Social Business Hype: Let’s Make it Simple

One of the reasons so many companies and people within companies are struggling today is because people have made business so complex that you need an interpreter to find your way. In some ways, business has become this great big onion and we are all trying to continually peel the layers so we can get to the heart of it all. We have moved away from a simple world where people understood what they were hired to accomplish to a complex business reality of navigating technologies, buzz words, slogans and in crowds. In this world, success is determined by how we get chosen and who picks us.

This year started with the Twitter noise of “who are the biggest influencers in social business…?” and people responding with who should be on that list. The stress people have is whether they have been picked to be on the list and the whole conversation shifts to the high school mentality of the popular crowd. Are you on the list? Have you been recognized? Is that really what social media is about? And then it gives us an opportunity to tweet about how great it is they are on the list and the popularity contest continues. Does it translate for more business for them? Does being on the list actually move their business forward?

We wait in anticipation to see if we made the list. Did someone acknowledge our existence and how great we are? Who else is on the list? Let’s make sure we make the list. Let’s let everyone know by tweeting and posting the list over and over again. But many don’t stop and ask what does that list actually mean? What do we do with the list once we have it? And it didn’t start with social business tools. We had the magazine, newspaper and consulting industries telling us who the are the top employers for the year, the best workplace for women to work and it goes on and on. And if you have ever been inside an organization when these surveys are conducted, you know what it takes to get on the list. Accomplishments today mean being included on the lists versus the real business impact. If we measure it, then surely it’s meaningful. What metrics actually mean is what everyone seems to be silent about. We are in a world of bullshit metrics.

The old world is about one-way broadcasting of information. Brands are hardwired to communicate in one direction.It is a competition between who can yell the loudest and get the most attention from people. Through advertising, companies’ goal was for consumers to buy their products. We have been conditioned to be talked at. There is a plethora of articles and books to make us more like everyone else. They range from “the 5 things to say when you hear a new idea” to the “7 things you should not ignore to be successful in social business.” How can anyone else know you and what you need? Are you living your life or following a recipe for success? Why is it so important to fit in as a brand, a service or a human being? Being part of a community is important but sacrificing our needs may not be as fulfilling.

This is how we have been trained and educated to operate. Authority figures and institutions instilled in us that we need to earn the right and wait to be recognized and acknowledged. Society is so obsessed with external validation. We are surrounded by people pursuing celebrity status and fame; being “known” is how so many measure their self-worth and success. And today celebrities go beyond athletes, musicians and actors to celebrated experts in yoga, self-help and business and even our very own social media “gurus.” People are so confused by social business language that I just saw someone ask people to “twitter” with them on their website. What does that mean? Why not connect with me? Why not have a conversation with me? What does “twitter with Bob” mean? And no, the words “follow me” are just as silly when you take a second to think about it.

We only get a person’s attention for a few seconds and the only way to make social media work is to go deeper and focus on creating meaningful conversations that drive trusted relationships that go beyond a 140-character word salad. Inside organizations social business has only taken off in organizations that understand how these tools enable their business. They don’t merely have a “me too” strategy. They actually invest time and resources in understanding how their people can embrace it to drive specific processes and outcomes. We need to go back to basics and reclaim the plot that people come to work to do a job and the biggest opportunity for social business is to connect people to do their job in a way that helps the organization deliver on its mission. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a for profit or a non-profit. We can make business as complex or simple as we need. It’s our choice.

The twentieth century has been an age of introspection and now the time has come to be more mindful about what we want versus the cookie cutter approach to business. The good news is the world is changing. We have moved from scarcity to abundance and many people are more willing to try and fail fast or succeed (how ever they choose to define success). That’s why we are seeing an increase in entrepreneurism.

We can’t wait for everyone else to change. The only one who you can fully expect to change is you. You have the keys to your manual and you can easily connect with other people who share your interests in today’s world. Please use social media responsibly and connect with real people to have real conversations. What is the one change you can make today?

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