Somehow I missed that Mashable had declared June 30 Social Media Day until yesterday. People are celebrating with meetups. I’m celebrating by sitting in a coffee shop working on my enterprise social media book and being distracted by Twitter and Facebook. Seems appropriate. (Writing blog posts is another of my favorite ways to distract myself from writing the book, ironically.)
I’ve spent most of my career in marketing and marketing communications, mostly for technology companies, but with some interesting detours, including one into the music industry. I’ve written everything from radio spots to 40-page technical marketing manuals. I’ve thought a lot about how people and companies communicate, and why those two are usually different.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince business people that it’s okay to talk like human beings. I’ve written and re-written press releases to try to make them sound like the way people talk, only to have the product manager or marketing manager put the buzzwords back in. “If we don’t use them,” they argued, “people will think we don’t know them.”
I’ve wondered for years about the real-world possibility of taking a radical transparency approach to corporate communications. I’ve been lucky enough to work for a few companies, most notably SAS, who really do live the values they profess. What would happen if a company told everybody everything? Not the proprietary details of the products they’re developing or who they’re about to acquire, but the internal debates and discussions that went into tough decisions. What if they really did say, “Whoops. We screwed up”?
What if companies talked to their customers as peers, as equals, as friends? Often the differences between the people on opposite ends of the telephone amount to where they’re sitting and the company name printed on their paychecks. Most of us spend the day talking to other people like us. What if we removed the artificial boundaries, which are almost solely boundaries of perception?
Social media is making all of that happen. It’s helping us see that companies are made up of people, with all the good and bad that entails. It is frightening. It is exhilarating. It is revolutionary. It is not going away. It is good. We will never go back to thinking of companies as gray, faceless edifices that speak with one voice. And hooray for that.
There is no field I would rather be in right now.
Happy Social Media Day!
image by Mashable.com