I’m going to throw out several incomplete thoughts — that’s the beauty of a blog — on social media and corporate culture. There have been tons of studies and articles about the C Suite embracing social media, yet fearing their brands being tarnished by it. But the cultural force of social media now is so great that eventually all brands will have some sort of compulsory involvement. Those that willingly use it with sincerity will succeed; those that grudgingly use it because they “have to” will not.
Here’s the grandiose thesis: at the bottom of the resistance to social media is a resistance to democracy itself. Social media are “bottom up” largely — though there are “influencers” that may drive certain memes or conversations. But for years companies have been “de-skilling” the customer service function, outsourcing it overseas and using reps as gatekeepers rather than true problem solvers. By contrast, we see examples of companies now on Twitter (e.g., jetBlue, Comcast) that are doing well with genuine efforts to resolve customer problems and complaints. This is what I mean by “sincere.” You can smell it a mile away.
The US corporation, at least among the largest, is a top-down operation that typically seeks to maintain relatively tight control over the rank and file, although that’s increasingly difficult these days. While I realize that I’m crudely generalizing, this “top-down culture” is what you might call antithetical to the culture of social media. In my mind then, the (non-perfunctory) use of social media implies a culture shift within organizations that pushes some degree of authority and control down to the lower levels and front lines. It also implies more transparency and “openness.”
Some companies are doing this and will continue to do this, and will accordingly profit (literally and figuratively) from the use of these social tools. Others cannot and will not loosen up and so will not be able to make effective use of social media.
I apologize for the undeveloped nature of these thoughts but I wanted to simply get them out because I’ve been thinking about these issues but haven’t had a chance to write anything.
But do you agree with what I’m saying: to make effective use of social media tools companies need to change their cultures? What do you think?