“The Revolution introduced me to art, and in turn, art introduced me to the Revolution!” Albert Einstein
There’s a reason why I use or create examples in art and pop culture to express ideas about social media.
I can’t say it better than Einstein but here goes – the art societies create often illustrates where that society is going, sometimes decades before change shows up in society. Think about how many seasons Arrested Development would make it to today, almost ten years after it debuted versus when it came out, confusing half its intended audience with the absence of a laugh track, and the documentary-style presentation.
The show was ahead of its time. Tap your neighbor if you watched this fine show when it was on TV, or on Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu, or Netflix now.
Inside jokes aside, some of these parallels are very revealing. Among my favorites examples in observing how many companies react to technology from a marketing perspective are also The Office, and a less popular show that was at least as brilliant, Better Off Ted.
In Better Off Ted, the company the protagonist Ted works for was constantly coming out with commercials that openly mocked the type of ads General Electric is still running (see the General Electric Super Bowl Ads, on several worst ad lists, though they are getting better by introducing the people aspect in the one about beer). One of my favorite examples of the VD mockery follows.
Of course the joke is that to Veridian Dynamics, these commercials were Not jokes. They were serious with the image they wanted to project, one often completely at odds with reality, as we saw when we followed Ted in his daily adventures.
Then there’s The Office of course, best summed up in the words of the then-boss of the Scranton branch, Micheal, as a conclusion to his version of the Dundlin Mifflin commercial he was absolutely not asked to make, “limitless paper in a paperless world”. (But ironically, inept as he is at so many things, his commercial was much better than the one the corporate office version. Yes, I know way too much about this show.)
It’s nuts, isn’t it?
The thought that a paper company would stick to its initial business model for so many years after the advent of the web, the global trend of greening, and the rise of superstores like Office Depot, Amazon, and to a lesser extent, Walmart. Layoffs were always looming overhead – at least until they joined forces with a printer company.
Seeing those two examples of companies failing to keep up with the digital marketing age and the resurgence of the people-centric organization, week after week, often has me wondering about the sobering reality so many companies small and large are facing.
Namely, how do companies adapt and thrive in this new business environment that is changing so rapidly?
Doesn’t it seem sometimes that the instant you change course to keep up, something else changes? It did to me until I figured out how to get ahead of the stream of change. It takes a fluid strategy and constant study to stay on top of both the day to day changes as well as the over-arching trend that is driving it all.
On the one hand the answer is in being more socially adept. Yep, all those skills we’re supposed to have gotten from humanities majors are as valuable, or even more valuable, than we thought.
Social media, an active Facebook and Twitter account specifically, could have worked to keep Veridian Dynamics out of their constant reputation management issues, in concert with a capable public relations and marketing team. They could work together to solve internal issues, make some changes in strategy both internally and externally, instead of just trying to paper over the busted plaster of their public image.
A little video blogging, hopefully resulting in some YouTube hits, and some LinkedIn network on the part of the executive team could have hooked Dunder Mifflin up with Sabre much sooner, perhaps before more branches were eliminated and all those imaginary people lost their imaginary positions.
Yes, I’m mocking myself as I return to reality – this is all fake. It’s just a bunch of TV shows I have to whisper to my fix-it self.
True. But they’re also things some of the resources I’ll be talking about this week can help you with.
Dunder Mifflin’s issues were specific to smaller companies as most of them manifested at the branch level – we can see this during our weekly observation of their company, in both their triumphs and failures. Veridian Dynamic had problems that were closer to the enterprise level, and perhaps because of how big they are, the problems are more clearly visible (and comedic).
But the thing is, social media isn’t the whole answer to the question of how to adapt a 20th century company to the present day on its own. The changes that need to be made are much deeper. To implement social media, better search strategies, a proactive reputation management strategy, even basic web marketing, we need deeper changes in our companies. We can’t make the same mistakes we laugh at on these TV shows and in some movies, or we’ll share their fates, only with a lot less laughter, and a lot more pain.
How did we get here? Why did we create companies to be the way they are if this model doesn’t work? These are questions I’d like to explore as well- after all if we don’t observe our history aren’t we doomed to repeat it? My quick theory after reading books like Humanize, The Social Media Strategist and Welcome to the Fifth Estate is that these things worked once. And organizations got stuck in those developmental stages, but we’re not sure what to do next as this is new territory for most of us. (We’ll be peering at specific examples from those books and The Like Economy in days to come as well.)
This week, I’ll take some examples from these and other fictional organizations – and with links to some successful case studies from the real world — show steps small business can take to keep from suffering the fates that plague the real-life Dunders and Veridians.