When news of the telephone reached England over one hundred years ago, the chief engineer of the Post Office was asked whether this new invention would be of any practical value. He gave the reply: “No, sir. The Americans have need of the telephone — but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys”.
Fast forward nearly a century and a half, and the internet has fundamentally altered the way we interact with people across the globe. The social media evolution we’re now witnessing in communication has given us the opportunity to participate in the largest experiment the world has ever seen – the chance to engage, collaborate and innovate with our customers in a virtual space.
However today’s companies are split between the Alexander Bells and the chief engineers of this world – whether we have the foresight to embrace these new communication channels and harness them for the benefit of our businesses, or simply believe that what we’ve got used to doing is enough.
That’s not to say that social media is some kind of silver bullet, to quote Avinash Kaushik, Analytic Evangelist at Google, it’s “like teen sex. Everyone wants to do it. Nobody knows how. When it’s finally done there is a surprise it’s not better”. We’re not even close to fully understanding what impact it’s going to have on the way we work in the future, but that doesn’t mean this is a channel we can safely ignore.
Social media does have the potential to alter the very fabric of the way we interact with our customers, develop our products, expand into new markets, and attract potential clients. We are starting to make significant inroads through our Networks, groups and social media accounts, but to drive these developments forward we all need to embrace this culture shift in order to stay flexible, innovative and engaged with our customers, clients and markets. Surely that just makes good business sense whether or not we can foresee the precise future benefit?