged in communication. Whether face-to-face with their teams and customers or alone in their offices dealing with memos and e-mails, these are all conversations about the businessâ€"its brands, strategies and effectiveness. At its simplest, the role of leaders is to have the right conversations with the right people in the most effective and efficient manner.
However, experience has shown that conversations can also be the cause of many organizational ills. Individual conversations may poorly engage the work-force; fail to reflect reality; fail to focus and align people; and stifle individual and business transformation. A common failure of business conversations is they can be one sided and lacking a learning exchange. Business success is simple: increasing or accelerating the organization's effectiveness requires changing the organizational conversation. Cascading conversations can accelerate business transformation whether planned or not.
Cascading Conversations Can Transform Markets
Markets have historically relied on traditional media to carry their messages to the masses. Using multiple forms of media, businesses have tried to reach consumers with advertising messages aimed at getting consumer attention through product or service appealing images. Consumers have been surrounded by messages appealing to the human senses, needs and desires.
Slick advertising campaigns, sponsorships and a host of other media techniques have been used to create affinity and attract consumers. These methods have been used for years and advances in technology and media have simply increased the creativity of the messages and the means. Conversations between people have become the media and the cascading effect is gaining power and momentum. Businesses are just now beginning to pay attention.
Some businesses are following the social web because that is where the people are migrating. IBM has developed social networks for businesses. The likes of Wells Fargo, American Express, Bank of America and Nationwide Insurance to name a few have recently engaged in using the tools of social media to reach their customers. Many businesses either do not know what the social web is or they have underestimated it and discounted it as a fad. However the wave of cascading conversations will grow at exponential rates throughout 2008 and the collective voices of the people will only get louder. Businesses will follow the noise even if business leaders do not understand how to engage in conversations.
The new business leaders of tomorrow will understand the value of conversations and subsequently we will then begin to see the evolution of a new dynamic called social commerce. Today these are just ripples in the ocean of the social web. Tomorrow these ripples could create a wave of change again at velocities never before imagined or experienced.
Substantial issues regarding the effect of cascading conversations need to be considered going forward.
Are your people having the right conversations? Are business leaders focused on the impact of cascading conversations? Could business be more effective at conducting or leveraging cascading conversations? Are business leaders listening? Will business be transformed or will it lead the transformation?What say you?