Hyper-Social Organizations

This is a review of the new book by Francois Gossieaux and Ed Moran called The Hyper-Social Organization; Eclipse Your Competition By Leveraging Social Media.  This is not a technology book, but rather a good explanation of how consumers are changing due to prevalence of social technology, and what companies should do in order to thrive.

Before reading this book, you should already have read “groundswell” and “empowered“, two books that cover the idea that social media will transform the way that customers communicate with companies. Gossieaux and Moran take this a step further and teach how one might leverage this throughout the organization. We all will have to learn this eventually.

The book starts with a simple explanation: “Human 1.0” is the way that people have interacted and worked together for thousands of years. Only recently (the last few decades) information technology has forced people into working in much more constrained ways. Mass media brought the rise of companies that communicated with the masses through a corporate voice which has had the advantage in telling people what they want and what they can have. Social media flips the mode, and brings us back to communicating one-on-one. This is not a new way of working, it is actually the original way that people worked, it is just that social media allow this to happen on a scale never before contemplated. A Hyper-Social organization is a return to the natural way of interacting, which is why the authors make a compelling argument that it is inevitable.

After the introduction, the first half provides four pillars of hyper-social society:

  • Forget market segments. These were just constructs to allow corporations to coordinate their approach to the market. Instead, you need to think about tribes and humans. A tribe is a group that identifies in some way with each other, and will be the most important way of influencing purchasing patterns. Identifying tribes is the secret to success.
  • Forget company centricity, and think human centricity. Hyper-social organization can be more personal at all levels, and engage customers to focus on and satisfy their needs directly.
  • Forget information channels, and think about knowledge networks. Companies could prepare mass market messages to push through well known channels such as media and events. This communication was the only option that the consumer had, and corporations could control what the public knows. But in a social world the customer already has contacts to other members of the tribe, already is finding out accurate information about your products from others online. Pushing a company line will not work. Instead, share knowledge well, and work to gain trust.
  • Forget process and hierarchies, and embrace social messiness. They recommend something they call SEAMS: sensing, engaging, activating, measuring, and storytelling. The processes will be less and less pre-defined, but embrace that, and allow people in the organization to interact as humans.

This last point is particularly interesting to me, because it seems to fly in the face of the BPM movement.  These guys are not from the BPM world, and not from the ACM world either.  They are focussed on how the market is behaving, why it is changing, and how you can leverage technology to respond.  Their focus on personal interaction and social messiness seems to be evidence that the ACM movement is possibly a result of these changes in the marketplace as well – a connection that I had not fully realized before.

The second half of the book talks about strategies for adoption, and pitfalls to avoid. As you can imagine, there are serious barriers in a traditional organization to make this kind of change. For example, they show that the sales pipeline funnel strategy is fundamentally broken. So ditch it. Instead focus on word of mouth and engaging the customer through interaction. There is advice on how to gauge communities (tribes) and realise that the most important people, those making referrals, may not themselves be making a lot of purchases. Figure out how to support an leverage those people who are most important, and who may not be the ones who are the chattiest.

Here is a quote that should give you a feeling for the book:

“The sales function is one of the most studied, dissected, and carefully managed parts of the corporate machine. … Curiously absent, however, has been a strong focus on how people purchase in groups; for most of recent history, sales has been a one-on-one game.”

Sales traditionally considers a consumer in isolation, but it is time to think about how consumers impact and influence other consumers that they identify with. The book is full of good insight like this, and gives pragmatic advice on how to react to the coming changes.

Gossieaux and Moran come from marketing background, and get a lot of information from an organization for CMOs.  Gossieaux was CMO for eRoom which was acquired by Documentum, and in turn by EMC.

While Social Media is a large part of their focus, but there is also information about how to leverage Social Business Software. However, this book is NOT about technology; instead it is about patterns of behavior of the humans that will be your customers, and how to engage them in a world where they hold as many cards as you do.

If you realize that there is a big fundamental shift in the way that business works, then this book is an important read to prepare and adapt for the inevitable.

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5 Responses to Hyper-Social Organizations

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