You know that fads have become mainstream when everybody is doing it. Or when it starts to be required as a part of people’s jobs. Or when everybody is talking about it.
This weekend I encountered two instances of the “mainstreaming” of social media for B2B business purposes.
Thou Shalt Blog or Twitter
One of my friends told me over dinner that she has to start blogging and/or tweeting. Her company has begun to mandate that people in marketing functions (like hers) demonstrate their proficiency in digital media and social media. We didn’t get into the details of the specific requirements but it became clear that hands-on experience will be expected of her.
She is not required to blog about or on behalf of her company — that is, she doesn’t have to become a corporate shill. But she does have to set up a blog and keep it reasonably current so she can talk about blogging based on personal experience. She’s got a busy life, so she is having a hard time figuring out how to carve out space and time to take on yet another commitment. Especially one that she feels is being imposed upon her without any apparent compensation or reward mechanism…
When we brainstormed about themes or activities she cares passionately about, her interest in blogging grew dramatically. It’s unlikely that her employer will permit her to take time out of her workday for blogging, so she’s going to have to love the subject matter in order to muster the enthusiasm to start and keep a blog going…
She works for a very large software company on the West Coast.
I can’t help but wonder how fair it is for companies to require employees to blog if they don’t allow their employees to do so on company time…
Are You Listening?
My second example of social media mainstreaming involves my brother, who works for a bio-tech company in the pharmaceuticals sector. Although he doesn’t use the term “social media,” it’s clear that he wants to see social networking adopted by his employer.
My brother is enrolled in an online MBA program, the kind busy professionals take to accelerate their degree program and minimize on-campus residential requirements. His program is highly specialized, focused on the specific educational needs of people who want to pursue careers in pharmaceutical marketing.
Last summer he and fellow students read and discussed Groundswell for one of their marketing courses. He is still talking about the book.
He loved the healthcare case studies cited in Groundswell, and can easily imagine how the practice of listening to patients, doctors and healthcare providers could transform the pharma industry. He’s frustrated because there’s no obvious person or function within his company to whom he can evangelize the benefits of online communities or an active listening strategy.
He thinks his company’s IT department should take on this challenge, because he believes the role of marketing professionals within pharma organizations is very unlike their counterparts’ roles in other industries. (I didn’t have an informed POV on that subject, but questioned the likelihood of IT people stepping up to a marketing function.)
He’s a salesman in a field office, thousands of miles away from headquarters, so he lacks the personal relationship with HQ execs to lobby for his ideas. It will be interesting to see if he can figure out how to bring about change within his company. Or influence new practices within his industry.