Now I am told I am smart for TWEETING. Is this possible or am I mistaken?
Let me tell you a story to illustrate my point.
Some seven years ago my good friend and colleague, Leon Benjamin, and I (both skint refugees of the dot com crash) got very interested in the way open source would transform companies, their relationships with one another, and their relationships with customers. In various coffee shops and bars around London, snatched between train departure and arrivals, Leon explained XML to me, the implications of “web services” based on open APIs , and the powers of syndication and Software as a Service etc. We actually anticipated the day in travel when “everyone could be an intermediary” and when the customer would finally assume control.
Of course, we weren’t smart enough to know how that would happen exactly nor technologically savvy or rich enough to create the solutions, but we did see the direction things were going as outlined here (Dancing with the Customer); or in our paper Why Web Services Will Turn the Travel Industry on Its Head here); and here. Leon even wrote a book on it called Winning By Sharing and I contributed the Epilogue, available here
“CRM” was all the range at the time – companies actually believed that precious relationships with customers could be “managed” with the same sterile efficiency as they managed the assembly line. Millions were being spent on enterprise systems that enabled large inaccessible corporates to pretend to care about individual customers by personalizing their otherwise impersonal and often irrelevant direct mail. It didn’t work then and little changed since. The marketplace remained a battleground (lthanks Julie!) in which companies fought for market share and treated their customers as targets to be fought over.
I was reminded of this when asked to speak last week to a UNICOM event titled: Engaging the Customer with Social Media: Getting It right. (My observations here and Twitter chatter: #ECSM)
While CRM has been replaced by a literal kaleidoscope of Social Media tools (Thanks Brian Sollis!), the enthusiasm for all things labeled 2.0 has delayed real investigation into the suitability of most corporate structures and cultures to handle this tectonic shift in the underlying power of production and consumption.
At UNICOM last week, I got a chance to test the relevance of some old ideas to a contemporary audience. My proposition is a simple one. The rise of social media is a symptom not the cause of a revolution. That revolution relates not to the theoretical market capitalization of Facebook but to our collective mindset turning upside down. The unprecedented pace of social media’s diffusion reflects a convergence of technology and perception – we no longer see the planet as a mechanical object but as a living organization or community whose every member is connected at a sub atomic level. The universe is not a machine but a network operating more like a hive of activity as we swarm around whatever we find attractive. Our TWEETS are no more than the signals exchanged between bats, the wiggle of a bee’s behind or the smell of an ant’s pheromones. If you get this, you'll understand what Social Media is really all about....
So who cares whether we Facebook or MySpace; Google or Bing; Tweet or Friendfeed, Powerpoint or Prezi? This not the pressing issue. No, our attention and our creativity need to be applied to imagining how we can continue to live fulfilling, happy lives without destroying our planet, exploiting the poor, gaining weight, becoming asthmatic / diabetic, or chronically unemployed?
Surely the thousands of brains currently dreaming up innocuous apps for the iPhone or irrelevant tools that begin with the letters “TW” could be put to better use?
The act of TWEETING or TWITTERING proves that we’re all connected and inter-dependent. We live on one life raft and supplies of clean air, water, food and fuel are running out. If we were ants and the colony were threated, we'd all be working furiously together to repair the defences instead of sharpening up our pheromones. So please could some of those smart arses inventing all these “cool apps” stop sweating the small stuff and prove we’re not TWITS?
The master of the universe called 2.0, Tim O'Reilly, thankfully wrote something similar a while back. His more profound piece called Work on Stuff That Matters is potentially more potent because of his status -but if we're going to spend our lives tweeting can we not sound like the canaries cheeping in the mine....