I’m a change agent and a strategist. I’ve done that for over 20 years. Before that, I worked in finance for multinationals.
Now, I (also) research how we’re using social media networks to deliver change. My partial metamorphosis into a researcher was triggered by a need to understand WHY social networks suddenly had become mainstream; and by a gut feeling that the old ‘marketing’ end-game was changing quicker than most people could grasp.
Anyone who uses social media tools, who listens, interacts, shares and researches on media like Twitter, knows that ‘social media experts’ are now two a penny. I don’t have much time for most of them. Especially people who have never been in the trenches of business, never had to sit with a CEO or a business manager and understand the pressure there is to make money, reduce costs, engage customers and do something about a brand. Knowing how to set up a website, or a Facebook fan page or dabbling in some SEO does not qualify someone to call themselves an ‘expert’, or a ‘consultant’ in my book. At best, you may be a practitioner. That’s what I am.
Explain to me the strategy behind a campaign you have devised, connect me to a blog where you’re sharing your knowledge, show me how you’re measuring your success rate, convince me that you understand two-way engagement, tell me how you can deliver some effective, sustainable change for my business and my clients, and now we can have a conversation.
But I also have no time for people who dig their heads in the sand and refuse to read the tea leaves. Sometimes I get on my soap box, go and deliver a presentation at a business forum or in some boardroom, and spend the first part of my talk just trying to get people’s attention. And convince them that social media is not going away. There are hundreds of the type of video below on YouTube – I embedded this here for the usual shock treatment I sometimes have to deliver to rattle people, many times younger than me, out of their complacency. That things have changed. That it’s not about the shiny new tools, but about a shift in power and a trade-off between our privacy and what we want to get out of social business. And that the old, one-way marketing model is rapidly being shot up in shreds.
Last week, two people in separate meetings told me ‘Ah, Alex – but you’re looking at the future. We have businesses to run now. Our clients are not quite ready for this new type of engagement. But, hey, this social media stuff is really interesting stuff. We really need to look at it.”
So I go back to theatre. And do real time searches for their brands on freeware such as Social Mention or Trackur and watch faces crumple as they come face to face with what their customers really think about their business.
When I get back home, I find my seven year-old in front of his laptop. He’s just finished watching his favourite episode of Horrible Histories on YouTube and doing some research on Wikipedia to check if Henry VIII was really as horrid as the video clip implied as he had a ‘computer project’ to do for school.
It’s not so much about the future as learning from the lessons of the past. You cannot ignore social change when ordinary citizens believe that they now have access to new ways of getting their voices heard, and engaging with the people and issues that really matter to their lives. If you run a business or a country, ignore that at your peril.