Understanding the “Social Economy” – Because you’re going to have to

Aegis’ Chief People Officer, Rose Zory, recently shared a link that really got me thinking in more detail about the state of social media in business. That, at some level, things are now being organized around individuals, and not traditional content categories.

The use of social media has become so omnipresent. I usually take for granted the dramatic changes that have taken place over the last few years. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others have infiltrated society, and using them has become an every day habit for 80% of people who have access to the Internet. The numbers are astounding.

What is also astounding is that the Internet hasn’t changed. People, have.

People have changed the way they think about information and how they share it.

It seems safe to say the change in society’s acceptance of using technology has increased at a far more rapid pace in the last 8 (or so) years. People who didn’t understand why people would find issue with Senator Ted Stevens’ description of the Internet are now possibly rockin’ an iPhone to communicate with their family and friends and glued to facebook, twitter or pinterest for 2 or more hours a day.

How did this happen?

I think social media’s big coming out party happened when we witnessed all of the TV news channels adopting @twitter account out of nowhere. Tweets became the new remote correspondent, and it became clear pretty quick that there was no turning back. “Social media” was here to stay.

Today, the signs are everywhere.  The use of social media is a pattern that has been absorbed into much of what we do every day. From social media logins across all sorts of other Web sites or mobile apps to a general expectation that everything is integrated: from radios that play pandora, spotify or other online media to TVs that let you tweet.

So, why has social media had this jet fuel on a fire reacting over the last few years? It isn’t as if the idea of sharing things with others digitally is new.  We’ve been doing this for decades really, (at least relatively mainstream), and only now are we fully connected and people seem to be OK with it.

I’d argue it’s a combination of many things, including the fact that sites like Friendster had to be early casualties in a battle for our attention. More accessible computers, faster internet access, the proliferation of smart phones – all together with the continued push by social media entrepreneurs, finally broke the back of a resistant populous.

We’ve given in, and for the most part, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Aside from the value communicating like this seems to offer people, it also offers a significant opportunity for businesses, non-profits, governments and other organizations. Having a digital presence is no longer about having a Web site. You are where your audience is, and due to the nature of the beast, you are often forced into being more transparent. Businesses still struggle with how and what they share through social channels and how they react to what others are saying.

So, back to the purpose of this post – to share what Rose shared with me – the McKinsey study: “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies” is a free download and a very interesting read – especially if you are into understanding the data.

A lot of the story that the report tells seems to simply back up what you probably already know. To ignore social concepts in your business is a mistake that will be sure to set you back.

It isn’t all about just communicating with the public – consumers or whatever other audience you are trying to talk to.

Social media is about how you operate – How you share, receive and measure information across the board.

Thanks to Rose for sharing the link.