Social Media Meets Business: Every Company is a Media Company


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2010 where have you gone!

One of the great highlights for me so far in 2010 has been the opportunity to collaborate with two great industry friends and SNCR colleagues – Tom Foremski and Vanessa DiMauro.

Tom is a well known blogger who left the Financial Times about six years ago to be a full time journalist blogger. For the past six years he has built a loyal following of 60k+ people who subscribe to his popular blog Silicon Valley Watcher to read his keen observations and straight shooting analysis on the important trends in business, technology and media driving Silicon Valley. (Tom is also credited with defining the term “Every Company is a Media Company”)

Vanessa is a well known thought leader, researcher and accomplished business women. Through her company Leader Networks she has made quite a name for herself advising companies and developing high profile communities and social networks for businesses.  Her efforts have helped to bring her client companies closer to customers, employees, partners and thought leaders – delivering great business value in return.  
Through our collaboration, Tom, Vanessa and I meet regularly to discuss industry trends and share experiences from our respective work in media, business, and technology. The collaboration has (in part) formed a great foundation for thought leadership, education and insight about the impact of social media on business – with particular emphasis on how business leaders should incorporate social strategies and social thinking into the heart of their business operations (beyond marketing and communications).

Over the last two years much has been written about social media as a tool(s) for marketing and communications professionals to expand the reach and engagement with their key stakeholders (customers, partners, employees and influencers) to communicate messages, create and shape reputations and generate buzz around a company’s products and services.

The hype around social media in the context of marketing and communications has created a vibrant industry for consultants and technology companies to offer high value thought leadership, education (via events/workshops) and tools that have helped many ‘practitioners’ evolve and adapt to working in a world that is ‘all things social.’

Spending on social media projects is expected to reach $3.1B by 2014 up from $700M in 2009 according to Forrester. This is an amazing number and I am sure there are forecasts by other organizations that predict even higher spend and growth.

Coming out of ‘The Great Recession’ of 2008/2009 many business leaders see the benefits of social media from an operational perspective as a way to significantly reduce spend on high cost marketing activities (such as advertising and events) by using social media to extend a company’s reach and have a direct dialog with their customers. Social media has arguably been most disruptive to traditional corporate communication models due to its use by investors, consumers, partners, employees, governments and influencers (media, analysts, academia, etc) to share opinions and talk about companies that have had significant affect on reputation management.

Recent stats show that the adoption of social media by everyday people has reached impressive and eye opening numbers:  

  • Facebook claims that 50% of active users log into the site each day. This would mean at least 175m users every 24 hours… A considerable increase from the previous 120m.
  • Twitter now has 75m user accounts, but only around 15m are active users on a regular basis. It’s still a fair increase from the estimated 6-10m global users from a few months ago.
  • LinkedIn has over 50m members worldwide. This means an increase of around 1m members month-on-month since July/August last year.
  • Facebook currently has in excess of 350 million active users on global basis. Six months ago, this was 250m… meaning around a 40% increase of users in less than half a year.
  • Flickr now hosts more than 4bn images. A massive jump from the previous 3.6bn I wrote about.
  • More than 35m Facebook users update their status each day. This is 5m more than towards the end of July, 2009.
  • Wikipedia currently has in excess of 14m articles, meaning that it’s 85,000 contributors have written nearly a million new posts in six months.
  • Photo uploads to Facebook have increased by more than 100%. Currently, there are around 2.5bn uploads to the site each month – this was around a billion last time I covered this.
  • There are more than 70 translations available on Facebook. Last time around, this was only 50.
  • Back in 2009, the average user had 120 friends within Facebook. This is now around 130.
  • Mobile is even bigger than before for Facebook, with more than 65m users accessing the site through mobile-based devices. In six months, this is over 100% increase. (Previously 30m). As before, it’s no secret that users who access Facebook through mobile devices are almost 50% more active than those who don’t.

The convergence of the Internet, Web 2.0 and devices (e.g. mobile) among other things has led to the creation of many disruptive technologies, services and content distribution channels that are actively driving new forms of social strategies for business to adapt to – thus challenging and disintermediating many longstanding business models.  The affects on traditional media (all forms of print and broadcasting) is a great example.

Information and ‘experiences’ are now traveling through the Internet and reaching individuals at a business velocity never before seen – enabled by the vast network of seamlessly connected devices and services connecting over 4.5 billion people around the world (one billion people connected to Internet and four billion mobile phones). More than four hundred million people are sharing billions of pieces of content and experiences each week via online exchanges. Communities of practice, professional networks, email, and SMS are among the tools that enable multi-channel access for individuals (employees, customers, partners, and suppliers). We are finally a part of the long-promised global virtual and collaborative work environment.

The way that people (consumers, employees, partners and influencers) are using social technologies to inform, shape and share their opinions has quickly become a priority for business leaders to understand and appreciate as they (re)define their corporate strategies and operational business plans.  Many companies are actively looking to incorporate ‘social strategy’ and social thinking into the core of their innovation process (research and development), service and support operations, sales and partner programs, and of course employee engagement efforts.

In many ways, the historical business perspective of social media (as a result of its marketing and communications roots) has become outdated.  It is no longer just about “Social” (facebook, myspace, twitter, flickr, linkedin, etc.) and “Media” (advertising, PR, journalism).

I would suggest that companies need to look at social media more in the context of ‘social strategy’ that connects people, processes, and technologies in ways that strengthen a company’s competitive position and increases the value of its innovations and brand experience with its stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders, partners, etc.).

Social media is the tip of the iceberg in a larger set of disruptive trends impacting business.  Understanding these trends and issues has formed the basis of the collaboration that Tom, Vanessa and I have engaged to explore (in our spare time).  Our discussions have advanced our individual and collective perspectives on issues and practices that we can immediately incorporate into our respective ‘day jobs.’ We have also identified a great opportunity share our experiences and thought leadership through a series of blog posts and eventually a book (time willing) that will help business leaders understand and adapt the use of social media and social strategy into the value chain of their businesses strengthening the competitive position and market leadership of their companies.

Stay tuned for the launch of a new blog that we will use as a platform to syndicate/centralize thoughts and ideas!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Don Bulmer
Royal Dutch Shell
Don Bulmer is Vice President of Communication Strategy at Royal Dutch Shell.


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