Sunday, December 7, 2014

A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, by Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt

AMACOM Books, ISBN 9780814433263, August 2014

Coiné and Babbitt make the case that the future of business--any business, any industry--is social. Every company, big or small, business to business or business to consumer, must not only have a presence on social media, but an active, interactive presence. They need to make social media presence not just a marketing tool but an integral part of how the company operates, at every level and in every function.

And on the "every level" point: They also maintain that the best-run, most successful companies will be those that make their organization as flat as possible, ideally so flat that only the CEO has a title, and only because that's necessary to represent the company to the government and the media. The goal of this book is to both make the case for this radical viewpoint, and to lay out the basics of achieving it.

One of the unifying themes is that everyone is in the service business; you are either serving your clients and customers, or you are serving the people who do. This is not an area where there are a lot of hard numbers demonstrating direct return on investment. The authors make their case with both personal experience--including a rather compelling personal anecdote of trying to buy shoes from Zappo and instead buying from Topo Athletic because the Zappo team was asleep at the switch that day, and a Topo intern was paying attention to the right hashtags on Twitter. In addition, they use examples of other companies that have made significant gains by successfully leveraging social media to be both useful and highly responsive to current customers, potential customers, and even people who might at some point be potential employees.

They're very clear about the need to be genuine on social media. If you're there only to promote yourself, your company, or your product, your efforts will be counterproductive. They also, to the extent it's possible with the rapidly moving target of social media, attempt to lay out some clear guidelines for moving an entire major enterprise from traditional management and marketing approaches to the flat and social future. Therein may lie the rub for some potential readers; this really isn't aimed at the individual looking to use social media to make themselves more useful, more valuable, more connected. This book, despite some impressive if not necessarily persuasive happy talk about how social media has shifted all the power to the employee in employer/employee relations, is really aimed at those making decisions for the entire company, whether large or small.

That's not really a criticism. It's what the book's target audience is. But it does mean that the cover and early parts of it will attract readers who really aren't looking for this book.

Recommended with reservations.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.