Part of my day job is to figure out ways that my company, which sells primarily to enterprise technology buyers, can best integrate social media into its every day practices. I am talking about true social media that extends throughout the organization and touches marketing, sales, engineering, customer support and business development. It's a somewhat slow process but I've intentionally made it one so I could do the most important deed in social media -- listen.
In listening, one of my company's reseller partners shared with me one of his biggest beefs about the people he's run into in the socialsphere:
"I keep getting hit by these PR-turned-social-media consultants who tell me that my first and foremost goal should be to put up a Facebook fan page. And then I should read Robert Scoble and Michael Arrington and see what iJustine says about technology. Then, apparently, more people will buy through us."
I burst out laughing. He urged me to stop laughing because he was about to cry.
Scoble, though he started as an enterprise tech guy, has lost his hook into what the big decision-makers really want. He seems to be wasting his Fast Company.tv platform from that perspective. Arrington's TechCrunchIT is a little bit closer (though I still take issue with its ridiculous "10 best ever hackers" piece) but notice how little Arrington writes for it? As for iJustine aka Justine Ezarik, she's adorable, really. I find many of her antics charming. But I don't think even she knows what difference a 10 gigabit ethernet switch port could make in a data center environment.
In Ezarik's defense, unlike the others, she doesn't claim to know what enterprise buyers want, but I think because so many other "weblebrities" (I hate that word) do and because she has a well-known name, she gets swept up in it all. But no matter the name an enterprise buyer is not going to make an inkling of a buying decision based on what Scoble or Arrington tells them. It's unlikely that they even know who they are in the first place.
The thing of it is -- and I think it's hard especially for Silicon Valley types to remember -- that enterprise buyers do not care about social media Internet celebrity. In a society where people can be famous simply for being famous, too many people are trying to make a brand out of it (exhibit A: the seemingly manic Julia Allison), and worse, trying to counsel enterprises with it. Enterprise buyers care about ROI, TCO and solid technology offerings. Silicon Valley enjoys the kind of on-stage knockabout that you see when Larry Ellison takes pot shots at SAP or when Marc Benioff slams the incumbent enterprise vendors. Press fodder and fun aside, those antics don't get multimillion dollar deal checks cut anymore than enterprise buyers give a hoot what Internet celebrities think.
When I was fashioning the ideas around this blog post I went to resident ZDNet enterprise guru Dennis Howlett for a sanity check. Howlett is known for being a tough cookie, which is exactly why I went to him in the first place. He said it better than I could.
"Some bloggers seem to think they have more influence than they do, not realizing that what they write is merely a data point for enterprise buyers," Howlett said. "When it comes to buying enterprise technology there are up to 40 or 50 steps before someone puts a signature on a check."
With this being the reality, and even enterprises themselves laughing at the idea that social media Web celebrities can guide them to reasonable IT solutions, to whom do they listen? Their peers. Everyone else is just creating noise. That's not to say that social media does not have it's place in the enterprise. It certainly does. But there's no room for name dropping. The people who sign the checks just aren't listening.
This is the first in a series on examples of "Social Media Strategies Gone Awry." If you have any examples you'd like to share or story ideas please email mediaphyter SHIFT+2 gmail DOT com. To subscribe this blog and stay on top of this series check out the RSS feed or subscribe via email.