From Social Media to Social Business

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Two ongoing events have forever changed how I look at the world.

The first event happened 4 years ago when I became a father. No, I’m not talking about the immense love I felt and how it continues to grow. Or my role as a parent, husband, father, etc. That’s for a different blog post. Or novel. This little girl changed so much in me because I see her growing up with technology. While I had 3 TV channels for entertainment until I was 18, she doesn’t know the difference between TV, DVD, Video, YouTube. She just knows screens. Small screens. Large screens. Screens you can hold in your hand. Screens you can touch and do funny stuff with. Every time I spend time with her, I feel like a futuristic anthropologist: I discover how a new species of people learns to utilize technology and how it will change everything we’re doing in this world.

The other ongoing event happened on September 15, 2008- the day Lehman filed for bankruptcy. That’s the day when the consumer economy started to die. Nope, it’s not dead yet but the heartbeats are getting slower and the breathing becomes shallower. And one day we will look at the corpse of the consumption economy, kick it one last time and walk away.

Being involved in the Social Media world for the last few years has been an amazing experience. But also one that has been quite frustrating and unfulfilling. Because Social Media is often just a band-aid. These times ask for life-saving measures: Businesses are in trouble. People are in trouble. The whole world is in trouble. Social Media helped to get Obama elected. But no Social Media initiative will change how the government works, how the Senate interacts with the House. You can create billions of Facebook pages about your brand but it will not change how alienated people feel interacting with the same, offshored brand ambassador, ¬†reading from a script. And Twitter might help sell Dell $3 million but it doesn’t help solving the e-Waste problem all of us (and Dell) are creating each and every day.

We don’t experience a cyclical recession We’re experiencing a systemic recession. If this was just a cyclical recession, we could hire an advertising/PR/DM/Social Marketing agency and they would put together an amazing campaign, we would soon forget and just continue to consume. A normal recession is like a forest fire: it gets rid of the old plants and trees and makes way for new growth. This time it’s different. This recession has destroyed the foundation of our capitalistic society, rattled our belief in free capitalism and changed our behavior forever. This was (and still is) like a devastating tsunami that destroys everything in its path, leaving an empty field behind. It’s terrible and it hurts many people. And it’s the greatest opportunity of our lifetime.

Changing the mindset of businesses (and the government is the biggest of them all) from a supply chain mentality to a value chain mentality will be the legacy of our lifetime. Value has to be created, formed and shaped by people and businesses. And this value has to be created through transparency and conversations between business, suppliers, customers and everyone else involved in the value chain. Basically, applying Social Media principles to business practices. And transforming the business from the inside out. Not just applying the Social Media band-aid. This is how governments will become more transparent. And change for the better. This is how we’re going to build valuable products that enhance our life, our world, our environment. This is how our education system will become more effective, allow for more individual attention. And this is how we’re going to change the world.

And, there are many others out there that work on these solutions. Like Peter Kim, Doc Searls and his Project VRM,  David Armano, Umair Haque, Lawrence Lessig, Kate Niederhoffer, just to name a few. We need many, many more. And not only marketers. We need anthropologists, medical professionals, sociologists, therapists, artists Рyou name it. The last thing we want is Wall Street or Madison Avenue being the only ones involved. I would call that the biggest waste of our lifetime.

When I grew up, I wanted to change the world. Make a real difference. And when I observe my little kid, ¬†finding her way through this wondrous thing we call life, I’m reminded and energized by my innocent wish to make this world a better place. Thriving businesses in the future will give people chances to be creators not just consumers. They will give them real control and not just a comment box on a corporate blog. And they will make our lives better. One social business at a time.

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