Is Your Business Ready For The Social Age ?

Is Your Business Ready For The Social Age ? Illustration by Maria Fonseca

Social has changed the world, and this is the topic of a new book written by Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt called A World Gone Social. The fundamental question that the book asks is: How ready is your business for the social age? The authors argue that social has transformed the way that businesses already work and how they will work in the future. They suggest that social media has changed the way companies innovate, market, scale, build teams and serve customers. The book claims to provide the tools needed to be able to adapt to this brave new world of social through offering stories, analysis of actual situations and providing guidance and recommendations. It advocates an open paradigm of working with collaboration with partners, other collaborators and even competitors. It is argued that “nimble” organisations will outdo their competitors.

According to the book , there should be a better way of doing business. This is grounded in the fact that the business environment has changed. For example, it is explained that businesses used to have a lot more control, but that now roles have shifted and consumers can talk about what they like. Consumers want to be heard by companies. At the same time, what employees want has also somewhat changed. Employees now tell companies where, how and when they want to work. Overall, thanks to social everyone is better informed, and social can be used to make a stronger impact.

Social age and transparency

Ultimately, what is it that is driving all this radical changes happening in society and business ? According to Coine and Babbitt its a very interesting and unexpected concept brought to us by social media:

“The biggest challenge the world has seen since the Industrial Age is not social media. It is transparency.”

As secrecy looses its appeal it brings major changes for organisations in the eyes of the authors. Instead of focusing on price, products and services organisations need to prioritise gaining trust, and this is argued to be the biggest competitive advantage. This focus on transparency and trust will be difficult for some businesses, argue Coine and Babbitt. But they also explain that this is the only way to be able to succeed in the future. This means being able to engage employees, customers and prospective customers and discuss the issues that they face and their interests. It is this that will build trust and loyalty in the Social Age, and Coine and Babbitt believe that this will lead to them also becoming brand advocates for the organisation.

Is social media driving the social age ?

According to the authors, what is driving all of this is social media. The book explains how some leaders of business are stuck in the past and do not understand what they need to do to adapt for the Social Age. It assesses the situation of employees and customers being more able to voice their opinions than in the past, and it shows how social has already created disruption. Subsequently it describes how large is “dead” and how organisations need to think small instead in order to survive in the longer term. One subchapter of this section of this book is entitled “We’re Already Surrounded by “Nano” , conveying the strong metaphor on how we have to rethink our dreams of scaling and being the next big corporate dream.

The book introduces as well the concept of OPEN (Ordinary People Extraordinary Network) as a means for developing business success and transforming business models. Later, the book reviews how leadership should work in the new social world and how businesses can change customers into ambassadors and drive socially enabled teams. The final section of the book examines the future for social business, reviewing return on investment and next steps to be taken.

A change of paradigm

As Coin and Babbitt point out, the Social Age is already upon us. Making comments that suggest that social is a fad is misguided – social is not hype, rather it is a change in paradigm that is here to stay. Deciding not to change is also misguided, and being afraid to lose control is pointless, because control is already lost. Leaders need to wake up and change, argue Coin and Babbitt, and nowhere is this truer than with the digital natives, the millennials that now comprise much of the workforce. Organisations that want to attract top talent need to nurture a new social and collaborative, open environment. Those that do not adapt will die according to Coin and Babbitt. Indeed as Coin and Babbitt put it:

“Less and less gets past those socially enabled workers every day. They are more aware; we are held more accountable.”

The message is clear: wake up and change or cease to exist. It will be interesting to see which businesses thrive and which fail.