The Devolution Of Social Networking?

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Hundreds of years ago, the key to economic success was land ownership. Today’s it’s idea ownership (sometimes called intellectual capital). That’s why thought leadership is so important (side note: I’ve only received one request for membership to ITCH so far — not a good sign).

It’s in this context that I found this comment from Gene on Tim McAlpine’s Currency Marketing site intriguing:

One does have to remember that social networking takes on different forms. One is the web, the other is talking to members, regularly, all the time, everyday.”

There’s a growing number of people in banks and credit unions who are trying to introduce new technologies and — more importantly — new ways to interact with and engage customers/members. But what’s a skeptical senior executive to think if the term social networking applies to not just the application of new technologies and new approaches to communication, but to the same old ways of talking to customers, all the time, everyday?

A recent discussion on Bankwatch helps to highlight the potential danger here. Regarding the Social Networking portion of the recent Net Finance conference, William Azaroff commented that “many people came up to me, but many more had gone home.” Ted Josephson opined that “a reason the traditional bankers left was due to general ignorance of the Social Media phenomenom’s impact.”

If social networking is “talking to members, regularly, all the time, everyday”, can you blame them for leaving early?

It’s too soon in the evolution of social networking for its definition to become diluted and co-opted (click here for a brief description on the predictable cycles of management concepts). Proponents need to work to distinguish the approach (not just the technologies) from traditional ways of interacting and communicating with customers.

How to do this? One idea: When making conference presentations, include what I call the “Stuart Dopey Graphic”. This type of slide is [affectionately] named after a former boss (named Stuart, duh) who always encouraged (translation: required) me to include a graphic in my reports and presentations that had two columns and anywhere from four to six rows. The two columns were labeled “today” and “future”, and the rows were attributes that helped to distinguish how the future I was describing was clearly different from the past. Putting together this slide is not as easy as it sounds.

But you’ve got to help Gene see how social networking is different from what banks and credit unions have done in the past.

Update: For an excellent follow-up on this at Tinfoiling, click here.

Technorati Tags: Social networking, Social media, Banking

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