Monday, September 28, 2015

The anti-social social media in a Digital World

She was a teenaged student enamored by social media, trusting quickly, befriended what appeared to be similar minded youth. The emotional play slowly convinced her to take steps that would have been forbidden by her parents resulting in indescribable gory incident that left her wounded for life. Similar fate has courted many young lives globally; awareness and education being a partial cure, cutting off the connecting threads being a drastic step rarely enforceable. Peer pressure coupled with rebellious nature has not alleviated the situation significantly.

Sharing and social platforms have now been around for almost a decade, first among them took off in 2002, others followed; some are raising their heads even now. In the not too distant past everyone was going gaga over social media and its relevance to the enterprise and why it mattered to be on various social media platforms; quickly the problem morphed into an analytical one with social listening and unstructured data giving rise to a new paradigm – Big Data – that promised to provide insights hereto unknown and unthinkable.

The market segmented itself into personal social, professional networking, image sharing, chatting, and short messages with 140 characters to broadcast or send to individual subscribers (the origin being that the messaging service was built on top of the Short Message Service or popularly known SMS on mobile phones which had a limit of 160 characters). Then came convergence with each of them wanting to take mindshare from the other. Blurring lines and interconnect reduced the distinction to almost nothing for consumers and corporates.

Popularity was determined by the number of followers, connections, and shares by others of what a person or corporate account posted; which obviously gave rise to false accounts and commercial models to buy followers showing inflated numbers against a profile which was the measure of success. Slowly as the hype died down, investments were questioned and everyone scampered around to find financial models to justify their budgets. Stretch of imagination and leap of faith set aside, fear of not doing it kept depleting the coffers.

Unable to hold ground with ROI models, marketing justified brand building, customer engagement, pulse of the market, and put effort in managing negative vibes spread by dissatisfied customers. Smattering of success selectively by a few campaigns ensured that everyone kept trying as the dynamics continued to change. Individual customers made the most of the paranoia of corporates to decimate all evidence of their shortcomings until it reached a point where many just gave up or ignored the listening justifying their steps using statistics.

Success of the medium attracted unwanted elements who used social engineering methods to target the gullible; emboldened by their success, they gradually increased threat levels and expanded scope to target the young and innocent or holding naïve and unprepared corporates to ransom. Changing terms of engagement on the platforms kept everyone guessing on what next and how to keep themselves sane. In the melee emerged experts with a proficient air of confidence to part the fool from his money promising salvation.

Overloaded and fatigued by Digital flood, people sought vacations with no connectivity or rationing time to get some real work done while hundreds of messages filled with good intentions, emotional stories, knowledge snippets, motivational videos, tips and tricks, humorous anecdotes and more, all of them converging to occupy free and busy time until personally and professionally the impact begins to hurt. It also ends up overshadowing meaningful communication from those who matter while everyone runs faster to stay in touch.

How to unshackle and detox from this whirlpool of quicksand ? How to protect corporate reputation and assets ? How to keep the innocent youth shielded from nefarious elements ? How to keep customers happy and reduce negative mentions ? What can individuals and enterprises do with everyone pushing the Digital agenda as if survival depended on it ! Maybe for some it does but it is not the universal truth; Technology does not have all the answers, some of them require a different level of thinking discarding current beliefs.

I believe that we need to go back to basics and start challenging every demand on our sensibility and stop reacting to external stimulus that forces us to mimic others. Create a decision matrix that aligns to your company, industry, geography, and customer demographics. Keep a vigilant watch for the next hype with a responsive strategy; do not fear for survival, adapt to the situation. IT will play a significant role in your ability to execute, give some latitude to your CIO and IT teams, they hold some of the keys to the future.

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