Home » Featured Posts, Social Business

Social Business and The War On Terror

Submitted by on January 10, 2010 – 6:30 pm3 Comments


The story of the social web is a story about how people, when given the ability to freely communicate – do so in great numbers. And when they do they abide by social rules (be yourself, listen, build relationships through give and take etc.). Social Tools Follow Social Rules. When people are allowed to exercise their innate drive to be social they expect the companies they interact with (and work for) to get social as well. Thus social rules become the new rules of doing business.

The problem is, companies have spent generations codifying rules of conduct to make communications – with employees as well as customers – cost-effective, uniform and risk-reducing, not necessarily to be social. We have put in IVR telephone systems (“press 25 to transfer to another pre-recorded call representative”) to lower call costs despite the fact that humans prefer to speak with other humans. We have delegated all communications to the outside world to two classes of individuals: low cost (e.g. call center reps) and high cost (e.g. “communications professionals” and marketers) who serve as proxy communicators on behalf of the organization. Neither of these addresses the challenge of the social web.

This is the challenge.

How does an organization manage the increasing communications asymmetry between inside and outside?

On the inside, information flow is glacial and constricted to a few individuals at the top of the reporting pyramid. On the outside, information flow is kinetic and ubiquitous. Taken within the context and expectations set by the social web most corporations are now structured to be antisocial (communication by proxy) and non-responsive (overwrought workflows governing when/how to respond to issues).

There is no functional method within any organization I know (and I am familiar with quite a few organizations that are trying to tackle this issue) that is effectively handling the following questions:

  • How can an organization reasonably (read cost effective and on-brand) be responsive to so many voices that are out there discussing your product or service?
  • How do you calibrate your response times to the web where real-time tools like Twitter, Facebook feeds and blogs distribute information instantaneously?
  • When and how do you decide to get engaged versus not when issues can literally metastasize overnight?

There are several mutually supporting solutions that need to be put in place and getting there will be a haphazard affair.

First, corporations are not predisposed towards listening (see Listening Beats Talking). We have companies preternaturally tuned towards talking. This is being addressed by the raft of social media consultants out there preaching the holy gospel of listening. Like all behavior changes, this change will come slowly. It will come as a slow market correction – companies that align to this new reality will prosper (think Zappos where customer service is their fundamental marketing plan).

Second, while we have monitoring tools that mine the social web for discussion, we don’t have simple means of connecting our insights into action. There is no “ticketing” system that can provide workflow and audit trail of a customer voice out on the web – and the company outreach that ensues. Another way to say this is that we don’t have any real, proven social CRM solutions. BestBuy has Twelpforce that allows hundreds of BBY employees to respond in semi-coordinated fashion on Twitter. It is a great program and a good start but we have a long way to go.

Now – what does this have to do with the War on Terror? The analogy is more of a footnote to this post but it is an important one and it leads to the third solution needed to meet the challenges listed above.

The U.S. government has approached the The War on Terror  the way a large, industrial corporation would; lay down a heavyweight strategy and marshal all of its resources for a big, resource-intensive push.   Meanwhile the enemy, like the Social Web, in this analogy, exhibits a few key characteristics:

  • They are emergent: there is loose direction at the top but most of the action occurs on a cellular, self-directed level
  • They are dispersed: geographically Al Qaeda has a confirmed footprint in multiple countries
  • They are unknown – These are no longer state actors (in our analogy you might say these are no longer known journalists and “influencers” in the pay of a known corporation that you can negotiate with).  The lowest common denominator is an anonymous well-motivated individual or small group empowered to take a wide variety of actions in pursuit of their goals
  • They learn fast, they don’t “play fair” and they are predisposed not to like you

Using a centralized model to meet a decentralized “threat” is a tricky game. The third issue that needs to be solved is that of communications decentralization within large organizations. How do you energize and mobilize your workforce to engage with the outside world? Companies that create a happy, dynamic work culture will have a happy, dynamic workforce capable of carrying the flag in social media (inside and outside the organization). This will allow you to move beyond the limited spokesperson model of today.  To get there companies need to (1) work on a culture of sharing, (2) co-create social media guidelines with their employees and (3) provide training that engages them in thinking innovatively about the potential of these tools and gives them familiarity with the cultural norms of the social web.

Companies that foster a culture of sharing will thrive disproportionate to companies that don’t.  And companies that address the communications asymmetry will be more likely to prosper.


  • The three areas you mention — culture, guidelines, and training — are absolutely essential to address, and I would add two: staffing and process. I have been a writer and editor in many different publishing situations, and I think that to meet the challenge you describe, corporations must also strengthen their commitment to these two areas to the point that professional publishers have done.

    In corporate publishing, there are rarely editors in the true sense of the word, who take business requirements and use them to direct writers. In corporations, business managers direct the writers, and it's not as effective, because, bless their souls, they don't understand what it takes to make great writing. So corporations usually publish mediocre, jargon-ridden, mealy-mouthed copy that doesn't sound like real humans sound. Corporate managers need to spend more money hiring editors because product managers, account managers, CRMs and the like can't speak the language of writers that is required to produce great writing. Corporations understand the need for creative directors in producing great visuals, but they don't understand the need for editors in producing great copy.

    Corporations also need to devote more time, energy, and money to creating and maintaining processes. Workflows in professional publishing are much more involved than in corporations, and they produce better quality. At the newspaper I worked at, no one would even dream of skipping any of the steps, but I can't tell you how many times I've heard from a business manager, “We don't have time for wordsmithing.” What they're saying is, “We don't value excellence in writing enough to make the time for it.”

    The bottom line is, you get what you pay for. I think the investment will pay off in increased page views, customer engagements, and ultimately sales. After culture, guidelines, training, hiring, and processes are in place, you can produce great writing in the same amount of time as mediocre writing. At the newspaper, we published a large amount of high-quality original content every single day by 10:30 p.m. It will cost more, but because it will pay off, it's ultimately not a matter of time or money but of values.

    Hastings Hart
    Oakland, Calif.

  • […] web marketing system's WeblogGenerate leads and cashflow the easy way with the Power …Social Business and The War On Terror – Opposable PlanetsCommunications Technology | LottspaceShould You Generate or Purchase Your Network Marketing […]

  • For my opinion, it's a great tool ever see that we can found now on internet

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.