The Ghosts of Social Media

Written on Oct 31 2012


“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand – the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”– Eric SchmidtIn this constant world of change we’re living, business has never had to be more communicative and client oriented as today. This implies a lot of effort from a brand to keep their clients close and their attention span raised. As customers, ons of information, websites, commercials, campaigns and product placement beg for our attention.

Well, as a CEO you know that it is not so simple anymore to sell your product. This is because a sustainable business is no longer only about selling, but about constant interaction and customer engagement. Since people naturally engage in conversations, a chatty brand is taken very seriously in the age of the internet and open communication.

As long as you refuse to talk to your customers, you’ll be just like Charles Dickens’s character Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol. In fact, most organizations still perceive social media as a threat to productivity, intellectual capital, security, privacy, management authority, or regulatory fulfillment. Unfortunately, it is seen not as a powerful public sphere of conversation but as an entertaining, shallow space. Unfortunately for you, all your clients are already down here – and trust us, the water is deep!

Even if Halloween is here, we’ll not trick-or-treat you. Instead, we’ll try to present you three “ghosts” of social media that still haunt your business plan and keep you in fear of using it.

The ghost of the past

Nobody gave the internet any chance of becoming more than a network between 6-7 computers. Today it is the fastest way to communicate and has replaced much of our daily activities: mail sending, newspapers reading, social hang outs, etc. The truth is that the internet has always been, and always will be, a magic box, and at one point social media just popped out as a new public space of interaction.

If you fear that you missed the train to enter social media and launch your business in this alternate reality social sphere, you better think that thousands of startups and companies are born every day – each of them manifesting their identity also on social media.

If you are not on social media today, it does not mean you’re “old-fashioned”, it just means you needed more time to realize a business related fact: the importance of being authentic by balancing transparency with trust for your customers. If you look into the past, you’ll find this ghost less terrifying – as your business has always believed in these values!

The ghost of the present

As presented in the Social Readiness Assessment, Antony J. Bradly identified 6 attitudes leaders take toward social media. To fear the ghost of the present means being trapped in the first three leadership stages: FollyFearfulFlippant.


The Folly stage

Do you recognize yourself as a CEO that considers social media “a source of entertainment with little or no business value”? Do you tend to ignore it? Where a folly attitude prevails, the loom to a social media strategy must highlight direct business value tightly tied to well-known and recognized organizational goals or challenges. If someone wants to convince a “Folly” to enter the world of social media, we would recommend avoiding statements around improved collaboration and stronger relationships. For such a leader, these words make no sense at all.

The Fearful Leader

Fearful leaders see social media as a threat to productivity, intellectual capital, privacy, management authority, regulatory compliance and a host of other things, and often discourage and even prohibit its use. This attitude can reduce potential risks of business transparency, but it also strangles any possible business value sharing. To counteract such a fear, the approach should focus on relatively low-risk initiatives, and a step-by-step strategic presence in the online sphere. Start with a Facebook page, feel, and gather your fans and their opinions. Engage in a conversation whenever you feel confident.

The Flippant Character

These leaders just don’t take social media seriously. This normally leads to a technology-centric loom where the company simply provides access to social media and hopes that business value will spontaneously emerge. Often they forgot that business to consumer communication has a purpose that matters, that they should progress beyond the technology and identify good purposes for social media. It is worse to be inactive on social media than not be at all!

The Formulating CEO

These types of CEOs recognize both the prospective value of social media as well as the need to be more organized and strategic in its use. The right approach here should build on this positive foundation, emphasizing the broader strategic value of social media with a concisely expressed set of business opportunities. Such a business should immediately start communicating in the online about causes that engage fans to act in a way that delivers value to the community and the organization.

From this attitude there is a natural path of understanding the need of social media. Becoming a “Forging” leader (the one that integrates social media in his business plan) and the “Fusing” leader (rare attitude of CEOs that treat communities as an integral part of the organization’s work) take time, commitment and a well established strategy by a specialized company on social media.

The ghost of the future

How’s the situation now?

Analyses indicate that leaders of most organizations have yet to progress to the Formulating stage, which accounts for high social media failure rate. We know treating social media as strategic can lead to tangible business value and competitive advantage, so the goal is for business leaders to move quickly past the Folly, Fearful, and Flippant stages and get right to Formulating – otherwise the risk is to be stuck in a business model that will be soon misunderstood by your partners and your customers.

And if you think we are just trying to convince you, just look how your competition is doing in the online. Let us help you: we are already here, building stories for great companies!

Don’t fear the ghosts of social media, they are not real!


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