Toss Your Dusty Rulebooks. It’s The Social Age Now!

Note: This post comes from Ted Coiné, Chief Relationship Officer of Meddle.It and Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer. He and Mark Babbitt, CEO and founder of YouTern, President of Switch & Shift and a co-founder of ForwardHeroes.org, will be our guests on the first #TChat Show of 2015, from 7-8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, January 7.

In the Industrial Age, companies spoke with one voice – one highly scripted, polished, carefully crafted, and often really-hard-to-believe voice.

  • The marketing department told consumers how great a brand’s products were for them, and consumers were expected to “buy it” – literally and figuratively. What choice did they have? There was no truer message out there.
  • Scandal? PR, Legal, and Investor Relations would all gather to spin the company’s response … and with enough skill and a bit of luck, the public might just buy that, too. Again, choices were limited: the message outsiders believed often came down to who stuck with the script the longest, the company or the media. Renewed fighting in the Middle East? Plane crash? Celebrity divorce? The media would often move on, saving an unethical corporation’s butt.
  • Corporate recruiters told applicants how wonderful their company was, and as with slick ad campaigns and media damage control, job seekers had little option but to believe and hope for the best.

By the start of the Twenty-First Century, we consumers …and investors …and recruits, were all pretty jaded: we’d had 40 years of Vietnams and Watergates and Ivan Boeskys and Enrons. Like it or not, we had largely grown up.

But we still lacked a way to completely tune out the corporate messaging, to uncover the truth behind the slick veneer for ourselves, with the help of others from across the globe, across educational and economic classes, across generations and ethnicities … and any other impediment that used to keep us apart.

Then along came social, and none of us has bothered looking back. Suddenly, the power had completely shifted.

  • Want to know if a restaurant’s any good? Your peers on Yelp will tell you.
  • Looking for a good plumber or doctor? Angie’s List can help.
  • Trying to pick a movie? Rotten Tomatoes is an invaluable tool, or if we have kids, Common Sense Media gives great advice on age appropriateness.
  • Want just the right book for that special someone’s birthday? Read some Amazon reviews.
  • Looking to buy pretty much anything under the sun? We can read blog posts written by people just like us who have experience with the product or service we might want to buy, and read comments by others who also have experience.
  • Looking for a new employer? Glassdoor isn’t perfect, but it sure beats the Industrial Age alternative, which was asking a few friends, hoping one of their nephew’s frat brothers worked there for a short time five years ago.
  • For any of these questions, we can also ask our connections, friends, and followers on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

The fact is that today, less than six years into the Social Age, every single aspect of how we humans perceive and interact with organizations has changed. Utterly and irrevocably changed.

This Social Age we’re in is as monumentally different from the Industrial Age we grew up with as that was from the Agricultural Age before it. Farm to factory changed everything. Industrial to Social is no smaller a transformation.

Where once CEOs spoke to employees through layers of management, and the public through a PR professional, today’s leaders are expected to participate in internal organizational discussion via the firm’s collaboration tool, and they’re also increasingly expected to have their own social presence with the rest of the world as well.

Where once companies kept to themselves and innovated via small, well-funded R&D departments, Social Age firms are tapping the limitless genius available to them via their employees’ connections or through firms such as Innocentive, which runs contests to crowdsource invention.

Nothing is the same in the Social Age. Nothing. Wise leaders have already figured that out. The rest of us need to, before it’s too late.

I’ve been obsessed with this transformation for the past five years now. What started as a hunch and a few exploratory blog posts turned into countless hours of interviews, reading, trend watching, and ultimately collaboration with my co-author, Mark Babbitt. All of this turned into a book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, published this past September.

Our intent was never to write yet another “how-to” book on the tactics of an effective Facebook marketing campaign. There are already hundreds of such books, and many of those are surely better than we could have written anyway.

Rather, A World Gone Social is a leadership guide, written to explore how to steer a successful company in this completely new and continually changing world we now live and do business in.

  • What do we do when consumers aren’t even listening to our carefully crafted, really-hard-to-believe messages anymore, because they’re asking each other instead?
  • What do we do when scandals simply refuse to go away, because even if the traditional media has A.D.D. and is on to the next thing, someone we’ve wronged started a petition on Change.org that keeps picking up speed?
  • What do we do when our recruiters are being laughed at or – worse yet – ignored altogether (and we likely don’t even know), because the savviest recruits are gathering peer insight with unprecedented ease?
  • How do we turn our executives from Industrial Age dinosaurs into Blue Unicorns, or truly social leaders?
  • How do we leverage the OPEN circles of our employee advocates? Because they may be Ordinary People (as we all are in some ways), they each potentially have an Extraordinary Network.
  • How do we magnify the power of our small marketing team by unleashing the experience and insight of every employee through quick and impactful content marketing?

On January 7 at 7 pm ET, we’ll be discussing these questions and more on TChat Radio and via Twitter on Talent Culture’s first #TChat of 2015! Mark and I are eager to join hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman for what promises to be a fascinating exploration into the new rules of business in a world gone social. We hope you can join us!

About the Author: Ted Coiné is Chief Relationship Officer of Meddle.it, the next generation content marketing tool for organizations and individuals. He is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership gave Ted a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt.

photo credit: othree via photopin cc>

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