Parallel Universes: Social Media and the Innovation Landscape
Top tier Social Media strategist Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert recently penned an impressive and thorough look into the impact of Google’s new social networking site G+. I encourage our readers to check out Jay’s reasoning behind why G+ is equipped to be a real force in Social Media and business here. But what struck me about Jay’s piece were the similarities I recognized between the worlds of Social Media and the greater innovation landscape, especially in the way he wrapped up his post.
Jay finishes his article with a cautionary sentence stating that in the world of Social Media, the technology always changes, and this change happens far more rapidly than can be predicted. In his book, the NOW Revolution, Jay proposes treating any given social channel not as a strategy, but rather as a tactic or tool and suggests companies understand how to BE social and worry less about how to DO social (on any given platform). Does this same lesson apply to companies looking to be innovative?
Apples and Oranges?
The similarities between the world of Social Media and innovation lie in the fact that they are both in a constant state of fluctuation and progression. When we examine the needs to “do” social or innovation, they can look quite similar.
Compare a company’s social needs to be properly represented across Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Quora, Flickr/Instagram, the company blog and elsewhere to a company’s innovation needs to ensure a new application is conceptualized, developed and readied for the Web, mobile web, all major and upcoming mobile operating systems, specific devices and tablets and a variety of cultures and languages.
Keep in mind the example above only focuses on application development, but I thought it was a worthy comparison due to the fragmentation taking place. From a macro perspective, the challenges are quite similar.
- How do you decide which platforms you need a presence on?
- Once you decide, where do you spend the majority of your time & resources?
- How do you evaluate new platforms that deserve attention?
- If a shift in the platforms is necessary, how will you re-train (social) or source (innovation) the proper talent to perform for you?
These universes aren’t quite so parallel as the simplistic picture I am painting and indeed there are differences. For one, in the social arena, the ability to move in and out of apps and concentrate more effort on certain platforms can be quite fluid. If you have the right team or strategist, they can guide you through the social wilderness effectively. Whereas over on the innovation landscape, technology and platforms can be much harder to evaluate and to ramp-up projects within. Making shifts from platform to platform can be arduous and very expensive.
So is there a way for companies to move in and out of technologies and platforms with much less friction and resources spent? Can the innovation landscape become more akin to the current social landscape and not just in some macro-theoretical sense?
I believe the answer is yes and the solution is competitive community development.
In the parallel universe that is innovation, the tools never stop changing. A competitive community development approach can enable your company to more easily adapt and develop on top of continuously evolving technological landscapes. You can do so without the need to hire additional man-power equipped with the hyper-specific skill sets required to be successful.
Incorporating a community development aspect as part of how you do innovation can be a key factor in freeing up resources and facilitate being innovative.
Jay Baer put it as succinctly as I’ve seen it when he stated:
“… smart companies will spend some time this summer making sure they’re focused on how to BE social, and not how to DO social on a particular platform. Because eventually, the tools always change online. Always.”
I believe the same is true with regards to the innovation landscape.
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