The other day somebody asked me define to her what is social media and why many companies and businesses find it hard to understand and operate in. From the beginning I thought it was an easy question but after defining what understand to be the meaning of social media, I remained stuck on the “why” part. For a start if you are the kind who have been around for sometime, then understand how the space has changed over time. But one thing remains, the nature of people. People are social animals and it is the people who make up what is famously known as social media. So why is it hard to operate in while it is made up of just the normal people?
The top managers actually think of themselve highly, you know they are the top of the cream by almost all measuring yardstick you would think of. Whether you are talking salary, education, leadership skills, and all other nonsense that human beings consider prestigious. So why is that top earning, highly educated, well respected individuals can not understand and even find their footings in a space made up a bunch of people?
Well two things…
One, Social Media is not a make over of the old media..actually it is not a media at all. Approaching it in the exact way, companies have been dealing with traditional media houses , is the worst route to take ever.. You see, it is easy to deal with traditional media, if somebody write a story about your company which you find not flattering, you call the CEO of the media house and threaten them to withdraw the ads and campaigns you are doing with them. The next thing the writer and the editor feel the pressure from above and the story is quietly killed. But on the In other side, social media is like a jungle, comes in many shades and colors and full of life. The place has no CEO, no Chairman to threaten, no employees to fear their jobs. Some of the names which some businesses think of as the pain in their backs, are in some instances the people sitting on the next desk. A story is told of two Kenyan bloggers who worked together for four years, sharing the same desk. I am not naming them here but let call them A and B. Blogger A runs a blog anonymously called Y , while Blogger B runs another blog also anonymous and it is called Blog X. Within that period A did not know that B is the owner of the blog X which he usually read and comment in. At the same time B too did not know that A runs blog Y which he spent most of his time reading and contributing in. Their eyes were opened after four years.
Two, Ego…. As you can see, the CEOs and the top managers are among the smartest people around,well there are some idiots among them, but that is a story for another day. Anyway, being smart can be disastrous especially when it is accompanied by big ego.. And by the way ,don’t bring in the issue of Miguna Miguna here , but at least you get where I am heading with this. Unchecked ego leads to know it all attitude . The other day a friend of mine who is a tech blogger and a journalist, wrote an article about the conflict of interest which has developed at Kenic ( The body that is mandated to register local domain names). Instead of the new CEO who is actually the subject of controversy, responding to the blog post, he told the internal meeeting that he does not respond to bloggers. Looking at that on the face value and you understand why some managers have problems understanding the new media. As for our friends at Kenic, I will talk about the whole story later this week, but he should understand the following:
1. Most bloggers are very smart people and understand the issue they blog about
2. Most bloggers do background research before writing their stories
3. Some bloggers get their info from the people complaining about a particular issues but do not have the voice or the audience to tell their stories
4. Some bloggers are actual experts
5. Some bloggers are insiders….. people or someone within the organization
As for the Kenyan companies and businesses, the top managers should look at the mirror and ask themselves one question. If there is a field full of people and they get a chance to sell their products to them. How would they approach them, what would they say, how would they react to the questions asked, and what would they do to some of the people within the crowd who basically think they are idiots!!!!!