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Why I Think Everyone Should Read “How Social Networking Has Changed Business”

January 8, 2011 / in Social Media / by

Social Networking Is Changing Business...Are You Ready?

Social media and social networking will continue to impact our lives, both personally and professionally, more and more in the months and years ahead. Since Jason and I live and work in the social media world every single day, we will continue to share what we see and hear as we work with business owners throughout Kansas City.

With that in mind, I recently posted a link to this article on my personal social media sites and the Blue Gurus sites. I find myself repeatedly thinking about and referencing this article and coined it “the best article I’ve read so far on social networking.” That wasn’t hyperbole. I really believe it summarizes much of what we see and hear every day as we work with our clients.

The article was written by Bill George, Professor of Management Practice, at Harvard Business School.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the entire article, I wanted to take a few minutes to weigh in on some of my favorite excerpts:

“During the year, social networking morphed from a personal communications tool for young people into a new vehicle that business leaders are using to transform communications with their employees and customers, as it shifts from one-way transmission of information to two-way interaction.”

There are three things I want to highlight from this excerpt:

(1) Notice how he mentions that social networking was a personal communications tool for “young people”. This is one of the very real, and rarely discussed, aspects of social media. There are absolutely generational differences in the adoption, acceptance and perceived values of these tools. We see it regularly when talking with business owners and their employees. What, and how, you talk about social media and social networking with Millennials, for example, is a very different conversation when you are talking to someone from the Boomer or Above generation. That isn’t a knock on Boomers and Above. It’s today’s reality. We’re all on the same path…some are just a little further along than others. And that’s OK.

(2) “Transform communications with their employees and customers” – Think about those words for a minute. What I take away from that statement is that there is a fundamental culture shift going on right now in the way people communicate, and social media is the driver. And it isn’t just communications with customers…it’s with employees. Open and honest communication across the board benefits everyone, even if the message is sometimes a difficult one. This may not be the way your organization works today, but the smart organizations have moved, or are moving, in that direction. As Professor George says later in the article: “Social networking is also flattening organizations by distributing access to information. Everyone is equal on the social network. No hierarchies need get involved.”

(3) “…as it shifts from one-way transmission of information to two-way interaction” -Another excellent observation. It’s happening today on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms, but it’s going to continue to happen even more. More and more people are going to use social media tools to collaborate, communicate and influence behavior. People like it…in fact, many people can’t get enough of it. It feeds into what I believe is core to our human nature…and that is a desire to interact with each other on a more connected level. Social media gives all of us that opportunity.

“A year ago, many people poked fun at Facebook as a place where kids shared their latest party news. Today more than 600 million users worldwide are active on the site. The most rapidly growing demographic is people over forty. More than 300 million people spend at least one hour a day on Facebook. Approximately two hundred million people are active on Twitter in spite of — or because of — its 140-character limitation. Another 100 million use LinkedIn. None of these social networks even existed at the beginning of the decade.”

I’m really tempted to memorize that statement and regurgitate it every time someone asks me “What’s the ROI of social media?”. In short, people are there. Customers are there. Prospects are there. Friends are there. Family are there. Classmates are there. Coworkers are there. If your business isn’t there, then those people increasingly won’t find you…and they’ll find your competition instead.

I always hear people say “I don’t care about what people are eating for lunch!” as if that is the only conversation happening on Facebook, for example. Does anyone really think that 600 million people use that tool because all of the conversation is about lunch? Personally I think some people choose to make fun of social media because they don’t understand it. It’s easier to poke fun than to actually have to step out of their comfort zone and embrace it.

And “the most rapidly growing demographic is people over forty”. How many current  business owners out there fall into that category? It’s not going way…it’s only going to get better.

“From a leadership perspective, social networking is making authentic leadership a reality and a necessity for 21st century leaders. You can’t hide on your social network when you’re revealing who you are and what you really believe. Transparency is essential here. Even more important, this new phenomenon is enabling business leaders to regain the trust and credibility they have lost over the last 10 years.”

Amen! Amen! Amen! I wholeheartedly agree. You can’t hide anymore. If you aren’t delivering at a high level for your customers and your employees, word will travel faster than it ever has before. The GOOD news is that you have a real choice. You can keep doing things they way you’ve always done them and risk losing customers and employees that realize your organization isn’t evolving….OR….you can embrace the cultural change that is happening in businesses across the world and become a leader for your industry, your customers, and your employees.

I’m going to wrap up and leave you with a quote of my own that I’ve been finding myself saying more and more recently:

“The social media waves are coming. It’s up to you to decide if you are going to stand in place and get hit over and over by the crashing waves or if you are going to grab your board and enjoy the ride. If your competition (and your customers) choose the former and you choose the latter, your business as you know it today may look very different tomorrow.”

Are you embracing social media in your business? Are you thinking about it? Tell us your experiences…your challenges…your thoughts….We’d love to hear from you!

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