Social Media Week foretelling the end of social media

It’s Social Media Week all over the world, and plenty of the events are being streamed or live-tweeted, which is great for others who can’t get to things but want to know what was said. I did get along to the Edelman offices in London yesterday for a ‘Social Business in Action” panel discussion consisting of David Armano (@armano) and Robin Hamman (@cybersoc) of Edelman, consultant Euan Semple (@euan) and Vincent Boon (@vincentboon) of Giff Gaff. Several strong themes emerged and they’re being echoed at other events so far this week, namely:

Issues with the phrase ‘social business’ - there’s plenty of talk about it, but also plenty of argument about it. Personally I prefer it to ‘social media’ because it gets us away from a narrowcast way of thinking that it’s all about Facebook ‘likes’/twitter/foursquare campaigns etc. ‘Social business’ focuses us on the big picture – how business will incorporate social communications and attitudes, what ‘social’ means in business terms, not just marketing campaigns.

But not eveyone likes ‘social business’ – there’s a feeling that most businesses still run a mile from any talk of ‘social’. And then there are client expectations to manage. Euan Semple bemoaned the fact that clients don’t ask for ‘help in becoming more social’, they ask for 500k Facebook fans. 

People first, then processes, then technology. For a business to change, first its people need to change – attitudes, behaviour. Not easy. But by starting with technology it will certainly never happen. David Armano drew a neat diagram of how he sees a social business working. “We’re all attracted to the shiny new things” he observed, and that’s not helpful.

In the future, we won’t be talking about social media or social business, just business. I’ve believed this for a long time: the job of social media specialists is utimately to put themselves out of a job. Except of course, nothing will happen overnight. Euan Semple said he thought we were 5 – 10 years off the point when the majority of businesses ‘get’ social. That’s actually a very long time on the spectrum of technological change, but not in terms of people and business culture change.

Interestingly the audience for this event was around 90% agency-side and consultants. Clearly companies and brands aren’t yet even engaging with the debate.

For a summary of the discussion in a the form of curated tweets, see Gabrielle Laine Peters’ Storify here. David Armano posted his ‘field notes’ for the event here. 

Photo of Robin Hamman and Euan Semple by Edelman UK.

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