The dilemma in providing skills for social business practice

Brian Solis has exposed the folly of many businesses in assuming their analogue-age communications and marketing processes can operate in similar ways in social media. The result is that many social media endeavours are “in reality, siloed and disconnected from the rest of the organisation”. Attempts to meld Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with existing customer relationship management infrastructure results in failing “to see the human touch points to connect with the right people in the right places at the right time”. It’s an approach that betrays a lack of understanding about networked relationships, to have the “ability to engage influential consumers in a one-to-one-to-many practice to amplify intention, purpose, and value”. What’s is evidently lacking are networked literacy skills – knowing what a ‘follower’ count is worth; interpreting the significance of a tweet; knowing the value from a ‘like’ and appreciating the participation bandwidth from blog postings and comments.

An obvious problem is thinking that the skill-sets of established communications and marketing units are good enough for social media. The reality according to Brian Solis is that “social media are the gold mines of anthropology, sociology and ethnography”.  This is significant because most organisations have focused on recruiting commerce or law graduates whereas value creation in social media comes in no small way from embracing social science graduates. Understanding the relevance to business of why and how people connect with others to share things, to learn and to express themselves is emerging as a core competency along with accountancy, economics, engineering and legal systems. So there is a disjunct between the skills necessary to succeed as social businesses and the skills base to hand.

However, a much more significant problem is that most educational institutions have changed focus over the last few decades moving away from social science to churn out lots of commerce graduates in response the demands of business. There is a structural imbalance between the need to adapt and evolve as social businesses in a networked economy with the courses on offer by universities and business schools.

What a dilemma. It’s about time business groups and universities got together to address this fundamental imbalance in contemporary education.

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