The Future is Not Tomorrow

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Social Business is a revolutionary idea leading to an evolutionary transformation

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

Bill Gates

In 1998, the popular consensus was that the Internet was creating a “New Economy” and changing the world quickly. In 2001, many of the dotcom startups were falling into bankruptcy. Fast-forward to today and online commerce is an important and growing portion of our economy.

About the same time Webvan was promising to deliver fresh eggs to our doorsteps, Virtualization technology emerged and promised to revolutionize computing. In December of 2003 EMC acquired virtualization innovator vmware and 2004 was declared “The Year of Virtualization”. So were 2005 and 2006 and 2007, until people stopped paying attention to the magazine covers. The technology eventually and quietly changed information technology deployments and enabled the current “Cloud Computing” frenzy.

Bill Gates or anyone who has been in strategic business or technology long enough has had the opportunity to understand that ideas can change faster than business execution can, but that doesn’t mean revolutionary ideas don’t get eventually implemented. Gartner, a research and analysis firm has modeled that market dynamics using the concept of Hype Cycle.

Some transformational technologies go through the hype cycle in a couple of years; others take a decade before reaching the “Plateau of Productivity.” Some never make past the ”Through of Disillusionment” phase.

With that in mind, let’s look at Social Business.

Social Media promises to revolutionize how Marketers communicate with the market. Social Customer Relationship Management (sCRM) promises to change how companies interact with customers and how Sales professionals operate. Social tools promise to transform organizations by changing how people collaborate.

Where are we in the Social Business hype cycle? How long before it really delivers on its promises?

The Cluetrain Manifesto was out more than 10 years ago and the first “Web 2.0 Conference” happened in 2004, so this is not a new movement. The technologies that triggered it are already mature.

Judging by the number of consultants that are self-proclaimed “Social Media gurus” and the disproportionate attention the media (traditional or otherwise) gives to every move by Twitter or FaceBook in 2010, we are probably just past the peak of inflated expectations.

Business changes associated with Social Technologies are slow and gradual because they mirror behavioral changes that are generational to a large degree (see The Click Company – Adapt or Die, about our claim that changes are result of the transition from a society influenced by the Print Medium to one influenced by the Digital Medium). That explains why it has taken so long from the beginnings to general awareness and market hype.

But that generational change is in progress as people born in the 80’s are now active consumers and taking decision-making positions in business.

So, how should Marketing and Sales professionals face the changes resulting from the adoption of social technologies in business? Here are some ideas:

  • Fundamentals of marketing and sales don’t go away because of a new media. The transition from traditional media (print, e-mail, broadcast, etc) to social media will happen over the next several years.
  • Social CRM does not invalidate traditional Customer Relationship Management strategies, but it is a profound transformation. CRM processes and tools will evolve. Some established tool vendors will adapt, others will miss the transition and die. New emerging vendors will bring innovation and carve a space.
  • If your current thinking is “Social Business is a fad”, review your position. We are living a shift from a society influenced primarily by linearity of the print medium to a world that embraces the fragmentation of the digital medium. Change is slow, but it is happening.
  • If you think the world is going to be different tomorrow and there is a need to change everything, now, realize that we overestimate the changes in the short-term. Don’t be the next Webvan.
  • The time to embrace change, invest in research, and find the right partners for the journey ahead is now. The time to execute your strategies extends for the next several years. Don’t slow down as inflated expectations subside.

The 30-second video “Evolve” incorporates and illustrates the ideas above. Call you children and watch it now.

This article was originally written for and posted at

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