Tag Archives: Social business

Should you use your personal Twitter account when starting a business?

A friend of mine has set up a new business. It’s a modest operation at present and he’s the only employee. Should he create a new Twitter identity specifically for the business or should he switch the direction of his existing personal Twitter account?

My advice: stick to the identity you’ve got. Key reasons:

1. Time. It’s going to take twice as much out of your day to manage two (or more) accounts – coming up with “original content” for second (or even third and fourth) feeds can be taxing 😉

2. If your business identity is closely aligned with your personality and values (as, in this day and age, it should) then you might as well be one and the same account, rather than “pretend” to be two completely separate identities.

3. If you’d like your business account to be along the lines of friendly, irreverent, informal but useful (and you’d be living in the last century if you didn’t), then you might as well keep it as the (hopefully) loveable person you already are, rather than struggling to find an informal “voice” as a non-human entity.

4. Yes, you may well loose some followers if you bang on about your business, but if your followers generally like you and you inject a reasonable amount of humour into things, any you loose will be those of least value to you.

5. If you want to be transparent and open in your business (as we all do, right?), then Tweeting as your self rather than a third party really makes the most sense.

Photo credit: Saaam


It’s all in the mind

Bronin Bough from PepsiCo talks about how social media has transformed the way his company thinks (not only individuals). PepsiCo’s new mission is to do more good in the world (yes, really)!

Bronin was speaking at Social Media Influence 2010. See the live blog report (over on iKnowHow) for details of his talk (plus the low-down on many other speakers at the conference).

All hail the pancake!

The other presentation that inspired me at The Web and Beyond was by Josephine Green. Her proposal is simple: we are moving from an age dominated by pyramids to one made up of pancakes.

In the social media and business spheres, this sort of talk has been going on for some time – corporate hierarchies are part of the old industrial age; flatter, collaborative, structures are more effective etc.

What was great about Josephine’s talk (and she’s a professor of history so knows her stuff), was the way in which she drew everything into her argument: climate change, finite resources, changing social expectations, emergent human behaviours…

The “techno-market” age is behind us, Josephine says: we are now entering the “socio-ecological” era. As an example of this change in focus, she cited her old employer, Philips, which has re-branded itself from a consumer electronics company to a “health and wellness” specialist.

And if any of us are in any doubt as to what we (like Philips) can do to make the most of this apparently unprecedented opportunity, Josephine quotes Ghandi: “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

Amen to that.

Pancakes: Kevandem

It’s not about the elves!

I read Doug Rushkoff’s Cyberia back in 1992 and loved it. Rushkoff is great at weaving a load of cultural trends together and coming up with a seductive bigger picture. In the early 1990s it was cyber-culture, house music and “smart” drugs; today he’s moved on to business, post-capitalism and social media.

These are my notes from his talk at the Social Business Summit in Austin (Texas) last month. Rushkoff begins with a gentle ramble about Feudalism and the Middle Ages and then moves on to a humourous deconstruction of everything that’s wrong with a classic, textbook business today. A compelling argument (even if you don’t agree with everything he says)! 

  1. In the late Middle Ages, people had lived under feudalism for 100s of years; people began trading using their own currencies; trade boomed; towns got so rich, people started building cathedrals just to have somewhere to store their wealth.
  2. This was a problem for the aristocracy; they wanted to continue making money from being rich and doing nothing. So they outlawed local currencies. They said you have to use centralized currency – you have to borrow our money in order to do business and pay it back with interest: this was Centralised Banking: the “coin of the realm”.
  3. The second thing the aristocracy came up with was centralized monopolies: they approached businesses and said I’ll give you a license to be the only business in this market if you pay me 10-20 per cent. If you are a monopoly, your only purpose is to extract the most value from what you do. This was really bad for specialization and skill because if a factory owner wants to make more money, and s/he has a monopoly, then s/he is only interested in hiring [expendable] labour at the lowest possible cost.
  4. So, the industrial age was not necessarily about doing things better, it was about doing things more efficiently in a very particular type of economy.
  5. Mass media/ advertising/ marketing was all about promoting brand images (eg, the quaker from Quaker Oats) that become more powerful than the images/ stories of the craftspeople next door. It was a commodified relationship. This is not evil. It’s just the way things went.
  6. Once you de-socialise in one area of your life, you start de-socialising in others (because you’re embarrassed to go to the local PTA with the lady who runs the local pharmacy because you’ve stopped buying your drugs from her and now buy them from Walmart). All this is dehumanizing. And competencies decrease because the branding is the only differentiator (“Oh, we buy these [Keebler] cookies because they’re made by elves”).
  7. Go to Harvard Business School and they’re still teaching the Jack Welch style of business which is basic Renaissance Corporatism: take everything you actually do and understand that if you’re actually doing something you’re not making as much money as you would if you sold that off and got up a level closer to the bank. Anyone who’s actually working? That’s inefficient. Welch looked at GE and said “Let’s sell off anyone who’s actually doing something. So we can get away from this manufacturing of stuff and materials and competencies. Let’s become capital. Let’s become the bank, because the whole game was built for the bank”.
  8. The net broke this. The net killed brands by leading to a non-fiction media space. It allowed people to deconstruct brands from the images. Keebler is no longer elves. It’s a place where people make cookies. The net broke the oligarchy-led, bank-driven, economic growth model. You don’t need massive infusions of centralized cash to run a business. That’s what happened with the crash. The banks needed somewhere to put their money. They tried dotcoms and they didn’t need all that money – so they put it into real estate – and look what happened!
  9. Facebook is a brilliant exercise in “How far can I reduce people’s sense of who they are to a consumer profile?” We went from wacky web pages to Myspace (which is kind of modular web pages) to radio buttons (Facebook), which is “I’m straight and married”. But real “social” is not about marketing. It’s about re-connecting the people who actually care about the industry you think you’re in. Reconnecting consumers to fans to employees to management to shareholders to partners.
  10. Your competitors are no longer your competitors in a social media space. They are fellow stakeholders in the industry that you all care about: the thing that you do. Imagine you’re in the lemonade industy: you don’t care if he came up with a better lemonade idea – that’s great! You can use it too. Here’s my idea: let’s talk! The distinctions don’t matter when the thing you do is the thing that you do.
  11. Most people still don’t do the thing they do. They outsource the thing to someone else and do the banking and marketing of it. They don’t do the thing. If you don’t do the thing that you do, do not get involved in social media. It will kill you. You want to be transparent? Then there has to be something inside. You can’t be social, you can’t become transparent if you’re just going to show that you’re a bunch of paper pushers using some Chinese outsourced something.
  12. Moving into social means becoming dedicated to the expertise, the culture and the intelligence of whatever your sector is. You don’t have a chartered monopoly any more so your competitive advantage is going to be actually tied into your ability. And the good news is we’re finally in an environment when your ability can be communicated directly. That is the new story for a social media area. It’s not about the elves. For Kentucky Fried Chicken it’s the chicken crust, it’s not Colonel Saunders. It’s your nerds, your R and D, your bizarre, passionate geeks. And the management is there to protect those people. And your most ardent fans are the people trying to get to work in your company.
  13. Instead of being an advertiser led/ brand challenge, it’s a different kind of communications challenge: it’s applied memetics: what do people hear when you talk about the thing you do. It’s truthful. It’s not fantasy. But your truth has got to be good. Use social to message the truth.
  14. Most companies are still afraid of it (social media) because there’s this sense that they don’t actually do anything. If you want to introduce social media within a company, first you’ve got to convince management that what they’re doing is actually good. Or (and this is harder), if they don’t already do anything then you actually have to get them to do something good.
  15. We are no longer in the universe of messaging and marketing, we are in the universe of doing.

Coming up roses?

I like the analogy from Mark Raskino at Gartner who says that we should compare organisational IT to gardening – rather than architecture or engineering (both of which suggest some kind of permanence and rigidity).

“IT won’t remain orderly,” says Raskino, quoted in the Financial Times. “Architecture gives you one insight but if you leave IT it gets out of shape very fast. It is more an organic thing that needs constant renewal and refresh.”

And tender loving care, of course. 

The same FT article talks about a “guerilla” approach from PA consulting whereby teams are parachuted into companies work on specific IT issues – but won’t touch a problem if they think it’ll take more than three months to solve.

Ah yes, guerilla gardening.

That reminds me of a great post I read a while back which likens guerilla gardening projects to the hackability and open source movements. I love this idea and wanted to incorporate it into Monkeys but time constraints got the better of me.

There’s always this blog, though 🙂





Yesterday I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion on the future of business ecosystems at the SOMESSO/ Headshift Social Media Summit in London.

The summit had a brave, experimental format. The day kicked off with just two slide-free keynotes (Jeff Dachis and JP Rangaswami) – intended to inspire and set the scene for the hard work to come!

After a quick cup of coffee, the 100 or so delegates split into three streams or discussion groups: internal, external and “ecosystem”. The idea was to discuss, analyse and build upon a handful of social business case studies, the case studies representing breakthroughs in either internal communications, external communications/ marketing or a hybrid of both (ie: ecosystem).

Sounds simple enough, right? Heh. That’s before you start deconstructing.

I was excited about the ecosystem concept because I talk about it a lot in Monkeys, essentially in terms of asking what happens when you compare the business world to a biological ecosystem, ala Marco Iansiti and Roy Levien in The Keystone Advantage.

Needless to say, “ecosystem” turned out to be a rather troublesome, hard-to-define and contentious heading. As the third and most “hybrid” of the three streams it was inferred that we should come up with approaches which integrated internal and external comms in some way, however the end result was more “other”.

While some of our group preferred to look at ecosystem in terms of supply chain, others wanted to focus on social entrepreneurship and environmental impact. Then there was me, stuck with the image of some kind of galactic aquarium.

I’ll post a fuller summary of our discussion, with key points, over on the [longer format] iKnowHow blog next week.

Photo credit: Carol Sawada

Show me the money!

Earlier this week at the Social Media World Forum, David Terrar was asking if any of us could name one company with a co-ordinated, coherent, holistic “social” approach to corporate communications.

Zappos? Cisco? Dell, maybe? A German bank that David mentioned… [NB: There are also examples like WL Gore – companies that are “social in essence”]

The problem came up again yesterday at the SOMESSO/ Headshift Social Business Summit: where are the fully-integrated case studies?

A central plank of 90:10, David Cushman’s new project, is investing in new, social, businesses. Such a great idea!

I wish 90:10 all the best. And I’d love to hear more about any other investors dedicated to backing social start-ups.

Lord knows, we need them.

Here’s to us: the pioneers!

We’re constantly hearing about the ‘Net generation, digital natives and web-savvy teenagers. There’s wistfulness and a touch of envy as we talk about young people’s ability to deal competently with all sorts of techno-gadgets, and to move with apparent ease between online and offline worlds.

The under ‘30s, we’re frequently told, take to digital technology like ducks to water, free of the inhibitions and hang ups their parents, grandparents and older siblings might have. They are born with digital technology in their DNA while we, the older generation, are doomed to sit awkwardly on the sidelines. The young, it’s implied, represent funky, state-of-the-art new builds while we are the dated Victorian terrace house – charming, perhaps, but decidedly quaint, and in need of some serious retro-fitting.

But Xers and Baby Boomers have something no other generations can have. We sit on the cusp. We remember what it was like to communicate without mobile phones, to carry out research without the internet and to sustain friendships without social networks. Like Elizabethan courtiers experiencing their first taste of sugar, we are able to truly appreciate the miracle we have at our fingertips.

On Computer Weekly’s Social Enterprise blog, Suw Charman-Anderson warns businesses against the perils of focusing too much on the younger generation while “ignor[ing] the vast pool of older tech-literate people who have grown up with the technology and who understand it in their bones.”

I agree – the older generations have a special something: we are the pioneers and no-one can ever take that from us. And we continue to forge new frontiers every day.

Photo credit: Christian Davies