CEOs Should Drink the Social Media Kool-Aid

It’s all about the economy, stupid. No, it’s all about a people-driven economy, stupid. Whether you are a businessman or a high school student, social media transforms the way that you live and do business. My 84-year-old grandfather understands this and signed up for his Facebook account (unsolicited, I’m still waiting for him to friend me).

As an individual in this day and age, you need to live your life as if your mother is watching, because she probably is. After all, the growth in usage of social media is highest for adults older than forty years of age (or 84 for that matter).

Individuals leading “cleaner lives” is a good thing for society. But, is it beneficial for the individual? If we can no longer have schizophrenic personalities (Work William versus Weekend Warrior William) providing necessary stress relief outlets, will more and more individuals experience nervous breakdowns? On the other hand, individuals constantly updating their status and tweets allows for them to take real-time inventory of their collective lives.

Because of this, there may be no more looking back on a wasted youth, because if one is updating their status or tweets with “watching re-runs of Saved by the Bell” that certainly isn’t quite as cool as “learning how to kayak white water rapids.” And that is what social media does — it rewards braggadocian behavior and punishes improper behavior — what happens in Vegas stays on YouTube. Time will tell if our newly transparent world cuts down on infidelity.

And, it’s not just surreptitious spouses that can’t hide; inferior companies and products can no longer hide behind massive marketing budgets. The days of shouting and imposing your message on the masses is gone. The 30-second commercial is being replaced by the 30-second review, tweet, post, status update, etc. CEOs and CMOs that don’t believe the hype may be irrelevant before they realize what hit them. This is similar to an ostrich sticking their head into the sand.

We have identified potential losers, but, who is the winner in a social media driven world? The customers and best products win; which naturally should go hand-in-hand anyway. Social media enables this utopian state. Good companies view negative feedback as an opportunity that they can act on and adjust their product or service; bad companies view complaints as a nuisance or something they need to put an effort toward hiding.

Social media is helping enable a truly connected Web. This results in huge time savings for individuals. It eliminates millions and millions of people performing the same tasks — multiple individual redundancies. Now only a few people need to research the best vacation spot or baby seat. Others in your network can leverage your experiences and learning, creating the world’s largest referral program.

People care more about what their friends and peers think is the best Italian restaurant in Manhattan than what Google thinks. That is why it’s no surprise that Google is considering purchasing or partnering with Facebook or Twitter. Google understands their future competition isn’t other search engines, but rather it’s social media.

We need to look no further than Obama’s historic democratic and Presidential victories to understand the true power of social media. This is a whole new world that is best for individuals and business alike to embrace the social graph before they are squashed by it.

Many often get confused when it comes to social media technology. A good example of this is earlier this week with Craigslist announcing their screening of erotic postings as a result of a recent and unfortunate murder in Boston by a Medical student baiting his victim via a Craigslist posting.

Craigslist crumbled to the public’s irrational fear. Craigslist had to do this for PR reasons, but they realize that this move is analogous to the Postal Service saying they are going to open every envelope to see if there are solicitations for erotic massages. Or AT&T listening to every call they deliver for the same intent. This doesn’t make sense for these traditional common carriers, why does it make sense for a social sharing Websites like Craigslist? A good acronym for FEAR when it comes to social media is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Not all c-level executives are paralyzed by fear; Douglas MacMillan and Rebecca Reisner chronicle 50 high-profile executives that are using Twitter in their recent BusinessWeek article. Don’t fear social media, my grandfather certainly doesn’t — Cheers!

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