Social Business Myths and Realities
Yep, this a photo of my D&D Monster Manuel cover. A unicorn, a centaur, and a dragon; what’s more myth than that?

Four years (ish) ago I was invited to present a few thoughts on Enterprise 2.0 at EMC’s 3rd Writer’s Summit. The original title of the presentation: Enterprise 2.0 Myths (and a few truths). I stumbled onto my notes a few days ago and thought it would be fun to revisit to see how A) Smart or B) stupid I was.

So how did I do?

First off, wow, how dated does Enterprise 2.0 sound? While the online chatter has moved on to other buzzwords, the principles of E20 underpin the giant online cocktail party conversation where we’re all talking with each other at once. (And, you are talking “with” folks, right? Talking “at” people is even more annoying online than in person.) I think you can substitute content marketing, inbound, social business, social, etc. for E20 below and my original thinking continues to be as legitimate (or not, as the case may be).

My original thoughts are as they were written; with my comments following each point. Here we go.

First, some of these ideas are semi-contradictory. I think, and I could be wrong, that’s because there aren’t any hard and fast rules for this E20 stuff yet — beyond perhaps “Be nice,” which we all should be doing anyway. I mean, a twitter stream for shitmydadsays is a TV sitcom with William Shatner (see William Shatner “sing” rocket man. One of my fav Youtube clips ever.). Guy Kawasaki pushes the same tweets multiple times per day, against “the rules” (and is successful at it. In business, you aren’t supposed to be too personal, but on Twitter, there are any number of folks who strike a great balance at that.

So, my first myth is a truth: Truth: There aren’t any rules for E2.0; only guidelines. Beyond  “Be nice” and “Be genuine,” I don’t think there are any true rules for enterprise 2.0.

Update: While there’s a lot of research about what works and what doesn’t work, I still don’t think there are any hard and fast rules that apply all the time, everywhere, to everyone. There is one “rule” that I hadn’t thought of when I originally wrote this as I assumed it: know your audience. From there, there will be “rules” and approaches that work (and those that don’t) for that particular audience. And you should still be nice.

Myth: ROI?! We don’t need no stinkin’ ROI. This is a pet peeve. My favorite: “What’s the ROI of a bathroom.” The assumption that ROI is self-evident and that anyone who isn’t doing E20ish things for business is a dolt and doomed to failure seems too glib to me. If a company is going to expend the money, and more importantly, employee’s time to embark on a social media initiative — internally or externally — I think taking the time to think about what the potential benefits (hard or soft) could be is important.

Update: Woot. Spot on. While it’s still hard to measure ROI, I was at least slightly ahead of the curve on the need to do so. While you are trying to be useful to your audience and move beyond “interrupting” them, you’re still trying to move them towards a desired action. You need to measure that movement.

Myth: It’s a waste of time. It’s time-consuming, but not a waste of time. I use Twitter to great effect as a expertly-edited stream of articles/columns/thoughts I’m going to be interested in. I’ve also used Twitter to recruit writers for Infonomics, when editing the magazine, and for bloggers here [here was the AIIM Community, now located here]. Expertise location is a fantastic time-saver. What’s the value of finding out someone halfway around the world in your company has just completed research on an issue that you were just about to spend 3 months looking into?

Update: Still a myth. Though, like anything, it’s easy to waste your time if you don’t take the time to know your audience and target them where they live. If you’re audience is on Youtube and you’re taking great photos on Instagram, you’re wasting your time.

Myth: It’s a magical panacea that will cure all that ails you. Hand in hand with “who needs ROI?,” you can just say “Oooooh, we’re doing E2.0” and fix your crappy customer service, product, etc. You have to believe it and work at it.

Update: Yep, myth. Doing inbound/content marketing right requires a shift in thinking, and measurement, and, well, you know. It’s hard. And, please, if anyone reading this things it’s still just “Facebook” or “Facebook on steriods,” please punch yourself in the head for me. 

Myth: It’s a technology. The cultural elements of an organization have a greater role to play in E2.0 than the technology. You can’t just buy something from Jive/Cisco/IBM/SocialCast/Traction/SamePage whoever and expect to “Enterprise 2.0-enable” your company.

Update: Still true. Why we continue to believe that any tool can be bought to fix/create workable business processes will always elude me. I’ve had the displeasure of seeing this first hand-hand. Digital automation tools work, and can work well, but you still have to create the content, campaigns, and structure BEFORE a marketing workflow can be automated. Not to mention list management, suppression, if/thens, etc. “But it’s automated.” LOL, yeah, sure.

Truth: It’s a technology. On the other hand, it is a technology. The microblogging/presence/blogging/etc. tools that encompass the Enterprise 2.0 space make the velocity and speed of collaboration (and, at base, improved collaboration is what I think E2.0 boils down to) possible. While you’re not going to get to an E2.0 environment with just technology, you do need the technology to be E2.0 (at least I think so. Today.)

Update: Yep. While the tools and outlets threaten to be overwhelming at times, they are pretty frickin’ awesome.

Myth: It’s a myth. A year ago, I did think all this E2.0 stuff was a load of BS. Now, while, yes, I do think it’s overhyped and that you aren’t going to sell Enterprise 2.0 to a company, the concepts make a hell of a lot of sense. It’s like knowledge management and collaboration on speed. Improving customer service, making everyone just a little bit more human instead of a “business person,” enhancing working together — all good things enabled to E2.0.

Update: As the Monkees would say, “Now I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind. I’m in love. Mmmmmm, I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried.”

Myth: Let the kids do it. Another pet peeve (damn, I’m starting to sound like a cranky old git). While, yes, a younger generation does have different expectations; they do still have to actually work. I would imagine that every generation entering the workforce has expectations that newer technologies will be used (or should be used). However, the genuflection to a younger generation that is born digital, meh. I fail to see what not ever having to get up to turn the knob to move from M*A*S*H to Fantasy Island (yes, I know they were on different nights) has to do with being a more effective worker in an actual office.

Update: I’ve seen enough research to now think that there are definite generational differences. Still, holding out on this one. For some insight into this, check out Tom Koulopoulis and Dan Keldsen’s The Gen Z Effect: The 6 Forces Shaping the Future of Business. Both gents are wicked smaht.

Myth: If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. Back to the arrogance thing and thinking of “doing” E2.0 as a panacea. Just because someone is hesitant or just now dipping a toe into the social media waters, doesn’t mean they’re going to be left in the dust. True, first mover advantage is large, but this stuff is new too.

Update: Things continue to move so damn fast online, that if you do excellent work, including the excellent work of publishing/distributing, then you’ve still got a great chance of getting noticed. As with any trend that grows in popularity, there is a ton of crap out there. Do good work and you’ll start to shine through.

Myth: Experts have it figured out. This stuff is new. Anyone self-proclaimed as a guru . . . not so much. The folks who write on this community and admit that, sometimes, we’re still working through this — those are the folks who will get this figured out. We still haven’t figured out how to get rid of paper and effective document capture has been around for 20+ years. This E2.0 stuff is still too new for anyone to be 100% on top of it.

Update: Just in content marketing and strategy, there’s so much complexity that it’s hard to master everything. Throw in measurement, tons of social channels, headline writing, working with sales, website UX, and etc. and etc. and etc., and, you can’t know it all (and, that’s OK). And here’s one expert’s take on it, Jonathon Gebaur writes The Downside of Social Media Influence – Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Me.

Myth: You need a plan. OK, maybe this one should be a semi or half myth. You do — kinda — need to know what you’re doing. But waiting for the “perfect” E2.0 plan? Don’t be an idiot.

Update: Wrong. Plan it or fail. You don’t have to have everything i dotted and t crossed, but spend time figuring out what you want to accomplish and steps on how you want to get there. Waiting for the “perfect” plan is still a fool’s errand, you’ll be wrong about something — fix it as you go. 

Truth: Get started. If you haven’t started. Go. Now. Today. There’s something in this E2.0/social media/collabaration stuffus for every industry. Start figuring out what that something is for your and your company now.

Update: Yep. Get going. Not only is it good for your business; it’s a lot of fun.

Truth: The line between work and private life is dotted. I put this one in after a conversation with Marko Sillanpaa (half of Big Men on Content, excellent blog, check it out.) at dinner last Thursday night (congrats again, Marko, on the coming nuptials). See. Dotted. There’s continued confusion the E2.0/social media is Facebook. And Marko did raise some great points about Facebook privacy, most of which I agree with. However, that’s NOT Enterprise 2.0. It’s a piece of it. And there is the whole, “Do I friend my boss,” “Am I gonna get fired for saying something stupid,” “Why did my friend but that photo of my [body part] on his wall.” These are new social mores that we’re all trying to work out. Divorce used to be a sign that you were flawed somehow. Not so much any longer. Times change. I think that allowing a blurring of the personal/work personas will do us all a world of good in the long run.

Update: I think this one is still mostly right. Why spend time faking being someone you’re not? Just takes too damn much energy. I like to say that when I’m online I’m all me, but with a slightly better filter. I have a . . . ribald . . . sense of humor and my favorite word of all time is “fuck” for its plasticity of meaning and expressiveness. However, it’s not always entirely appropriate to give that free reign. So if you met me IRL, I’d be the same person — I just might cuss a bit more.

Again, I do want to revisit these ideas over time. However, I also wanted to toss them out there and see if anyone agrees/disagrees/thinks I’m an idiot/genius.

Spikey Katfish on Content Marketing
From the Wikipedia page of the Works Progress Administration. I’m feeling like a work in progress.

Update: Yes, feedback is awesome — especially if you agree! (Kidding, sorta.) For the most part, I felt pretty good about myself as I read through this. On the other hand, I haven’t done a great job of applying a lot of what I’ve learned over the past few years to myself. So, consider me, and Spikey Katfish, a definite work in progress (maybe my logo could be one of those old Works Progress Administration posters).

As always, comments, criticisms, and witticisms welcomed.

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