In a Web 2.0 world, business has it’s head buried firmly in the sand

I’m curious. Curious about business’ lack of engagement with Twitter  / FaceBook / Tumblr / Google and everything else Web 2.0. I would have thought that any communication channel getting the sort of traction, focus, attention and subscription that these channels are getting, would have business engaging like a love struck teenager who’d just discovered their perfect partner?

But it’s not so. So not so. So far, the majority of my experience and observation is that business has been an extremely poor performer in these spaces. Take a look at these points from Jeffbulla’s Blog:

  1. 73 percent of Fortune 100 companies registered a total of 540 Twitter accounts.
  2. About three-quarters (76 percent) of those accounts did not post tweets very often.
  3. More than half (52 percent) were not actively engaged (This was measured by engagement metrics such as numbers of links, hashtags, references and retweets.)
  4. 50 percent of the Fortune 100 accounts had fewer than 500 followers, a small number in relation to the size and reach of a major corporation.
  5. 15 percent were inactive; of those,11 percent were merely placeholder accounts — unused accounts to protect corporate names against so-called brand-jacking on Twitter — and 4 percent were abandoned after being used for a specific event.
  6. 26 percent of their Twitter accounts were primarily used as a one-way flow of information (either by RSSnews feeds or manual tweets) that offered no engagement with followers.
  7. Tweets did not provide opinions or encourage discussions.This contradicts the value of Twitter as a two-way dialogue to build relationships with customers and advocates.
  8. A sizeable 24 percent of the Twitter accounts were primarily used for brand awareness.
  9. Many appeared to be on Twitter simply to have an online presence.
  10. They did not use the platform to reach out to the community and demonstrate that their brand is a trusted source of valuable information, a business that not only talks but also listens to customers.
  11. Surprisingly, only 16 percent of the Fortune 100 accounts were used mainly as sales vehicles for company products and services.Other companies did not appear to understand that sales growth can be achieved by posting special Twitter offers, coupons, limited bargains and sales prices, or by searching for customers who mention a company product and reaching out to them to build a relationship.
  12. Customer service was the focus of only 9 percent of the accounts; it is highly likely that these companies are worried about corporate reputation — posts that might be damaging to a brand.In addition, success requires a commitment to respond “quickly to customer queries, suggestions or complaints. Note: According to Twitter’s own best practices, “your reply should come within a day, if not within hours”.
  13. “Thought leadership appeared to be the least prominent Twitter strategy by Fortune 100 companies, with only 8 percent focused on it. Corporate reputation and authority can be extended onto Twitter, but are most effective only after thought leadership is demonstrated in newspapers, trade publications or recognized by analysts and bloggers. This I think demonstrates the blog and website as your  “home base” and Twitter as your one of your “Outposts”
  14. Finally, another 14 percent of accounts were used for other reasons such as recruitment or employee-specific information, or their accounts were locked and not visible.These companies were unable to build relationships with interested communities.
Either they see something I don’t – that all this Web 2.0 ‘stuff’ is a passing fad not worth engaging in – or there’s something else going on?
  • Perhaps those ‘in charge’ don’t engage in this ‘new world’, and therefore don’t understand?
  • Perhaps they don’t trust the young set who do ‘get it’ to manage their Web 2.0 profile?
  • Perhaps they haven’t heard of social media platforms?
  • Perhaps they’re stuck in a paradigm that doesn’t allow them to engage in a ‘new world’ in the manner in which they engaged in the ‘old world’?
  • Perhaps they think that those who engage in the Web 2.0 world are the fringe and the freaks that don’t make up their ‘target market’, and even if they are they’ll never cross over into the space they define their ‘target market’ to be?
  • Perhaps they simply lack the courage to enter into this ‘new world’ of communication and connection?
  • Perhaps there’s just too much bureaucracy in their organisations to enable a dynamic, fast moving, quick responding, creative and out of the box strategy needed in this new space?
I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’ve sat in several meetings with many large and small companies listening to all the reasons in the world as to why they can’t and haven’t. I don’t think it’s a passing fad. I think it’s a combination of or even all of the points I’ve raised, and a few more.
It leaves me curious as to their fate down the road? I certainly don’t think that their absence in social media will equal their demise, but I do wonder how it will impact them, and what the consequences and results of their inattention will be? I imagine some of their rationalisation is that they’re doing pretty well without Web 2.0. But the tide will change somewhere down the road, and when it does, Warren Buffet’s quote will haunt them, “When the tide goes out, we’ll see who’s been swimming naked.” Of course some will escape, but I fear others will find themselves with their buckets out doing the impossible….. attempting to turn a tide that’s firmly found a new direction.
Remember the fax machine? Many people fought it. They did their best to convince anyone who’d listen that we didn’t need fax machines, and that we’d done perfectly fine without them. Of course they all got one. It was the same with e-mail and websites. So why are they sticking to the same ‘head in the sand’ thinking around Web 2.0? The most sobering reminder of this resistant and futile thought process is delivered very succinctly by Bob Seidensticker in his book Futurehype:
“The digital watch didn’t come from established watch companies, the calculator didn’t come from slide rule or adding machine companies, ?video games didn’t come from board-game manufacturers Parker Bros or Mattel, the ballpoint pen didn’t come from fountain pen manufacturers, and Google didn’t come from the Yellow Pages.”
Of course I could be horribly wrong, and they perfectly right. I’m going to take my chances on me for this particular evolution in how we communicate and connect in a very different and exciting world.

2 thoughts on “In a Web 2.0 world, business has it’s head buried firmly in the sand”

  1. Gihan Perera says:

    A thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Graeme. I agree with a lot of what you say, and the answer might be some or all of your “Perhaps” conjectures.

    Another possibility is that most Web 2.0 stuff is dangerous to large organisations (e.g. Fortune 500 companies), so they see it as a threat rather than an opportunity. They don’t embrace it because they don’t want to. Sure, they could be dragged kicking and screaming into it, and we all know they *could* benefit from it. But they don’t *want* to, and really wish it would go away (I’m not saying this is a smart strategy!)

    Smaller businesses, on the other hand, have the exact opposite attitude. They love Web 2.0 because it changes the rules – in their favour. It allows them to compete with the big guys but without having to play by their rules. They no longer need deep pockets for marketing budgets, cosy deals with ad agencies, and expensive PR firms in order to build their reputation, attract the right customers and build a tribe of loyal followers. So of course they embrace Web 2.0 openly and willingly – it’s GOOD for them.

    So yes, if you’re a larger organisation, recognise that you might need to take action on Web 2.0, even if you don’t want to. And if you’re a small business, ignore the fact that the Fortune 500s aren’t on board (In fact, let’s hope they don’t stumble onto the secret too soon!)

    Gihan

  2. Gihan,

    You’re right that some large companies have security concerns they need to deal with. However, “security concerns” have become a generic response to everything. I was doing work with a small hotel group in the Midlands of England recently. They had decided to block their employees from using Skype, because of “security concerns”. What?

    I realise that many large companies do have data that needs to be protected. But that doesn’t mean they should completely block access to all Web 2.0 applications for their staff (as many of them do).

    You’re right that smaller companies should take the initiative and not wait around.

    Thanks for the discussion – and for mentioning us on your blog.

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