In the rush to adopt social media, marketing folks seem to be throwing out the textbooks of yesteryear. Everyone is eager to adopt the new paradigm and dispense of old tactics. Abraham Maslow and Peter Drucker are probably rolling over in their graves. Make no mistake; social media represents one of the most fundamental shifts in how we communicate in the last 100 years, but it doesn’t mean you should forget everything you learned in business school up until this point.
Instead of unlearning the communications and management models that have prevailed for the last several decades, we should look to see how we can apply these to the current environment. As my colleague Bob Pearson states in his book, Pre-Commerce, most innovation is incremental and simply an iteration of an idea we’ve heard before. With that in mind, it would be a fool’s mistake to think past lessons are irrelevant. It’s the kind of mistake that has held some social media pros back up and isolated them to the fringes of the marketing department. Disregarding the prevailing wisdom of the day is a surefire way to get laughed right out of the boardroom. As communications professionals, we should strive to be a part of C-level discussions and that doesn’t happen without a pragmatic approach. Radical shifts are rarely thought of as pragmatic.
For example, Maslow’s “Theory of Human Motivation” may be even more relevant now than Maslow could have ever imagined. When has it ever been more important than now to understand human motivation? Psychological needs, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self actualization are all innate functions of any relationship. Maslow was even more of a visionary than anyone realized.
Likewise, things like the 4Ps of marketing still hold true. All of Peter Drucker’s principles of management—most of those still work.
The point of this post is less about spouting off traditional business theory and more about encouraging people not to get ahead of themselves. Careful, prudent strategy still works. Social media is still business, not just fun. Just because Twitter is 140 characters doesn’t mean you should just fire off messages without thought.
The wave of social media has caused many to critically evaluate their approach to communications. That’s a good thing. Many of the old models were either fundamentally broken or don’t scale to social media. But do yourself a favor; apply past lessons to your approach. You will thank me when you are sitting at the table across from the CEO and CMO making critical communications decisions.