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May 30 2011 Posted by: Mark Fidelman in: Enterprise 2.0

Is Social the new DotCom?

iStock_000016605117XSmallThe term “Social” followed by any noun is exploding into the business lexicon.  And it’s beginning to feel like the fairy tale that was the dot com era.  Fueled by the Viagra of VC cash, many start-ups had enormous capital, enormous confidence and stiff valuations to match. The motto "get big fast" was the prescribed strategy.

But you know how the fairy tale ended. Dotcoms became increasingly impotent, investor confidence softened and only a handful of dotcoms limped through the period. The few that survived were either acquired or wedded to more profitable suitors. 

So today, those monogamous dotcoms have been swapped out by their more Social, promiscuous  newcomers.  Everybody is in everybody’s business.  These Social Business companies are fostering collaboration, constantly integrating with one another, then publicizing their acts in activity streams.   

imageJas Dhillon, who ran once of the few start-ups that survived the dotcom era has said, “beware of any occupational affair requiring new clothes.”

 

Is Social Real or Just a Tease?

It seems to be on everyone’s mind, and so they ask, how can we become more social?  How does my company? Where is the training?  It turns out, these are the wrong questions. They should ask: Why do we need a social strategy?

Because maybe it’s all just a ruse. A future Harvard Business case study about how Social Business vendors are manipulating companies to hook up directly with their customers.  

Or maybe Social has legs and provides benefits beyond the prefix.  Without social business objectives, it’s hard to conceive a strategy. 

You remember of course that nothing is as instantly noticeable as a bad social strategy. Companies may be able to fake social. But their employees can’t fake it with their customers.  Because their customers know the difference. 

imageJacob Morgan has asked, “when you say you want to collaborate with your customers do you really mean that or are you really talking about ways to use social channels to spread a message?” You see, you have to care.  You need to care.  Customers expect you to care.

The Social Fairy Tale?

So a long time ago, in a digital land far-far away, there existed scores of companies whom after adding the dotcom suffix, were funded with VC Viagra.  It was decreed that any internet company however unprofitable had the unalienable right to have their shares publicly traded. If you ever wondered what unbridled greed looked like if left to its own devices, it was the dotcom era.  

But now Social has emerged as the new and hottest thing to hit the world’s corporations and some are saying the emperor has no clothes.  They’ll tell you “Social” is a fairy tale, like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Or more directly, a cautionary tale of misspent budgets. They’ll say Social is the story of the Emerald City, where as every child knows is a quest full of a obstacles.  And as every IT Wizard knows, requires a lot of brains, courage and heart.  Too much to ask for the typical corporation, they’ll say.       

Behind the curtain though one finds the old guard.  The I-told-you-so-guard.  They’ll fix your problem,  just apply some TV advertising here, some print ads there and follow up with targeted public relations campaigns. “There’s real ROI in the tried and true”, they’ll tell you; “and there’s no way to measure social ROI.”

But just three heel clicks and one teleports back to reality.  A reality that is slowly making the old guard extinct. A guard in a new and confusing world, they try to reduce their cognitive dissonance by denying, blaming and justifying the traditional. But it hasn’t quite worked out for them. 

One Night Stand or Long Term Relationship?

The dotcom era was a  one night stand, a modern day tulipomania case study where demand seem to exceed supply.  But as everyone knew, one only had to create new dotcoms to fill the demand. So the supply was limitless and the excitement ephemeral.  

In contrast, Social Business is the long-term relationship built by employees, customers and partners over time. But it doesn’t happen over night.  Social is the yellow brick road to increased profits, better relationships and stability.  There will be challenges, embarrassments and failures.  But these obstacles will recede, leaving companies with increased social competency and stronger bonds with those that matter most.

So if Social is the new dotcom, at least we’ll be in a committed relationship.

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