Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Power to the People: Flipping Your Business Communications Polarity

As enter into 2010 we are going through a huge revolution in how "business communications" affect "business productivity". The changes happening in this revolution will empower people (your customers and your employees) more than ever before and fundamentally  change how your company does business. 

The biggest and most visible reason for this is the Social Media/Social Networking explosion and it's effects on how employees of your business interact with their coworkers and also with your customers, vendors and partners. Before the internet, business communications consisted mainly of telephone calls, mailed letters and traditional paper, radio or TV advertising. The internet added email and 'web-pages with mostly static content' to that mix. These changes increased the speed of communications but not it's fundamental nature. So the core model for businesses communications, and business organization, remained mostly the same. People still made phone calls, sent mail(email) and published content for customers (advertising and manuals on webpages). 

But recently, something new is happening that is going to be much more disruptive to the model for business communications and business operations. That something is the rise of "Realtime Social Media" communications with social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a hundred other niche social networks designed to serve specific communities. This change is something calls "The State of NOW"

Take a moment and watch this short, stunning YouTube video on Social Media, and you'll see just how important it is that your business recognizes this fundamental change. 

This "State of now" model brought on by realtime Social Media solutions is highly disruptive to the way you will do business. Instead of just enhancing the old model of what "critical business communications" looks like, Social Media is turning the old model on it's head. Instead of the most critical communications happening inside your business and flowing from the top your business down through the organization and out to the customers, the flow is reversing directions. The most critical communications for your business are now happening out in the customer communities on social networks like Twitter and other targeted specialized networks.  

Conversations about your business and it's products in these forums can have large and immediate influences on the purchasing behaviors of other customers of your business. This makes it critical that your business monitor these conversations in realtime and engage in them. Your business needs to be in that social network in order to help or clarify or balance that conversation about your brand and products so that those conversations don't result in lost business. 

Then after engaging in the conversation, the "State of Now" information you gather on your brand/products must efficiently flow back toward the top of your business so it can be acted on by company leadership. This critical "State of Now" information is naturally gathered in lower levels of the business hierarchy by "in the trenches" employees assigned to focus on social media. In the future that will not only be people you think of as "customer service" or "contact center agents". It will include every employee in your business because they all will have access to and engagement in social networks.

This "bottom up" versus "top down" polarity change in the model of enterprise communication flow and teaming is possibly larger and more disruptive than all the changes in the fundamentals of business communication that happened in the entire 20th century. What's stunning is these changes have happened mostly in the short span of 2000 to 2010, with the majority happening just in the past 4 years!When you combine these recent Social Media-based changes in how people interact and communicate with other cultural changes in the enterprise work culture (e.g., high employee turnover, multiple B2B partnerships, distributed "virtual" workforces, reduced workforces, rapid changes in market requirements, etc), the result is a near complete change in the old model of medium/large enterprise communication and productivity.

If your business is going to survive and thrive through this "Power to the People" Revolution you need to recognize this change and act on it. Flip your Communication Polarity from the top-down model that dictates to employees and customers to the new bottom-up model.  It's time your business starts living, working breathing and succeeding in "The State of Now".
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