Want to get radical? Stop applying 20th century principles (“product,” “buzz,” “loyalty”) to 21st century media

One of the biggest challenges I face in my day-to-day business is trying to help clients evolve their thinking.  I say challenges, but I mean frustrating-bang-my-head-against-the-wall-soul-crushing experiences.  It’s SO easy to think that a social media strategy is about joining social network sites as a clever way to push your same tired old junk.  And you’d be kind of right.  That’s exactly what a social media strategy is—because that is EXACTLY what most organizations are doing.  But PEOPLE, listen up!  It’s not about social media anymore—in fact, it hasn’t been for a couple of years now.

Almost two years ago, Harvard Business Media Labs guru and author, Umair Haque, wrote about this very topic.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, using social media in business is about developing the capacity to understand your organization’s role in society, and using that role in a more constructive way.  It’s about developing a social strategy first—which will then shape your business and marketing strategies.  Social Medias are just the tools—the assets.  A social strategy is about wielding sociality as a source of advantage.  The most basic social strategy is to help you and your brand to STOP being antisocial.  Umair is bang on.  In today’s social world, this is not radical thinking.  Evolve already.

I understand that it’s tough to embrace change.  There are no expectations that an organization is going to re-align itself to the 21st century on my command.  The reality is that the upper-echelons are in a “wait and see” mode.  Folks that have been in the marketing and business world for decades are stuck with traditional blinders on.  I have heard these same people exclaim in passionate battle cries that they get it.  But they don’t.  They don’t believe they are even wearing blinders.

I have also heard every excuse in the book—and more—about their experiences driving them, and how the real world “just doesn’t work like that.”  To them I say… pishaw!  Take your scared head out of your ego ass and let’s rock and roll this thing.  OK, so I don’t really say that—but I’m definitely thinking it while I stomp my foot and ball my fists.  How can I help you if you won’t help yourself?  It’s not imperative to make the changes at once—what is imperative is that you keep your eye on the ball and your nose in the game.  Take your bloody blinders off—it’s not personal.  I know you were great in your day, I know you know things, and yes, I know this isn’t your first rodeo.  What you won’t hear is that the rodeo is long over my friend.  Those horses have been dead for five years—dismount already.

I’m sharing Umair Haque’s article here.  He uses real phrases like “soul-deadening” instead of industry buzz jargon that makes you want to dig your eyes out with a spork.  You know the stuff—we’ve all sat through too many of those PowerPoint presentations.

“Using the social to “build buzz” and “push product” is about as smart as using a warp drive to visit your local Wal-Mart. Social tools today are used mostly as a new “channel” to push the same old useless stuff of the industrial era at hapless “consumers.” That’s meaninglessness at it’s finest. It’s the least productive — and most soul-deadening — use of a formidably powerful tool.’ – Umair Haque

“Social strategies are about reinventing tomorrow. Their goal is nothing less than changing the DNA of an organization, ecosystem, or industry. Want to get radical? Stop applying 20th century principles (“product,” “buzz,” “loyalty”) to 21st century media. The fundamental change of scale and pace that social tools introduce into human affairs — their great tectonic shift — is the promise of more meaningful work, stuff, and organization. Start with “the meaning is the message” instead.” – Umair Haque

Did I mention it’s time to evolve your thinking?


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