Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The social media adoption conundrum - Change Agents and Evil Planners wanted!

This week I was at the Marketing Research association conference selling my social media wares and I even had the privilege to speaking on the topic to a group of very smart market researchers. What was most intriguing to me as I stood in front of about 60 people was the answer to the following question. As I started to share with the group a case study using social media data to look at a brand, I asked the following, "Of the people in this room how many of you trust social media as a viable data source for doing research?". Do you know how many professional market researchers raised their hands to affirm their trust of social media?


One would think in the belly of the social media application beast so to speak that more people at this point would be willing to trust social media data even though it is different and strange. You know why? Because when I followed up the first question with another question later in my presentation, one that completely changed directions on them, I received something different from the audience. This time I made it personal.

My second question...,"When you buy an appliance or piece of electronic equipment what is the first thing you do to decide?" Then I asked, "How many of you go to read reviews on the web?"

The response this time.....

58! FREAKING 58 OUT OF 60!

I think you get the point. When it comes to change and in this case social media, getting people to apply something to business they already personally use as consumers each and every day demonstrates the importance of culture in the equation. I can't tell people enough if you are selling innovative solutions from the outside in, you are playing a game of culture. A game that is long and hard, but can be worthwhile should you choose to do battle and choose to build the right skills to do it. And as a person who was the champion in a large organization I will say this, it takes one to know one. Whether you are trying to get a large organization to change the game or a person within the organization trying to create a change you believe in, expect effort, hardship and the need for a political savvy. Most importantly, however, know how to spot a champion or to be one to make it happen.

Innovation champions are gluttons for punishment, people who are passionate, believe in themselves and the need for change, and lastly are all about collaborative innovation. This is what it will take my friends if you want to see the social media NOON as I like to call it. Folks, this exercise at the conference (in front of a group of experts) showed me we are still in Social Media dawn. The early adopters are still whom I seek and there are just too damn many of you standing on the tracks staring at the oncoming train. I know I am an evangelist, but I also am starting to use simple logic on what social media means to business.

Simply put…the speed of insight is accelerating so fast that one’s ability to understand the data before there is more to interpret is too fast that you must find a way to keep up. In the past, one could say there is just too much data to process so we leave it to our gut. But today the equation has changed. Not only is the volume accelerating and getting out of control, but those who can latch onto something and drive it to the masses is becoming the new element in the equation. Folks, your suggestion box are now public and your market research wears no clothes. Your data is out there growing like the ebola virus and the experts (the audience I spoke of) are consumers who are not recognizing the impact it could have on their livelihood in the coming months (not years). We have already seen the Osama Bin Laden raid tweeted by someone by accident as it was happening. We have seen the logo changes of two behemoths judged in public (GAP and Starbucks) with differing results (GAP changed back within 7 days) and we see the downfall of the powerful in an instance when they stupidly choose to think the web won’t catch up with them (Rep. could you do that to such an accomplished and strong woman). We see it all around us, but we still the let the shackles of the culture of the corporate titanic ride towards the iceberg. Why?

Because I believe that Hugh McLeod said it best in a cartoon in his book Evil Plans…(which I just literally finished and while I don’t read much is inspirational…

“Why is creativity such a “dirty word” for big companies? Because it’s something that requires you to put your balls on the line.”

I believe those who are willing to do just that will be the ones who will become intoxicated with what it feels like to drive change and to feel empowered. It is easy to see why we shouldn’t do it. But how often in a day do you ask not “yes, but” but “yes, how”? Don’t be the corporate lulled consumer engaged cretin who didn’t raise their hand the first time but did the second time.

Lord knows even though I have been driving change for years, getting involved in this role has only accelerated my taste for driving change and my awareness of the box I have lived in even as a change agent. Going from intrapreneur to entrepreneur is what it took to unlock my voracious appetite for helping others and myself through sharing and learning. I guess it is my evil plan. Coming up with scalable ways to change how people interact, learn and get along better. To this end it is in the corporate context, but make no mistake I will keep writing about change, why going more deeply internal will help one impact more externally and keep focused on my evil plan. Hugh McLeod did for me what I try to do for others…give me a framework to think and learn…thanks Hugh.

Find your inner champion, embrace change and shout it from the trees. As for social media, don’t let the oncoming train hit you. On average, trains are usually on time and this one is approaching the station. Change is good…change is constant…change is the catalyst for learning to make life fulfilling.

Social media is merely a minor vehicle to state how change that will continue, but seeing that group of experts resist what they do everyday reminds me that one must never give up on preaching the value of different…I guess that is my quest and I will stick to it…

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