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Good book - read it some time
on 5 August 2012
Social web expert Euan Sample moderated a successful session on social media at our conference in March this year. Copies of his book were available and I helped myself to one, which I've now read.
Yes, I know it's been a couple of months, but as with other business books I started it, got distracted and then returned to finish it more recently.
Like every business book I've read, in truth it's a pamphlet in book's clothing. Despite the fairly radical thinking and approach it preaches, it still follows the publishing nostrum that a book isn't worth publishing unless it's substantial.
And like other business books, it relies on the power of iteration and repetition to drive its point and meet the `weight test'. But that said, it's very well laid out and contains a number of interesting and relevant key messages.
Each chapter opens with a title and a paragraph synopsis and closes with five or six key extracts in a text box. In between lie three to six pages of thoughts and argument.
The stated idea is to give a book which can be picked up and put down - as I did - chapters of which can be read individually `in the time it takes to visit the executive restroom'. It works, and you could probably get a lot of value from it by simply reading the summary text box at each chapter's end, though it would be a pretty dry read!
The big message is that businesses would do well to embrace the social web, whether for simple hard return on investment or because society and workforces are heading in that direction in their own time (witness the rise and rise of Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia). There's a sense of inevitability about it, in fact.
Specific benefits include productivity through empowerment of the individual, the harnessing of collective wisdom (often from unusual angles). Having established the benefits, there are some really good pointers on the use and implementation of social tools in business.
He draws some interesting conclusions on the changing nature of leadership - `real leaders have followers' - and I particularly liked the notion of `unleashing the Trojan mice'.
It's not all plain sailing. The social web can be a scary place and widespread reputational damage can occur frighteningly rapidly. But Semple uses the well-trodden customer service argument that every problem can be turned into an opportunity and that the way people or companies handle situations can lead to enhanced reputation.
He recognises the challenges for managements which have grown up oblivious to the social web, but argues that it is an unstoppable democratising and empowering force for colleagues and customers alike. He also extends this and argues for complete openness, and cites some good reasons why from his long experience at the sometime Birtian BBC.
He closes with perhaps the most uncomfortable thoughts of the book - that your ideas and views should stand up to scrutiny on the much wider scale that the social web brings, and that to be engaging they should be presented with a passion that is still pretty much forbidden in corporate environments.
It's passionate but never crosses the fine line to become evangelical and hectoring. Well worth a read if you are running any customer-facing organisation.
Bob Wootton is Director of Media & Advertising at ISBA, the Voice of British Advertisers