SXSW 2010: Brian Solis – Organizations need to socialize

Social Media has changed the communication landscape and also the world of business has noticed that. But a Facebook group or a Twitter account is no guarantee for successful participation in the communities of your customers. To achieve that you need to do more. “You need to engage”, according to Brian Solis, Prinicpal at Futureworks and one of the prominent thought leaders in social media.

“As a company or as a brand you need to participate in the conversations in such manner that your not only of added value, but that you also involve your customers in your marketing and service activities.” Because of that social media will have an enormous impact in the organsational structure of a company. “Any division within an organization that is effected by outside influence is goiung to have to socialize”.  Eventually social media instruments will become aminstream as email is today, but before that organisations will need to go through a process of cultural change.

Brian was at SXSW to promote his latest book ‘Engage’, in his words the book that starts where the current scial media books stop. “There is not a single book that goes into this depth, that tells you how to apply social media to your job, how to get resources, how to measure it and how to get support.” We spoke with Brian about his book, about cultural change and about SXSW 2010.

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Enterprise 2.0: part 2 – the world around us has changed, forever.

The following article is published through pharmaphorum and is the second in a series about Enterprise 2.0.

The digital revolution has changed the world we live in. During the first wave of the revolution, back in the nineties, we gained access to an incredible amount of information. During the second wave, which started in the early 2000’s, we were able to add information ourselves –  our experiences, opinions, thoughts, comments, ratings and reviews about products and services. Today, the digital revolution has become mobile, where we hold the internet in the palm of our hand with smart-phones and iPads.

Many companies, especially B2C, jumped on the bandwagon of interactive communication, where they saw great opportunities for their marketing activities. But, as discussed in part one of this series, it’s more than just the additional marketing channel that makes the revolution. It has an impact on the way we are organised as a business,  and this goes as deep as our blueprint, our DNA and our identity. This revolution is cultural.

Looking more closely at the changes around us we can identify six trends. These trends reveal the need for companies to prepare themselves for a major change: to reorganise themselves from Enterprise 1.0 to Enterprise 2.0. Let’s take a closer look at these six trends.

“…it’s more than just the additional marketing channel that makes the revolution.”

1. Information overload

As a result of the digital revolution, the amount of information that we have to manage is increasing at an almost daily level. Information that frequently is difficult to find on our intranets. In addition, managing our email is a continuous struggle for many. Who doesn’t have a sort of love-hate relationship with their inbox? The amount of energy wasted within companies with data management is enormous. Although interactions costs (e.g. real life meetings) go down, the volume of interactions is headed towards infinity, leading to unproductive complexity, frustration within the workforce, increased bureaucracy and unmanageable communication (Fig 1, electronic survey McKinsey Quarterly 2005).


Fig 1: Struggle with communication complexity (based on survey McKinsey Quarterly, July 2005)

*80% of those reporting “communication unmanageable” admit having difficulty fulfilling their key responsibilities.

2. Limited access to interactive technologies 

At home, we are used to fast internet connections, enabling us to upload, download and consume video, connect to our friends and family through social networks and talk real-time with each other via Skype. Coming to work, many of us still experience something different: websites such as YouTube and Facebook are blocked as non-productive sites, Flash videos cannot be viewed as the flash player cannot be installed and if you’re lucky to access online video, then frequently bandwidth is the limiting factor of a smooth experience. And that’s not all, the hardware available to the average workforce (computers, mobile phones) are very often seen as costly devices pressing on the annual budgets, rather than devices that improve people’s performance. Back home, the workforce emits sighs of relief, setting themselves behind their brand new and beloved iMac.

3. Cloud computing

More and more services are offered through ‘the Cloud’, which means that databases, file services, email and applications are available through external online servers. No software is required to be installed on the user’s computer, other than a web-browser. Examples of Cloud applications are Hotmail, Google Docs and Salesforce.com. Advantages of cloud computing are that the  applications are accessible anywhere at anytime from any platform (desktop, laptop, smartphone) with the latest versions of the software available. Moving from the comfortable, ‘behind the firewall’ applications to cloud services that are out in the ‘big bad world’ is a tough choice to make for many organisations. Again, the loss of control is bothersome to them, while it may serve the employee’s productivity and in the end can lead to significant cost savings on license fees and service contracts.

“As a result of the digital revolution, the amount of information that we have to manage is increasing at an almost daily level.”

4. Generation gap 

As a result of the digital revolution we can divide the current population into two generations: digital immigrants and digital natives. A digital native is someone who is born after the introduction of digital technologies, let’s say around 1980. A digital immigrant is someone born before the introduction of digital technology. The difference between these two groups is the way they adopt these technologies and integrate them in their lives. With the speed of technological developments increasing, more and more digital immigrants struggle keeping up, leading to conflicts between managers and supervisors (DI’s) and the younger workforce (DN’s).

5. Social, social, social 

Social networking has surpassed email both in number of users and in time spent (Morgan Stanley, Internet Trends, June 2010). This means that people prefer social interaction through online networks over the rather one-dimensional and more impersonal email. But a Facebook group or a Twitter account is no guarantee for successful participation in the communities of your customers. To achieve that you need to do more. “You need to socialise”, according to Brian Solis, Principal at Futureworks and one of the prominent thought leaders in social media.“As a company or as a brand you need to participate in the conversations in such a manner that you’re not only of added value, but that you also involve your customers in your marketing and service activities.” Because of that social media will have an enormous impact in the organisational structure of a company. “Any division within an organisation that is effected by outside influence is going to have to socialise”.  Eventually social media instruments will become as mainstream as email is today, but before that organisations will need to go through a process of cultural change.

6. The Network Society 

Modern society is in a process of becoming a network society. Through the internet we’re constantly connected and becoming less dependent on face to face communication. It’s as Jan van Dijk describes in his book The Network Society that the internet brings interpersonal, organisational and mass communication together. This means we’re moving from centrally and hierarchically organised companies (e.g. Sony, Microsoft, Shell) to true network organisations (e.g. Facebook, Google, Amazon). The main difference between the two extremes is that in the latter the user is more in control and wants to be involved and engaged. This is illustrated by the development in the music industry over the last decade. Music is booming, and artists and consumers have taken over control from big corporations.

These six trends are disruptive to any industry, including pharma. These trends scare CEO’s and management teams. Losing control over their employees and the way they work gives them nightmares. But is that justified? Can we allow ourselves to perform ‘ostrich politics’ by sticking our heads in the sand, hoping it will all pass in a few years? Or is now the time to pick up the challenge and start redesigning our organisations?

“…the volume of interactions is headed towards infinity, leading to unproductive complexity, frustration within the workforce, increasedbureaucracy and unmanageable communication”

Most companies still have an organisational structure designed for the 20th century: hierarchical, directive, silo-structured and sales-driven (aka Enterprise 1.0). Especially in our ‘knowledge-intensive companies’ we need to mobilize the minds of our workforce in such way that we offer them freedom to do their jobs, give them access to information, provide them with a network that enables them to connect with peers and the likeminded and stimulate collaboration and co-creation (aka Enterprise 2.0). Not only will such company create an environment that motivates people and retains talent, it also will lead to an increase in net income per employee.

So the challenge is the organisational redesign of our companies. Moving from Enterprise 1.0 to Enterprise 2.0. The key is the employee. Because, as with the music artist and the music lover, that’s where the power is. Create an environment where your employees can excel, where they feel empowered and acknowledged. Give them autonomy to reach (and surpass) their goals, allow them to master their skills and give purpose to what they do. With that you’ll give your workforce the drive to get up in the morning and go to work, motivated.

What do you think is key to establishing Enterprise 2.0?


Listening is not enough…

‘What ever you do, they’ll talk about you anyway’, is a free translation of a Dutch saying. Still, you’d better know what is being said online about you and your products, services and brands. ‘It doesn’t hurt if I don’t know’ is another translated Dutch saying (anyone knows the English equivalents?). But harm can be done in the blink of an eye. So listening is important, but it doesn’t stop there.
Take Motrin, a painkiller in the USA, two years ago. Immediately after the publication of an ad on the Motrin website on a Saturday (it’s not available anymore, but here’s a description), people responded emotionally through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The majority of them were moms. Before the weekend was over it skyrocketed in the media. The ad agency nor Motrin were aware of the impact of the Social Media turmoil, but damage was already done.


BP’s current attitude towards the environmental catastrophe, which takes place in the Gulf of Mexico, is another example how it should not be handled. BP is mainly silent, doesn’t give a lot of information, and if it does, it’s manipulated. No surprise people have no confidence in how the crisis is handled and they simply don’t trust the company. Why did it take BP 5 weeks before it acknowledged that this is a major environmental catastrophe, where the rest of the world understood this shorty after the oil platform exploded and disappeared in the ocean? Illustrative is the invitation I received the other day from my brother in law to join the Facebook group ‘Boycot BP‘, currently with more that 277,000 fans, amongst them Bill Cosby. Not good for your brand.

Knowing what is being said online is important. Responding is the next. But understand how to respond. Not like Nestlé did recently to Greenpeace, which started an anti-Nestlé campaign referring to the use of palmoil for the production of Kitkat. Palmoil, bought by Nestlé from companies destroying the Indonesian rainforest in order to plant palm trees. Greenpeace made a video and published it on YouTube, which Nestlé enforced to take away from the platform, due to copyright infringement. Fuel for Greenpeace’s campaign unleashing their entire community to spread the word about Nestlé. What if Nestlé had responded less aggressive on this video, or even had ignored it?

Southwest Airlines is doing a better job, although still not perfect. Recently, Southwest refused to take an obese passenger onboard on a domestic flight in the USA. The man, Kevin Smith, a Hollywood director, responded with fury via his Twitter account and in no time the story spread all over the States and was picked up by the media. Southwest Airlines responded rapidly through their own blog (here and here), although not always with the right attitude, resulting in negative publicity. (click here for an earlier article on our blog on this subject).

So, again, listening is important but responding in the right way even more. Responding in such manner that your audience in it’s turn listens to you. ‘Be engaging’, says Brian Solis, a social media expert, whom I recently interviewed at SXSW 2010 in Austin, Texas. ‘In order to be engaging, you need to be believable. And you can only be believable if you’re empathetic towards your audience. Recently, Brian Solis gave an interesting webinar on this subject, organized by Strongmail. And it’s available online. It takes an hour, the audio-quality is moderate, but hey, wasn’t Content King. Enjoy, it’s more than worth it. And if you still want more? Try his book, Engage.

Yep, we’re baaaack!

We haven’t been very faithful to our readers. A lot of things have happened the last month of 2010 and it was a true roller-coaster from a professional and personal point of view. Some bad (see previous post), but fortunately mostly good. We look back to a great 2010 where we again were able to create some great concepts, met inspiring people and worked hard to further establish our position in the market. And a crazy market it is. Mobile took off like a rocker and 2010 will be seen as the year ‘it really started’. We’re not blind for these developments, so expect some great news on this soon.

We have caressing named two thousand and eleven ‘Time To Grow Up’. No strings attached anymore to an employer, we are on our own completely. We have identified the following fields of attention:

  • Build and implement great digital concepts
  • Extend our network to meet inspiring people
  • Build the team and get a house.

Not only developing but also building and implementing digital concepts that fit like a glove has always been our passion and we continue to invest in that. There are too many agencies bullshitting around with nice words about new/social/digital media. “Yeah, let’s make a Twitter account for you, and combine it with a Facebook page”. But what about the change process within a company? Or your customers? Are they ready for it? Don’t get me wrong, we truly believe in the changes caused by digital, but we also like to develop concepts that actually provide a value for the customer. And for that, most companies have to go through a cultural change, or -like one of our customers wisely stated- a cultural enhancement. You need a new leadership, one that not only understands the true power of these technologies but also provides the headspace for empowered employees to actually use these tools. A leadership that motivates employees, not with a carrot and a stick but by giving work a purpose. Related to this we are true believers in the thinking of Li (Open Leadership), McAfee (Enterprise 2.0), Solis (Engage), Pink (Drive) and Bernoff (Empowered) (yep, we’re reading them all, as we speak). We know a few Leaders (and I think with a capital L) who understand these challenges and act accordingly. But boy, do we meet also some so-called leaders who will soon join the destiny of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

We want to be amazed. Amazed by the thoughts of other people. And we want to meet people to further extend our network. We do not believe in a traditional way of ‘advertising’, we believe in the power of a network. One of the really great things about being an entrepreneur is the ability to meet truly inspiring people, people with a passion and with a story. Collect wise people around you and you never look stupid…

We can only make our dream come true if we have people around us who are as passionate about making great stuff as we are. Whether it is a film, a website, a workshop or an animation. We are fortunate to have found these people and we thank them for their  dedication. We’re looking forward to another great year of co-operation. Digital Nomads as we are, we also like to have a ‘safe home’ and work together on projects. We think we found something. Stay tuned for more.

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