By Barry Libert, Author of Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business
For as long as anyone can remember, the expression “those who have the gold, rule” has worked. But times are changing. Today, the power is shifting to the masses, and they are using the power of the sheer size and capabilities of the Internet to make sure their voices are heard. And this is making the old guard—existing management teams, boards, and investors—terrified for lots of reasons.
Most companies and their leaders have perfected business processes and competencies focused on making, marketing, and selling “things”—not listening, facilitating, and sharing information and experiences. The skills and technologies (command and control and assembly lines) required for the former are different from those required for the latter (empathy and compassion and social media). However, I think it is time for the old guard to get on board and recognize they have a unique opportunity to participate in the revolution—or risk losing their heads the way Marie Antoinette did.
Understand the Power of Social Media
The unprecedented growth of Facebook (550 million users), Twitter (200 million), bloggers (150 million), and text messaging resulted because there were tremendous unfulfilled demands by customers and employees that were not being met by traditional organizations or tools. These demands were basic: to communicate and connect. Further, the demands were profoundly valuable and important to almost all constituents—to be heard, connected, recognized for their contributions, and ultimately, self-actualized.
Facebook and other social media entities surfaced to satisfy those needs and reap the benefits, along with the organizations that invested in them.
Embrace the Voice of Your Customers and Employees
Most traditional organizations don’t have a team—let alone a senior ranking professional—charged with building their social media initiatives and developing their communities. If we look back just 10 years ago when e-commerce was first taking off, traditional leaders of brick and mortar companies thought that e-commerce was just a passing fad and would only be used for selling technologies. Obviously, they were wrong, and the same is true for social media and community engagement.
We are just at the beginning of a structural shift to the socialization of organizations. It’s important to build your social media team now, so you can join the conversation and hear what your constituents have to say. Don’t let the voices of your customers and employees go unheard.
The Crowd Can Help You Grow and Prosper
Regardless of what you think of your employees, customers, prospects, or alumni, there are more of them than you. Most importantly, you never know where the next great idea will come from, which could include your existing people or people from outside the four walls of your organization (and by extension, your partners). Research has repeatedly shown that crowds have wisdom, expertise, and passion that can help you grow and innovate.
It doesn’t matter how big your company is or how long it has been around. The growing size and popularity of social media signals a seismic shift from institutions and their leaders to individuals and their peers (e.g., communities). It’s time for a new organizational model: “business by the people, for the people” (not by the leaders, for the leaders). Leaders have to learn to become true followers of their constituents (customers, employees, partners, etc.) and join the social media revolution. It’s time to ask yourself if it’s better to be terrified of the masses or to join them and ensure your future success. It’s your choice.