The “Giving Up Control” Myth in Social Media

I have articulated this thought during my presentations at conferences and corporate speaking engagements recently, and it just came up again in a phone call with Jenny Ambrozek.

Aside: We were discussing an action plan to gather together a few folks to exchange ideas on how to address the “What’s Wrong with Corporate Social Media” thread that we covered at the Business of Community Networking Conference in Boston, was the theme of a panel yesterday at Web 2.0 Expo and is the challenge ahead for the Enterprise 2.0 movement.  More on that later …

I have used Ron Burt’s structural holes theory to depict the shift from broadcast to social media in this short slide show which I have shown on this blog before & is linked into the “Introducing Social Capital Value Add” ebook.

(insert into page 35) SCVAviaStructuralHolesFig11-15

(Uses Burt’s structural holes theory to illustrate shifts taking place in media, brand and power.)

I think Burt’s insight debunks the “loss of control” myth that most corporations suffer from when they think about social media & web 2.0.  Even social media experts who are advocating adoption of social media talk about how a corporation needs to “give up control”.

That is bull. Broadband penetration, mobility and integration of GPS and RFID are trends that corporations do not have control over. They urgently need to adopt management methods that enable them to deliver value (sustain and develop control or at least earning power) in the context of these trends. They have lost control. The question now is how to get back on top of these trends.

Secondly, I think that Burt’s innovation coming along roughly 20 years in the wake of Granovetter’s Strength of Weak Ties arguement is a model for understanding the relationship between the idea of brand valuation and Social Capital Value Add.

They are related, they describe different facets of similar structural value drivers.  Both deliver required, complimentary insight.

The Wizard of Oz is a Carny: the Macworld or Jobs question?

I think there is something seriously wrong.

I sincerely hope that Steve Jobs is not losing a battle with cancer.  I have lost too many people to that disease and have far too much respect for the talent that is Steve Jobs to wish this kind of crisis on anyone.

If that is not the issue, then what could it be?

It’s About Time” says TechCrunch?  I think there is something wrong with the analysis offered in this post.  Maybe there is some sort of relationship at play here and TechCrunch is doing its bit to soften the anticipated blow to Apple’s stock price over this?  I ask this question to peak your interest in social capital, not to suggest some sort of explicit conspiracy.

I can agree with Apple’s strategic decision if they see the need to change the emphasis of the Macworld opportunity or to own the event.  Although … in house management who would need to outsource production would be a misuse of Apple’s core talent, so even if IDG does cost them $10-million, that might hold up in a thorough cost benefit analysis.  Let’s not forget they are sitting on $15-billion in cash.

Managing product expectations or expenses, as suggested by John Gruber in 2002 & resurfaced yesterday by Techcrunch, are weak reasons, IMHO.

The reasons Apple gives in this announcement suggest to me that they are leaving a vacuum in the place of Jobs’ address and completely undervalue the role that Macworld plays for them.

Maybe the problem is that the analysis is being done from a product centric (this includes brand management) perspective, with not enough regard to the real reasons why Apple is the powerhouse that it has become.

Here is the take in the Social Capital Value Add ChangeThis manifesto & ebook (its’s free):

Which asset has more long term residual value? Is it the implicit carnival at MacWorld or the
explicit Steve Jobs address? While the “don’t walk by, give it a try” brand spectacle is the overwhelming subject of envious management deliberation, SCVA is the reminder that the carrier wave for the Carny’s call, the more elaborately produced midway (including the folks on the midway), indicates far more about a company’s ability to create and preserve value. (p. 25 of the ebook released, September 10, 2008).

Apple survived long enough to eat it’s children, i.e. switch from being primarily a computer company to become a consumer electronics giant, because it has a core group of very loyal users (particularly in education).  Vendors who have made iPod a whole product solution depend on Macworld in many ways.  I suspect Steve Jobs knows this, fosters this and is part of the reason for this but maybe not?

I mean, c’mon!  Macworld IS like Christmas to Apple loyalists (hat tip to Chris Thomson for that smile). It is irresistible to most tech enthusiasts. Christmas … now that is a pretty successful strategy for building bonding social capital.  The pilgrimage of physically getting the most loyal together for a communal celebration seems to me to have importance beyond the commercially focused get together at your local Apple store.

This move is very likely a “viral” news story, spinning out perhaps more digital footprint than typical Macworlds, but the quality of that asset is suffering.

Either Steve Jobs is very sick and the first evidence that Apple is sliding into badly motivated reactionary management have started to appear or the analysis is focused on product and brand that does not include a full cost benefit analysis that recognizes scaled up forms of social capital as the company’s most important asset.

Switching the emphasis from product and the Steve Jobs brand spectacle is good strategy if you are replacing that with an emphasis on investing in Apple loyalists.  Why not announce a $1-million contest that highlights the pilgrimage to Macworld in place of their trade show floor space?  Or maybe there is an Apple Day at their stores globally where Apple loyalists are invited to meet up with local peers and connect globally via an interactive Tweet up or web event?

Something is seriously wrong, what do you think?

Note: This post is part of the SoCap&Brand series started by Tim Kitchin.  You are invited to add your own post.

Social Networks in Plain English by Commoncraft

I had previously visited Simon Small’s blog entitled “Who is in control of your brand?”, but I popped over there again after he made a comment on the IAM or “Social Media Man” post below.

He had this quick introduction to social networks & the utility of social network applications by the folks at Common Craft up.

I hope that both Simon and Sachi & Lee LeFever consider contributing to the SoCap&Brand meme that Tim Kitchin started off.