Participating on a ad:tech 2009 panel - Sydney

Has corporate Australia met the social media expectations of 2008?

What does Barack Obama’s use of online to redefine political campaigning, Apple’s app store and Google’s Android mobile O/S all have in common?  These events all occurred in 2008.

Like eating ice cream too quickly, my brain hurts thinking about how things have grown/exploded online over the last three years.

In 2008, social media in Australia started to come into it’s own.

Ad:Tech Sydney 2009. From L to R - Jye Smith, Laurel Papworth, Gavin Heaton and me. Photo credit: Gary Hayes

For me, 2008’s key social media themes revolved around social media enabling Australian corporations to become more relevant and transparent, empowering the ‘middle’ of the corporation, aligning social media to directly support corporate objectives (ROI) and learning the benefit of getting it right by ‘failing fast’.

The big question that connected all the themes listed above was when social media would become mainstream in Australia.  When will social media no longer be perceived as a fad?  When will social media be included in the earliest stages of planning versus being a last minute addition?  When will social media have dedicated resources and funding?

Like many, I believe social media (re: new media / social business) has the ability to be transformational.  But to date I think it’s only been transactional.

In 2008, I thought the term social media represented the promise of something better, of something bigger.  I perceived it had the promise of ushering in the next ‘era of business’.  It was the ‘adjacent possible’.

In Steven Johnson’s ‘Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation‘, he states:

“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself. Yet is it not an infinite space, or a totally open playing field. The number of potential first-order reactions is vast, but it is a finite number, and it excludes most of the forms that now populate the biosphere. What the adjacent possible tells us is that at any moment the world is capable of extraordinary change, but only certain changes can happen.”

I think the mainstream adoption of social media has exceeded it’s 2008 expectation.  AC Nielsen research shows Australians spend more time per capita using social media than the other nine nations (US, UK & Germany etc) included in the research.

I don’t think we’ve achieved the ‘adjacent possible’, yet. From a business perspective, I don’t think we’ve entered the stage of extraordinary change.

While it’s encouraging to see major brands include their Facebook site on TV commercials.  Major brands haven’t moved past social simply being just another channel.

The root cause could lie in most traditional marketers not appreciating the distinct drivers that make social media effective.  I think too many traditional marketers see social media as a ‘push’ channel.  Traditional marketers are not fully tapping into the ‘pull’ that I think will help Australian corporations experience the ‘adjacent possible’ when using social media.

Perhaps the expectations and key themes discussed in 2008 were way ahead of the times?  Perhaps it will take seven to ten years for these expectations to be actualised?

How do you think Australian corporations are meeting 2008’s expectations of social media?

Published by

Mike Hickinbotham

Mike’s main priority is to help Telstra build a more meaningful relationship with the socially enabled customer. Mike works in Telstra’s Chief Marketing Office in the One to One marketing team as the Head of New Media. In 2008, Mike became Telstra’s first employee designated to work in social media. As Telstra’s Social Media Senior Advisor, Mike helped lead the way in developing Telstra’s customer support in Twitter, drafting and rolling out Telstra’s 3Rs of social media engagement for employees, an internal idea generation site and Telstra’s Facebook page. Mike also created the strategy and implemented the HTC Desire Social Review which recruited 25 people to participate in a two week review of the HTC Desire handset. Mike is also currently leading the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA) sub-group on social media. The social media sub-group is part of the ADMA Digital Council and is responsible for educating members about social media. Originally from Toronto, Canada Mike started his career as a Ministerial Staffer in the Ontario Government. His other qualifications include an MBA from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management and a Master of Professional Communication from the University of Western Sydney.

  • Michael A Green

    Mike, Thanks for the insights and you seem to have walked the path that shows there is more value in a social business versus a social brand. Social branding is where the focus of Asian corporations and digital agencies is today.  As we are becoming more acutely aware a social brand is any company, product, or individual that
    uses social technologies to communicate with social channel consumers/customers.

    However, the focus of Asian corporations is starting to migrate to a social business that has instituted integrated, SMART, and responsible social media within
    every job function internally.

    …my 2c worth

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