For most customers I speak to one of the common themes is we must get into social media.
I feel a bit like the guy pointing at the Emperor whose got no clothes on . I don’t get it.
I imagine if we could travel back in time 50 years the equivalent conversation would have been we need to get into computing, then it was we must get into the internet.
We seem to go through periods where the conversation is dominated by the technology, not the actual point which is what we can do with technology.
writing this I’ve just been speaking to my teenage son and his friend. They have been away on a rowing course for the week. Thinking I was being cool I asked if they made any new friends “uh huh” – which I think is teenage for yes -was the reply so I asked if they were going to keep in contact on Facebook. .
We don’t use Facebook came back answer as if I’d asked if they played vinyl records . After probing a bit they use Skype to communicate, or game online together using the inbuilt communication tools in the game.
For us oldies who lost contact with school friends because there was no such thing as an email address or mobile number social media has been a great tool to connect us together again.
The younger generation however are already connected they don’t need it.
I tend to work on the principle there are very few new ideas and if you want to understand something you just need to find the old example of which it is an evolution. service orientated architectures of 2012 are not that much different to remote procedure calls of 1960 that are not that much different from the concept of using specialised manufacturers to create components that are then exploited by a master assembler invented in the industrial revolution.
So what’s the old concept that social media is replacing?
The basic architecture of social media is a mechanism to connect with a group of people and then receive or share information. In the old world this may have been family gatherings, specialist clubs or societies or just going to the pub with a group of friends.
Social media however blurs the line between personal interactions and business interactions. I wouldn’t have dreamt of calling a customer service department in the middle of a pub conversation about whose is the better mobile phone but its acceptable and convenient to tweet my frustration at never having a signal on the M5 – yes you the largest network apparently, and expect a response.
This is probably the modern equivalent of writing a letter to the Times.
For a business, I suppose there are three main questions
– can they offer new products or services as a result of these new channels.
– can they serve their customers differently via these new channels
– can they understand and market to their customers differently
None of these feel like paradigm shifts. They are just old questions in a new context, with much larger data dimensions and much smaller time windows.
So, maybe the answer to social media is not to try and predict the future, but to review the past.