E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

June 12, 2012

Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou?

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the SpringThere used to be a time when social business evangelists were perceived, mainly, as disruptors, to a certain degree, of any given status quo within the corporate environment out there at large. They were optimists, outrageous, somewhat heretic, true rebels at work, free radicals to some extent. Perhaps even a bit of hippie 2.0 in each and every one of them. They were, essentially, the change agents who were helping act as catalysts for that business transformation that was becoming a full socially integrated enterprise.

What happened to them though? I mean, I believe that social business evangelists, in general, are still breathing those very same traits I just mentioned above, but where are they? Have they become a bit too complacent with their own beliefs, needs and wants, and several other aspirations to want to change the way business gets done today, now that the corporate world by and large is, finally, becoming more savvy around Social Business itself? Have they moved on to something else already? I am not sure what you folks would think about, but I’m starting to see that trend more and more and it worries me. It worries me a lot! More than anything else, because we are not done at all with our Intrapreneurship efforts, as my good friend David Armano would claim, and by far! but yet again it looks like we all may seem to be content with how things are going. Is it time to bounce back?

It probably is, because, like I have mentioned above, there is still a lot of work to be done! Yet, I cannot get off my head that feeling of seeing how those social evangelists may have become a bit too complacent within their own role of becoming a disruptor and eventually fade away (into other things), because they feel their role is no longer needed. That was essentially one of the several perceptions I experienced, while attending the premier event on Social Business over here in Europe at the Social Business Forum event held in Milan, Italy. That’s why during Day One of the event itself I may have been perceived, in several conversations, as a bit too pessimistic about the state of things. Quite the opposite though. And for a good reason. We are not done, by and large; no matter what people may tell you, we are just getting started!

In a superb blog post, my good friend Cecil Dijoux, highlighted plenty of the good work that still needs to be done. Go and have a look and read through that highlights article to get a glimpse of what he perceived from the overall event as well. It will be worth while your time, I can surely guarantee you that! And as a teaser, here’s a golden quote that he reproduced from the thought provoking keynote session from another good friend, the always inspiring, mind-blowing, John Hagel, which highlights pretty much where we are today:

“Information is power. Institutions are designed to provide some people with information which is power. If knowledge flows, it is undermining the foundation of people power in organisations. How do we confront that power?”

Then allow me to be a bit too provocative as well with this particular follow-up commentary. Remember when perhaps 3 to 4 years ago we used to go to all of these social networking for business events and suit and ties were just missing from the equation? You could hardly see one or two in a large room. They were the outcasts, to a certain degree, and perhaps frown upon for no good, nor apparent, reason. But if felt good. It felt disruptive, provocative, heretic, even a bit rebellious of what you have been experiencing all along. Well, fast forward to today and it looks like in a good number of social business related events the suits and ties are back! Have we become a bit too formal and given up on our outrageous, heretic ways? We are no longer seeing ourselves, social business evangelists as disruptors? Have we, finally, been assimilated by the corporate world, before our job is done and completed? What do you think?

That’s essentially part of a reflection I went through with a good number of friends at the Social Business Forum event that then crystalized on this nearly 8 minute long conversation I had with the always knowledgeable Bjoern Negelman, which he then shared later on in YouTube:


In that short video interview we talked about the need to bounce back; to shake off our very own complacency with the fact that now that businesses are starting to live social our job may be done; to bring back those weird, fancy, crazy (t-)shirts we once wore vs. those lovely suits and ties we know well from all along; to essentially realise that now that we have got the right level of attention our role as social evangelists is more critical than ever not just to help early adopters make their move into getting the most out of social networking, but helping businesses understand how the whole paradigm of work is shifting into a much more open, trustworthy, collaborative, knowledge sharing prone, transparent and nimble workplace and therefore it would require a new mindset, a new set of behaviours to be lived and enjoyed by each and everyone of us. With perhaps no exceptions.

That’s where the challenge still remains. We may have prepared rather well the way for those various different waves of (early) adopters, but our job is far from done! Remember? “90 percent of transactions for customer service happen offline“, or “70% of social media complaints are ignored!“, amongst several others… That’s why we need to bounce back. That’s why we need to shake off our very own comfort zone(s) and soon enough, before it’s just too late! The fight is still on!

And this is, once again, one of those times when I am going to be rather grateful to serendipity itself, for having played its magic one more time incredibly well, by pointing me into this rather short video clip, that lasts for a bit over 90 seconds, under the suggestive title “The Branding of Culture” and which has got plenty of really interesting, insightful and relevant tag lines all over around social business. Yes, I know, I know, the usual disclaimer would apply here, once more, since it’s an IBM video clip, but you would see what I mean with what is, to me, the key message I got from the clip itself and which would be spot on for today’s reflection on the key, essential, critical role that Social Business Evangelists would still need to keep playing for many more moons to come: 

“Practice what you preach” (Always!)


My dear fellow Social Business Evangelists, be honest, be authentic, be open, be transparent, in short, be yourself! We are now, more than ever, very much needed by the businesses who employed us in the first place to complete that shift into realising that full socially integrated enterprise. Your business. Our business. And everyone else’s for that matter.

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