The social era

Collaborating with people through shared purpose creates advantage because it allows everyone to work towards a shared goal. When people know the purpose of an organization, they don’t need to check in or get permission to take the next step, they can just do it. When people know the purpose, they are not waiting to be told what to do. With shared purpose, alignment happens without coordination costs. Shared purpose makes customers and team-members more than transactions and payroll recipients. It allows us to “tear down that wall” between who is “in” or “outside” the firm creating a more permeable organization which unleashes the inherently collaborative nature of work — like a herd of gazelles running leaderlessly, daringly, across a plain. This is the foundational principle of the social era.

This quote from a great piece in The HBR by Nilofer Merchant captures the essence of how social media is transforming how customers purchase goods and services. The power structures have changed from a passive obedient consumer and a paternal, all knowing and powerful organisation to that of a vocal informed consumer and an organisation struggling to comprehend what this heterogeneity means to the bottom line. Of course the notion of a passive consumer and a mass market is overly simplistic and deeply flawed. Consumers were never passive , they were just never as well informed as they are today.

I like the term the social era rather than social media. It has a grandiossity which befits the impact the explosion of th Internet and social media have created. It implies a teleology which tells us that shit has changed here, that customers will never be able to be treated in the same disrespectful way. Traditional business models that cut costs in customer service, that make their servings 5G smaller without reducing the price, that force disabled people to pay more or to be inconvenienced, that make bad movies from bad 1980s tv shows, that distribute seed that doesn’t cannot be used again without paying an exorbitant licensing fee, that rip customers off, that price gauge because that’s what the shareholders expect, are finished. A big business that does not embrace the social era today will be a small business in 5 years. A business that does not use the social era to transform the way they do business will fail to grow. Customers expect and deserve more. The mistake that has been made about social media so far is that it has largely been in the hands of the marketers who have been chasing fans and likes without really knowing why. Social business should be with the strategists and CEO’s, the people with the power to change a culture, a business, an industry.

The next 5 years will be some of the most transformative periods in modern post enlightenment history as the axis of economic power changes from Europe, Japan, and the USA, to China, India, Brazil; and the axis of consumer power changes from massive corporations to millions of customers all collaborating with a shared purpose.

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What do you think?