After the Social Media Bubble

I had nearly finished drafting the legal documents for a hot new online start-up when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000.  With the sudden end to the stratospheric stock prices for these new media companies, everyone felt free to criticize.  Do you remember how the bricks-and-mortar supporters derided the notion of doing business virtually?  Do you remember the anxiety about how to regulate and evaluate online business activities?  Ten years later, some of those concerns seem unwarranted.  And, more importantly, online business activity has become a significant part of the way we all live our lives.

If you look around, you’ll see some of the same issues with respect to Enterprise 2.0 and social media generally.  There’s lots of concern about how to evaluate its efficacy.  And even more concern about how to regulate it.  Some companies have clamped down on their employees, while others have taken a more moderate approach, presumably emboldened by the potential they see in these new communications channels.  Whatever mode your company’s in, take heart from the fact that we’ve seen this pattern of behavior before.  If you doubt it, watch the  5 1/2 minute video below entitled “Card-Carrying Capitalist Supports Nationalization” provided courtesy of The Wall Street Journal Online.  In this video, author Matthew Bishop explains why he thinks bank nationalization can be a good thing.  While I’m not in any way endorsing or criticizing his point of view, I was interested in his suggestion (about 2.5 minutes into the video) that bubbles follow innovation.  And, because it’s hard to understand properly what’s really going on in a period of great innovation, it’s easy for abuse to occur during that bubble.  However, companies that can find some sound operating principles that take advantage of the innovation will be able to ride out the bubble and emerge in a stronger position.  The role of social media evangelists is to help companies find that oasis of calm and sanity amid the hype and frenetic activity surrounding web 2.0 tools so they are well-positioned to thrive after the bubble bursts.

So when you hear people deriding social media and Enterprise 2.0, remember that they are viewing these new communications channels through their old bricks-and-mortar lens.  They will catch up with the rest of us once their vision has been corrected.

[Photo Credit:  h. koppdelaney]

Share

5 thoughts on “After the Social Media Bubble

  • March 2, 2010 at 10:43 am
    Permalink

    Perfect analysis! Great insight. I see it happening. As a social media strategist helping law firms and solo lawyers integrate traditional business development models with social media models (as they exist today) I find that it's either hot or cold in the beginning. Once I begin working with them to either calm their fears or help them turn their enthusiasm into measurable results, a balance is struck and things take off.

    On innovation, not a day goes by that I personally don't see the potential for virtual business and communication to go somewhere new and even better. I test a lot of the new tools being launched and while there are more duds than winners, the energy and creativity I see has me convinced that there will be a part two.

    I think the real culture killer is the amount of spam and viruses coming from zombies. I saw today it's upward of 81% of all email and network traffic. We've got to get our arms around that and take it down a couple thousand notches. If that can happen, then virtual communications and business models will thrive because they'll have more luxury to innovate without fear. If not, those gaps could turn into a catastrophe. I have no idea what that will look like, but it could happen. And if it does happen, the bubble bursts and as you point out, will give us opportunity to build again, smarter.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

  • March 8, 2010 at 12:05 am
    Permalink

    Thanks, Jayne. What trends are you seeing with respect to Enterprise 2.0
    deployments within law firms?

    – Mary

  • March 8, 2010 at 10:34 am
    Permalink

    Mary,
    I wish I was seeing more, but right now it's mostly law firms trying to get their arms around SharePoint. I don't work with Microsoft products so I don't know the technical issues, but on the human side, which is what this is really all about, there are some common obstacles.
    1. Community management. I'm hearing that it's hard to justify a dedicated person or team to keep the content moving and get conversations started.
    2. Learning curve. There seems to be a disjointedness in how the value proposition is being presented and whether or not leadership gets on board. Leaders can influence learning by making an example of their own actions. That's not really happening. Perhaps its generational.
    3. Generational issues. Networking technology tends to put boxes around people; including check boxes. Previous generations are more independent in their communications and sort of resent the structure of a “database.” The current generation is accustomed to checking off the boxes to tell the story of who they are, i.e. “Single” “In a relationship” “married” “I like – click the box- coco puffs, rice crispies or chex.” The type of activity some networks provide is just not flexible enough for everyone.
    4. Transparency. Even in private networks the fear of being documented in writing has an impact. Enterprise email has always had this veil of big brother attached to it i.e. most of the IT staff has access to your passwords and at any time management wants to check your internet browsing history they can. And, there's always the cloud of e-discovery hovering over a law firm.
    5. Time. Again, value proposition here. Why should I take the time to open the browser or software, log in, post to a network with a limited editor when I can just create a list in my email handler (Outlook in most cases) and send my message to a group.
    6. Content. Again, time. Who has the time to think about stuff let alone write about it. No one is seeing that there is value in a knowledge base or even the fact that the more you write the better you get at communicating in words.

    That's just my view at the moment. It is an interesting discussion and I'd love to see a successful example.
    Jayne

  • March 10, 2010 at 9:15 am
    Permalink

    Thanks, Jayne. You're right about the current (mono) focus on SharePoint.
    As firms work through what SharePoint can and cannot do, they'll begin to
    understand better what they need from Enterprise 2.0 tools. I do believe
    that if we introduce the right tools properly, we'll address the concerns
    you raise and have a better chance at success.

    Stay tuned for the examples of success. They are bound to turn up in the
    next year.

    – Mary

  • March 10, 2010 at 2:15 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks, Jayne. You're right about the current (mono) focus on SharePoint.
    As firms work through what SharePoint can and cannot do, they'll begin to
    understand better what they need from Enterprise 2.0 tools. I do believe
    that if we introduce the right tools properly, we'll address the concerns
    you raise and have a better chance at success.

    Stay tuned for the examples of success. They are bound to turn up in the
    next year.

    – Mary

Comments are closed.