Social media and 'green': two fashion trends to avoid

Social media and 'green': two fashion trends to avoid

Summary: I love the ideas behind social media and the move towards all things green but if you want evidence our industry is fashion driven then look no further than John Furrier's 'so what?' thumbs down to Delicious2.


I love the ideas behind social media and the move towards all things green but if you want evidence our industry is fashion driven then look no further than John Furrier's 'so what?' thumbs down to Delicious2. Even so, sooner or later, technology has to deliver and it is a constant source of amusement that this wonderful industry of ours seems always to be chasing the elusive pot of gold tied to whatever the fashion moment is focused upon. Take social media:

In Groundswell, the authors enthusiastically declare that:

Toward the end of 2004,three years into Bob’s tenure at GM,things were going poorly.The stock was in free fall.Customers weren’t warming to the new product lines,and neither were the auto critics who traditionally make pronouncements on what’s hot in the auto business.

Bob—one of GM’s best communicators, a dynamic, articulate leader who is passionate about products—wasn’t getting his message across. Bob needed a way to speak directly to the people who were still open to GM’s message.So as the auto show approached in January 2005, he decided he wasn’t too old—and GM wasn’t too stodgy—to try something new.Bob started a blog called FastLane (you can read it at Time from decision to launch: three weeks. Pretty amazing for an old-line Detroit automaker.

The first entries were a bit stiff—not at all like most of the bloggers out there. But Bob’s first post got 121 comments from readers.

People wanted to hear what GM was saying.

Quick - sign me up. But hang on a moment. I just saw Paul Kedrosky's analysis of how:

GM has only managed to wipe out its profits back to the mid-1980s. Here are GM cumulative "earnings" for the two periods:

  • 2007-present:  -$57,483b
  • 1985-2006: $59,598b

Not bad, however. GM did manage to wipe out 22 years of results in a mere seven months.

Social media isn't necessarily responsible and as the Groundswell mavens are quick to point out:

FastLane hasn’t revolutionized GM. It hasn’t changed the competitive dynamics with Japanese automakers or turned the auto industry’s troublesome dealer channel into pussycats. But it has revolutionized the way GM communicates.

Well that really is going to win plaudits with shareholders and customers. Right? Wrong.

Then there's all things green. Dell is making a noise with its Hybrid range of desktops, noting they use 70% less power than ??? and now come with eco friendly packaging. I am overjoyed, especially with the new colors that help me color coordinate my office. But are they hybrid? Do they run on solar power as well as have diesel generator backup? Doesn't look like it. Oh well - more marketing spin I suppose. While we're at it, let's not forget Dell's MyWay, it's customer portal or Dell Community Forums which I'm told are a rip roaring success.

But quick - check out Dell's last 10-Q filing. Falling gross margins, falling operating profits. Ugh! Or how about Hugh MacLeod's musings on what needs to happen at Dell.

As I've said many times before, if it ain't contributing to the bottom line then it ain't going to get the CIO's attention. Unless required expenditure is below departmental budget levels and can creep in without giving the CIO a heart attack. If you really want to know what's making a difference in enterprise land then check out the boring stuff like virtualization, sensor deployment, data center consolidation, predictive analytics. Function follows form may be a great design idea but in business function follows money. First and last.

[With apologies to all those who are making the case for social media/computing and all things green.]

Topics: Social Enterprise, Dell

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • Dell Hell

    Hey, Dennis. I really like the folks who are behind the social media effort at Dell, but I can't agree with you more here.

    I blogged about this precise issue last fall.
  • RE: Social media and 'green': two fashion trends to avoid

    The opportunity with social media lies in customer connectivity, account/tech support and the migration of those conversations into the research and development of your products. There is a tremendous opportunity for companies to organize and collaborate with their customers while migrating user generated comments back into all areas of their business (R&D, marketing, sales and corp comm) .

    I don't foresee social media as a fad, but a movement that will continue to place more power into the customer's voice. Organizations must figure out how to measure this within their own company and how it impacts the bottom line.

  • RE: Social media and 'green': two fashion trends to avoid

    Thanks for the perspective, Dennis. Just to update you and your readers, the entry point for the Dell Community is here: Our Studio Hybrid product is reference to a cross between a laptop and desktop, and delivers significant energy savings too.

    Of course things like laptop/notebook features, virtualization, sensor deployment, data center consolidation, predictive analytics and all kinds of other technolgies and deployments matter. No One suggests otherwise. You will recall Betamax, HD-DVD. Great technologies, but missing the customer benefit and connection.

    Products and services depend on more than technology but on customer relationships for your "business functions to follow money."

    "Green" is more than fashion, with lots of IT leaders wanting to be responsible and save money. Social media is not just fashion, either, its proving a great way to connect with customers, solve issues, listen and understand their product desires, and in some cases (check twitter and dell outlet) generate revenue too.

    No one I know suggests social media or green is some panacea.....they are parts of a whole that make for a better and stronger business -- from various perspectives including money, money saving, customer connections and more
    • aaah but

      Excuse me but you have to do much better than that. Sounds like PR blah blah to to your last point - are you serious the way this stuff gets sold?
  • RE: Social media and 'green': two fashion trends to avoid

    Dennis: If you're going to state economic facts, you'd better do your research. In 1990 the airline industry lost in 18 months more than the entire earnings of the airline industry in total. What conclusions would you like to arbitrarily assign to that failure?

    It's ALWAYS about some variable in economics (NOT finance) that is out of balance. But then, which companies have EVPs of Economics and not finance.

    As long as the finance guys continue to run the companies (note -- they were at the helm when each of these failures occurred -- so how's their track record doing?) -- and writers like you continue to support their foolishness -- we will continue to get exactly what we deserve.
    • Thanks but

      I was making the generic point. Hope that works for you.
  • RE: Social media and 'green': two fashion trends to avoid

    Thanks for promoting our book again, Dennis.

    Social applications can't fix high gas prices, economic slowdowns, or bad corporate choices.

    They can help with communications, research, cutting support costs and innovation. Companies spend money on those things -- and they can deliver real ROI. It's often better than the cost of traditional advertising or PR, where lots of real money is spent.

    For more:

    /josh bernoff, coauthor, Groundswell