Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Social media and culture

Posted on | March 5, 2009 | 1 Comment

You remember that old joke?

Q: What’s the difference between yogurt and (pick your least-favorite person, organization, country etc.)….?

A: Yogurt has culture

Organizations and agencies have culture too, but in many cases it’s killing them in the age of social media.

There it is: barrelling down the road, and so many companies and agencies are like deer in the headlights. They refused to move out of fear or the cultural belief that it’s a fad.

My friend Mike Spataro at Visible Technologies frequently likens the situation in 2009 to the late 1990s, when many companies and agencies looked at the emerging Internet as a fad. This too shall pass. NOT.

It’s gotten to the point where many the immobile are imperiling their businesses. People, as consumers of information, are inherently adaptable. If their traditional information source (let’s say print) dies, they will immediately find other sources; immediately, because information is oxygen.

In the time it takes a company/agency communicators to mourn the death of their favorite media titles, their target audience is already up, running and playing around with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed etc. And in many cases, dear communicator, they’ve moved on from you, often for good.

In the electronics industry, where I spent much of the past two decades, it was ironic that the engineering companies that ENABLED the Internet were the trailing adopters of its wonders. When social media came along, the same lag time occurred. But today, engineers are finding their voice in blogs and on Twitter. This week a Twitter group dedicated to the upcoming Embedded Systems Conference sprouted up. And there are Twitter hash tags for all things embedded as well: #embed, #embedsys, #embedded. Whoda thunk it? ESC even has a Twitter feed. Kudos to my old friends for that. Is every semiconductor and EDA company hip to this and taking advantage of it? I think not. At least yet.

Just as I was appreciating this Twitter tango, Deirdre Walsh followed me on Twitter. She’s the community and social media manager for National Instruments, which has a unique culture in the electronics space. It’s the first time I’ve seen in the electronics sector what I’ve been preaching from this pulpit for some time now: real social media seriousness and culture change. Kudos to Deidre, Jennifer and the rest of the able crew at NI for walking the talk. You’ve created a dream job for a lotta folks

There are two types of companies, the quick and the dead. And given the economic circumstances we find ourselves in, those who don’t embrace change will shortly be, um, not quick.

PR agencies are just as challenged as corporations. It’s hard to change a decades-old culture of smile-and-dial. People are willing because they understand the direness of their situation, but so much about bringing value to social media lies in not just recommending programs, but helping implement them (whether that’s constructing sites or blogs or producing videos), monitoring the subsequent conversations and then revising as needed. This is a tough mindset to adopt.

Still, you have to start somewhere, and Tom Foremski at ZDNet nailed it with his post last week: You can’t advise about social media if you don’t use it.

Lots of junior PR pros have gravitated in the past nine months to Twitter, but senior managers who make the decisions aren’t so numerous there. The kids are driving cars, and their parents are still in their horse and buggies.

Sure, things take time. But we don’t have a lot of time these days. Things move a lot faster today, faster than they did even 10 years ago.

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One Response to “Social media and culture”

  1. brandguardian (Jo Porritt)
    October 15th, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

    Twitter Comment

    Social media and culture – [link to post]

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