Three years ago, Business Week published a cover story predicting that blogs would change your business. This week they have followed-up with a piece showing how quickly and how far things have moved since then: Beyond Blogs.
In the original article, Business Week marvelled how in a world where you could set up an account and be posting your ideas to the world in less than ten minutes, companies needed to stay on top of the rise in blogging. “Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out,” the article warned, so business should “Catch up…or catch you later.”
Revisit that article three years later, Business Week sees that they missed something they couldn’t predict. After all only a quarter of the US population even reads a blog once a month. Their spread has been less prolific than the growth of social networks which people now use to share information. New applications and sites appear each week targetting a specific or more wide-ranging part of the population. Only a few people actually want to blog; many more want to use these new tools to stay in touch, share content and forge relationships.
It is these social connectors, and not just blogs, that are having the biggest impact on companies.
Millions of us are now hanging out on the Internet with customers, befriending rivals, clicking through pictures of our boss at a barbecue, or seeing what she read at the beach. It’s as if the walls around our companies are vanishing and old org charts are lying on their sides.
As Business Week points out, this is worrying for companies – they worry about lack of control. But there is a significant upside to this proliferation of social connectors. Collaboration, the ability to work together and talk together about issues, being able to watch what people discuss and get direct feedback from customers. Social media and social networks are truly changing the way that companies behave, inside and outside. BT use wikis for all internal projects – allowing people across the business (and across the world) to work in the same space on a new piece of code, a new marketing strategy or a map of mobile stations. And it’s well reported that P&G uses online social networks and online communities to develop and to test new product concepts and designs.
The tools that companies have to make the most of social media are changing, and Business Week think that they are now the future. I have to agree. In part. I think there is a real value to blogging as part of the social media toolkit that a company employs. But it can’t exist in isolation and needs to be just one element of a strategy to make the most of the emerging and growing opportunities that social media offers.