Useless artificial divisions

I’m increasingly of the belief that trying to split social media into ‘internal’ and ‘external’ uses is a totally pointless waste of time. Equally I hear people talking about B2B and B2C social media case studies as if they are somehow different, but they really aren’t. These are shallow, superficial divisions that have no basis in reality.

Social media is about people forming relationships with each other. The tools they use are irrelevant. The context is irrelevant. This is about people, whether they are colleagues, customers, clients or vendors. It’s not the what, it’s the who.

Creating these social media silos of marketing and internal communications and B2B and B2C just seem to me to be doing the very thing that social media is often used to combat: putting up walls between different groups of people who are doing very similar things and who could do with talking to each other once in a while. Frankly, I think a lot of the really focused social media types, who zoom in on one tiny application of social tools, could do with getting out a bit more. And the people who focus on using social media for marketing, rejecting the idea that they might actually gain something from using the tools between themselves, are idiots.

We don’t need social media to turn into just another branch of marketing, or just another thing done by internal comms teams, or something that customer-facing companies do but B2B companies don’t. Start thinking like that and we’ll end up with the very sort of blinkered stupidity we’re already struggling to combat. Letting social media become what we’re trying to replace would be, to put it mildly, dumb.

Instead, why don’t we just accept that social media is rather like a hammer: you can use a hammer to build a garden shed or the Taj Mahal, but at the end of the day you’re still using it to hit a nail. Social media can be used to build a garden shed or the Taj Mahal, but at the end of the day you’re still using it to build relationships with people. I’d rather see businesses set up a separate Social Media Department populated by people steeped in social media culture who then helped everyone else in the company, regardless of who they are or where they sit, get the best out of social tools than see it eaten up by marketeers or managers who want to turn it into something safe, comfortable, familiar and vapid.

Let’s face it, most companies need to be shaken up a bit. Internal business cultures often suck, based on command-and-control and he-who-shouts-loudest-wins. A lot of marketing is just brainless drivel based on an out-of-date assumption that we’re all passive consumers just waiting to absorb your ‘message’. Social media can humanise all aspects of business, empowering any and all individuals touched by the company, whether employees or customers or just idle bystanders. But not if we let ourselves get caught up in these artificial divisions, cutting ourselves off from the wide variety of ideas that could so easily inspire our thinking.

I know this blog is called The Social Enterprise, but it is in fact this name which has lead me to writing this post. I sometimes worry that what I’m writing isn’t ‘enterprisey’ enough, but I’m not even sure that ‘enterprise’ has a meaning relevant in the context of social media. Does it matter if you’re a multinational or an SME when you’re trying to improve collaboration? No. What matters is that you understand how collaboration works, how people function, how social tools fit into that landscape. The underlying concepts and constructs are the same in both contexts. How people work is the same in all contexts.

I suspect that this splintering of social media comes less from intrinsic differences and more from the way that existing powermongers re-interpret social media through their own lenses, attempting to remake it in their own image so that they can control – i.e. defang and declaw – and own the change, whilst not really caring whether the change is genuine or meaningful. Social media therefore becomes a tool in the constant game of empire-building, either as a prize to be squabbled over or a stick to beat others with.

So I’m calling time on these pointless divisions. It’s all about social media and people. Fin.

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