4 Cultural Social Media Truths Your Business Can’t Ignore

Don't let The Crowd control you

by Malcolm De Leo |

Everyone knows social is important.  There is no need to say it.  Well, I just did I guess, but how the hell else do you start a blogpost without saying something obvious.  But is it obvious?  I work across every industry with every level across every vertical and there is no unification on its importance.  I would go as far as to say that the number of people that think it isn’t critically important to their business still outweigh those who do… by a lot.  So when I thought about what I might write this month on the blog, I figured I would just think about the truths of social that a company who is blindly pushing content out should consider.  By at least throwing some conceptual truths out there, one hopes that those reading will put them away for a rainy day if they are currently unable to convince those they work with of social’s importance to future business success.  And as with most concepts or “truths” in this case, I invite you to think about how it applies to your business.

So what are the new social media truths that will affect all of us?  And when I mean all of us, I am talking about the BIG 4 functions.  Who are the BIG 4 functions?  They are consumer insights, marketing, customer service and public relations.  These are the 4 functions currently fighting like mad to say they own social.  And guess what?  All of them do.  They own them differently but they all own it.  And you might say “what about the digital department or digital marketing”?  I would say that this is just a classification of marketing; they are the people with digital skills that do marketing.  So all you “digital” folks out there, you may be a separate function with different skills, but in the end you sit under The Big 4 from a role perspective.

Truth #1:  Your business must operate at the speed of social

Next Exit - The TruthSo what the hell is the speed of social?  We all know what viral exposure can do to your business.  Just ask Netflix. In 2011 when they doubled their prices and announced their ill-fated Qwikster, their stock plummeted from a high of 298 on July 13th (5 days before their announcement at the beginning of July to 63 by the on November 25th.  I would call that business impact, wouldn’t you?  One wrong business move can blow the whole race. Your ability to respond to what I call “The Crowd” must be precise and fast; faster than ever before.

Truth #2:  The Crowd will define you (if you let it)

No one would argue that The Crowd that lives in social is big.  And no one would argue that it is still growing.  And again, no one would argue that virality isn’t real.  Even so, it is amazing how many leaders believe (for whatever reason) that it won’t strike them or it isn’t their problem.  Not long ago, I worked with a huge company who is still trying to figure out social listening.  As I looked to show them how their brand was perceived in the social media sphere, I found something interesting.  Their overall brand sentiment was quite low.  But when I looked at specific product categories they sold, they not only had high sentiment but also very high passion.  What I shared with them is that while their digital marketing efforts were successful at a product level, their overall brand was being defined negatively by The Crowd.  If you don’t manage that crowd (because you can’t control it) you can easily take your eye off the ball.

Truth #3:  Both Opportunities and Attacks can come from anywhere, anytime

As things move faster and your potential to lose control of the message continues to grow (as social continues to expand and individuals get more savvy), it is time to get very real and understand that both your risks as well as your chances to shine are totally unpredictable.  Long ago are the days when you get fair warning from the press that a story is going to break against you; because now a regular old person can do damage to you.  On the other hand, your chance to catch lightening in a bottle to embolden your efforts are now equally possible if you are paying attention.  Let’s not forget Dave Carroll, he of the “United Breaks Guitars” fame.  Dave took his issue to The Crowd and did real damage to United because they didn’t take social seriously.  On the other hand, Taco Bell leveraged a hoax that the small town of Bethel, Alaska had when they thought they were getting a Taco Bell (Bethel is 450 miles west of the largest city).  They turned this hoax into a positive PR moment when they flew a taco truck to Bethel to give them 10,000 free Doritos Locos Tacos.  In both cases, something small turned into something big.  And in both cases, a large company had an incredibly varied result because of how it chose to interact with The Crowd.

Truth #4:  Being Proactive is the new normal

I have an analogy when I am sizing up people that makes this point well.  I often look to see if they live on their heels or their toes.  I use this analogy because when a person lives on their heels they have to rock forward onto their toes before they can actually jump to take action, while a person who lives on their toes is always ready to jump.  If you believe that The Crowd is faster, that you don’t control how you can be defined and recognize that it is coming at you from all angles, then how can you hope to survive if you are in reaction mode.  If nothing else, your business will be eroded by wasting resources trying to fend off the punches.  You must stay proactive at all times because your company recognizes it isn’t in control anymore.  I wrote an example of this in my post about social engagement.  In my post I praised 1-800-flowers for how they handled my issue.  Don’t believe that you can ever rest again.

So that’s it.  These are the truths I see.  You might have others, but one thing is for sure: there are going to be a whole bunch more truths we will have to live under as the world around us changes.  But I will say this, wagging my finger at The Big 4; none of you own social.  The Crowd does and it is way louder and way bigger than you. So doesn’t it makes sense to figure out how to work at the speed of social to define how you will operate together to cut down on attacking each other and praising yourselves proactively so you can get going on your journey into The Crowd?


About the Author

Malcolm De Leo

Malcolm, Chief Evangelist at NetBase Solutions, Inc.,  is a subject matter expert in the area of applying social media in an effort to build the marketplace for this powerful new consumer data source. Previously, Malcolm was the Global Vice President of Innovation at Daymon Worldwide and prior to that Malcolm spent 10 years at the Clorox Company managing partnerships with technology companies, developing innovation processes and building new innovation infrastructure.