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Many companies lately come to the conclusion, that they have to do something about this social web thingy. But when I listen to the discussions, I feel like traveling back in time to the end of the last millenium, when everybody thought the web (release 1.0 at that time) was the way to print money. The news is: it wasn't back then and it isn't now either.
For two reasons I think this time it is even worse!
1. For many companies it isn't at all clear, what they are trying to achieve.
And as we all know from our last motivational training: If you don't have a goal, it is difficult to reach it. So what are viable goals in the social web world?
- Better customer service
- Better internal communication
- Higher employee satisfaction
- Higher customer loyality
- Higher visibility
- Utilize the long tail
- Higher sales
These are attractive goals, and each might get supported by leveraging web2.0 technology. But all the web2.0 stuff is just tooling. Which brings me to the second, more important point:
2. Many companies have to change a lot in order to become web 2.0 compatible:
- If a customer says it's broken, it's broken. Web2.0 is all about communication. One partner of communication is the customer. But if you do not intend to listen to what the customer says you might as well stop right now.
- If you want your employees to communicate, start by listening to them. Blogs seem to become popular communication tools for some managers, trying to communicate with their employees. But if you want your blog to be read you either need to get involved in the discussion in the comments, or you must write something that really is interesting for the readers. For both you must listen to the other side of the communication channel.
- If you want motivated employees, don't give them the feeling, they are walking problems which you will get replaced by a piece of software as soon as possible. You would never do that? Great. Unfortunatly I have seen exactly that just to often. Processes requiring to write 200page documents, which get reviewed, corrected, approved and ignored. Organizational structures where a bright idea has less chances for growth then a snowflake in hell.
- If you want your customer to be loyal, you'll have to give them a reason. A great blog is cool. Intersting tweets? Nice! But customers need products and services in order to become customers. And if products and services suck, the customers will notice and take the money somewhere else.
- Nobody works for free, including the authors at wikipedia. The impression that the authors of wikipedia work for free is a wiede spread illusion. They might not take money for their time. But they take pride in their work. If you are used to consider the employees of your companies as little more then slaves, you are heading for trouble with 'the community'.
- Great products and great marketing still needs a lot of work. Just because you use Twitter for listening to your customer complaints, just because you use a blog to tell your customers about the features of your new product, just because the documentation has the form of a wiki, doesn't mean there goes less work into it. Quite the opposite. Office times don't exist on twitter.
If one point or the other matches the situation at your company, what are you gonna do? Forget about web2.0? Hell no, just embrace the change, because web2.0 will affect your company, better be ready for it.
By the way: For the readers wondering, why I am addressing them as if they where the manager of their own company. I am convinced that in a company that is ready to embrace web2.0 YOU are just as important as the management.