One decade after the invention of the first social networks one could say that digital platforms are now part of one´s skin. All of us log into Facebook everyday, browse some pictures at Pinterest, see what´s up in twitter, and look for a daily dosis of beauty while surfing Instragram. Let´s face it, we live in the midst of digital platforms now, using them for work, socialization, news and warmth. Digital Platforms are the new technologies of subjectivity of human beings, as with each day going by, we find ourselves more swallowed, ingrained, embedded in these.
How are businesses dealing with the new digital platforms ? Some organisations have been burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the new platforms. This is to their peril. What is meant by the “new platforms”? This includes Facebook, Skype, Buzzfeed, Vice Media, Bitcoin and others, according to Greg Satell of Digital Tonto (2015).
Social media has been particularly problematic for some businesses which initially banned its use thinking that employees would just sit around being social all day, rather than considering the potential that could be achieved from leveraging such platforms for business. Indeed, at the start the benefits for business were not conceived of, yet, the benefits of these communication platforms for organisations can be tremendous. These days social media is so much more than just a tool for connecting with friends. It can also be a source for actually making connections and getting appraised of the most important and relevant news stories in any given subject area. It is argued that serious journalists also did not wake up quickly to the benefits of new platforms Satell states:
“Many people in journalism don’t take Buzzfeed and Vice Media seriously, because they built their platforms on list articles, viral tricks and sometimes salacious stories.”
And yet now Buzzfeed and Vice Media have tremendous power, despite their early start that was focused on gaining an audience ahead of offering up ground breaking and innovative stories. Yet now these platforms have tremendous audiences and they publish quirky stories that have a widespread appeal in an audience of millennials. Buzzfeed’s approach was based on content sharing, an essential skill in a digital age. The goal of Vice Media is explained to be making good content, having as many people see it as possible and then making enough money so that more great content can be produced. When you think about it, it doesn’t sound that much different to the goals of a newspaper or magazine. And yet, serious journalists have steered clear. But now these journalism platforms are starting to move into more serious journalism themselves. It is questionable where this may leave the sneering journalists. After all, these platforms now have their own extremely well respected journalists. At the same time, traditional news platforms have failed to catch on and are struggling to survive.
Taking a different example, Bitcoin is another new platform that emerged that has been misunderstood. It is argued that the underlying platforms that support Bitcoin create networks of trust between individuals and organisations, cutting out third party interference. The interesting aspect of Bitcoin is as well how it promoted the development of the blockchain technology. This has enabled others to investigate and invent other products that help making transactions cheaply and securely and may also provide the potential for creating new financial products. Yet skeptics still steer clear, despite the tremendous benefits that the Bitcoin platform could potentially bring. These behave just like the Luddites, the English industry workers that during the first decades of the 1800s used to destroyed machinery, particularly the one used in cotton and woolen mills, fearful that these kinds of machinery would take over the jobs they were doing, making them redundant.
How To Make The Platforms “Work For Us”
But what is the point of this discourse? Well, we need to adopt and integrate new platforms into our approaches for doing business, rather than just assume they are passing fads. They may in some cases be fads, and it is pointed out that 50% of jobs that exist today will not even be around in a decade’s time. Yet these are the models and platforms that are effective at reaching and interacting with customers right now, so they cannot be ignored. The only way to succeed is to take these platforms and technologies by the horns and make them work for us. Failing to plan to do so could mean planning to fail.
There’s a lesson in there not just for companies but also for individuals. Keeping up to date on the new platforms and understanding how they work can help to provide vital career skills, critical to competitive advantage in a difficult job market. Granted those platforms may have evolved to something new altogether in ten years’ time, and so this means it will be a lot of work. But gone are the days when people got a job in an organisation and learned a few skills and then used those skills to move upwards. The speed of change is tremendous and we have to learn to move with it, or get cast aside. The moral of the story is that we need to keep up to speed on emerging new platforms. The sooner you start doing this the better it will be for you.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.