It is easy to be excited about social media. Almost singlehandedly, social media has made the web an accessible and usable space. You no longer need to be a programmer to create a website. You no longer need to be a photographer to create a gallery of stunning images. And you no longer need the support of a newsroom to publish your opinion and insight.
Public/private distinctions evaporate under pressure from disruptive trends
The massive shift that has taken place on the web is not about social. Or should I say, it’s not just about social – it’s a conflation of trends. And it’s not even something that has taken place on the web – it has lodged far deeper within us. What R “Ray” Wang calls the five pillars of enterprise disruption are playing out on a vast scale across every industry, product and service line, impacting not just how we work and how we live but our very behaviour. The five pillars are:
- Big data
- Cloud computing
- Unified communications
It is precisely because these trends are impacting our behaviours that the line between our professional and private lives is evaporating. Think about the following:
- The social divide: We use our personal Facebook accounts to manage our work related brand pages. We post photos of ourselves on the web and check-in to work and business locations linking our physical location with our image and activity. With a few lines of code, aggregators (like Facebook) can connect the dots between our interests, passions, locations and needs. And in the rush to convenience, we may just click that link, buy that product and save 15 minutes of shopping in our busy day. We are – in effect – gleefully skipping over the boundaries of what was once called the work-life balance … all with the aid of technology and belief in our own actions
- The personal brand and the private self: What happens when you have a bad day? What happens when something goes wrong? The brand must be “managed”, spun, and deliver on its promise. Sometimes your “friends” really are your Friends and sometimes they are of a lowercase variety. Judging by our behaviour across social networks, mobile platforms and in the cloud, we may signal a “bad day” but it’s still a brand communication. The private self remains resolutely isolated amidst a sea of vapid, well wishing tweets and inspirational quotes. We struggle to bridge the gap between what we perform and who we are and how we feel
- I am where you are: The always-on, ambient intimacy afforded by social networks brings us not only closer – but into a psychic closed loop of interaction with our networks of connections. Every tweet, status update and item shared taps our deep need for community and interaction. On the receiving end, this low-demand connection can range from a warm feeling of connectedness to an panic-inducing sense of information abundance. The lines between stalker and acquaintance have never been so feint.
Technology disruption and the Social Way
In amongst this vast range of digital disruption, our challenge is to chart a path to a future worth living.
By understanding these trends and applying our creativity, we can harness disruption towards a positive outcome. This means:
- Design thinking: Applying innovative approaches to problems and designing solutions with a human outcome. Don’t think technology, think behaviour
- Change management: Rather than approaching challenges in your business as an advertising or communications challenge – think about it as a change management issue. Think through the elements that will produce a step-change in your customer’s behaviour and deliver them incrementally
- Think purpose not goal: It’s easy (and impersonal) to set a goal. Think about and articulate your purpose. Make it personal and your customers will too.