Corporate Eye

The Scary Thing about Social Media


CIOZone just published a smart article by Michael Neubarth called Social Media:  How We Got Here, Where We’re Going.  It’s fairly long, and worth reading, so I won’t try to summarize all the content-which includes a backward look at a decade of predictions about the fate of mass marketing.

I just want to focus on this statement:  “Like the fall of the Berlin Wall, many observers say we are witnessing the collapse of the command-and-control power of corporate mass marketing.”

That’s a much bigger message than “you can’t afford to ignore Twitter.”  That’s the end of the world as we know it.

And fall of the wall requires a huge adjustment in strategy, not just some revision of tactics.  The story goes on to quote Tim Walker’s piece Social media: Control without command (on Hoover’s Business Insight Zone):

What’s required on the part of companies is to let go of the fantasy of command: You will not “command” the airwaves. You will not “command” the conversations around your offerings in the marketplace. Also, you will not “command” your employees, who can access all sorts of scary hiring-market information via LinkedIn and Jobster and Monster and Craigslist and the rest.

I added the italics, to focus attention on the effects this shift will have-and is having-on HR.  Just take it one step further, adding the caution that “you will not ‘command’ your candidates.”  The best prospects are already looking for something much more than one-way messaging and a one-size-fits-all application process.

Neubarth’s article is blunt about the stiff mental challenge this evolution presents for many corporations and executives.  Walker’s suggestion:

The antidote for this loss of command: just get over it. Historical and technological forces are against you, and those corporations and executives who insist on retaining command are destined to failure.

But you can exert a modicum of control. You can shape a conversation. You can rebut erroneous information about your company or your product. You can harness transparency so that it works for you. You can grow into the language of the social media so that you fall naturally into the mode of persuasion-and-recruitment rather than command-and-control.

Elsewhere in Neubarth’s article, there’s a discussion of Seth Godin’s concept of the “meatball sundae” (check out this podcast introduction), in which companies try to dress up old attitudes and ideas (the meatball) with some whipped cream and sprinkles.  Not an appetizing thought–even if the meatball might be tasty in itself!

Relevant question:   Has your company’s online recruiting strategy really shifted away from old models?  Or is it just dressed up with some creamy videos and a sprinkle of tweets?

(Thanks to Chris Breeze for the Very Scary Faces.)

The following two tabs change content below.
Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.