Social networks have always existed, even when put under pressure by technological advances and societal events. The connection has always been that people have conversations with other people. As companies grew, some of the personalized socialization was removed. A significant change was noticed in 1999 about how people markets and businesses are socialized.
Maybe aspects of this always existed but The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End Of Business As Usual, written by Christopher Locke, Richard Levine, Doc Searles and David Weinberger, identified that how organizations communicated internally and externally changed with the Internet. Right on the front of their book, it states “markets are conversations, talk is cheap, silence is fatal.” But even ancient markets were places where conversations happened and ideas were exchanged.
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So, what is different about the current “social era” and how businesses engage strategically with the market?
Nilofer Merchant recently wrote an ebook titled, The 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era. She is credited with coining the term, social era. While conversations in the marketplace isn’t necessarily new, the prevalence of social media and other social resources does change who has the capability to enter a potential one-to-one conversation within the market. Merchant wrote in an HBR post,
You might notice that I have used the term social era. It’s not to create more jargon, it’s to emphasize a point: that social is more than the stuff the marketing team deals with. It’s something that allows organizations to do things entirely differently — if we let it become the backbone of our business models.
Merchant’s 11 rules for the social era include:
- Connections create value
- Power in community
- Collaboration is greater then control
- Celebrate onlyness
- Allow all talent
- Consumers become cocreators
- Mistakes can build trust
- Learn. Unlearn. (Repeat)
- Bank on openness
- Social purpose unleashes ownership
- There are no answers
Which brings us to strategy
In previous business models, strategy was created at the top and given to the bottom to follow through. Merchant encourages companies to let go of the lip service that anyone can participate in developing innovative products and/or services. And beyond that, Merchant urges that people be allowed to exercise “distributed input and distributed decisions.” Her premise is that, through better connected people, the organization would benefit from this greater freedom and purpose in the work. This would avoid what Merchant calls the “air sandwich” which is where top management tells the workers what to do without including the tools or time to debate, discuss or decide the strategy and how it can be implemented to the organization’s benefit.
And then to its execution
On our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, we’ve talked about many of the aspects of this social era and how it’s affecting marketing here and here. In a past KaizenBiz conversation about social businesses, it was noted that there is a tension for larger corporations about embracing collaborative tools and mindsets. There is a tendency to go with what is already known. This can potentially hamper how strategy is executed if organizations do not understand that there is pressure from customers and employees to be more engaged, transparent and provide a purpose.
By baking in the 11 rules of the social era into strategic planning and implementation, Merchant concludes that the value proposition would change as hierarchy becomes a guide rather than dictator, work is not tied to job and the value chain changes to co-creation. By embedding conversation to go up and down and across the organizational chart, it can support the business, large or small, to be leaner, more agile and adaptable.
What is contained in this “social era” that goes beyond marketing?
How does a larger corporation use these rules across divisions and/or the globe?
Where would you integrate this rules of the social era into strategic planning?
How could emphasis on being social and collaborative interfere with strategy execution?
About the author: Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth and small business coach/trainer, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding in your own backyard or into another country, Ability Success Growth guides established small business owners to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.