Four (and a Half) Things to Remember

As we finish our investigation of social media I felt that for my final post it would be best to look across the last 4 months and pull together a set of personal thoughts and reflections on both the concepts we covered and what happened in our world that relates to social media. Here are my four (and a half)  biggest take-aways for IS6621.

Social Media Can Move Markets and Impact Your Business: Be Ready

Going into this post I was planning to avoid the topic of the presidential election entirely. My thinking was that this topic would most likely be covered by many others and at the same time we had covered it to a fair degree in class. That was my plan. But then, Donald Trump did this:


and the result was…


Retaliation for a CEO’s comments? Worried about a down grade from his personal plane? Who knows. But, regardless of your political leanings or how tax payer money should be spent, I think that we can all agree that a single tweet causing a blue chip stock to freefall means that social media does have the power to influence markets. The buzz around a company will make or break that company and more and more social media is going to shape what we know about any organization. Managers need to consider the impact of social media on their business and put together appropriate strategies and plans to manage social media as they would any other aspect of the business. You are not going to be able to plan for everything (like the tweets of president-elect’s), but you can have an approach in place to deal with the unexpected that is going allow the company to recover quickly.

Become a Platform or Fail Like Friendster

The companies that are succeeding in the social media space have more than one trick up their sleeves. The winners are embracing a platform approach within their business model, offering multiple products and services to their customers. Don’t believe me? Look at the likes of Facebook and Amazon. Both of these companies are still here because they took their existing concept and successfully pivoted to offer additional products and services to their consumers. In 2004 no one could have predicted that Amazon would be producing television or that Facebook would be processing monetary transactions. But, then again we are not taking the time to discuss the merits of mySpace or Friendster now are we :o)

As they mature and their service is either copied or valued less by customers, social media companies will be unable to keep the traffic and revenue necessary to sustain their business from a single offering. Continuous product development and differentiation in support of a single platform strategy cued towards customer needs is going to be the ideal path for most social and web companies. Amazon is a master of this approach and has strategically entered markets where the see opportunities to improve the customer experience or synergies with existing products and services. Now one company offers everything from cloud computing, to streaming services, and devices all working together or separately as a customer requires.

Even traditional companies are getting into the platform game. Check out this article on platforms and how even Nike is making the leap:

Related, but not the Same: Social is NOT Digital

Digital business or Digital is perhaps one of the most challenging and overused terms that exist today (this is what happens when we try to use an adjective as a noun) and far too many organizations seem to believe that social media is going to be what turns them into a digital business. I’d like to dispel this rumor right now. Social media is not digital business. Sure, social media can be part of a larger digital strategy, but for that to be occur, just having a social media team doesn’t cut it. Think you are digital? Ask yourself and your company these questions:

  • Do you know why you are engaging with your customers on social media?
  • Are you analyzing customer data from social media to get a better picture of who your customer is and their goals?
  • Can you tailor or personalize products or services based on what you learn about your customers from social media?
  • Are you improving business processes based on recurrent feedback from social media?

Digital business is all about creating new business models and improving existing models through the application of customer-centric technology and customer information. Looking for a good definition of digital? I like Gartner’s:

“Digital business is the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds. CIOs and IT leaders can use this framework to identify the current state of the business, determine the future state and gauge the change required to become a digital business.”


Yes. Social media has a place to play in digital business. It is a great way to gain insight into the people, but do not think that a social first or social only strategy is going to make your company a digital organization.

Digital is not about technology enabling business, or even about technology, for that matter. Digital business is about the customer and putting faster, smarter, better connected solutions in place that allow the customer to achieve their goals. Ideally, in a better fashion than they were before.

And  Don’t ever Forget that it is all about the Customer

I said it at the start of the class and I still believe it is true. The customer is at the core of digital business. The good news for all of us is that a strong social media strategy can help us get a better understanding of our customers.

Customer expectations are ever evolving and customer’s simply expect more today than ever before. Whether it is one-click shopping, instant access to transportation, or the ability to google anything, anywhere, ease of use and access to information is the new normal. The unfortunate part of this new world is that very few companies ground their strategy in an understanding of the customer.. In the new digital economy customer is king and the company with the better understanding of their customers is going to succeed.

Social media can help us understand our customers, their needs, preferences, and even how they react to the products our services that they consume. More companies need to get smart about understanding their customer. Take a look at my blog post on Social Listening to learn how big data and social media can come together to help solve this problem.

And finally…

Cognitive surplus is real and I believe most of us starting to experience the benefits of automation and digitally focused improvements in our daily lives if we have not already. At the end of the day, it’s all about what we do with our newly freed time/brain capacity that is going to determine whether we fully achieve the promises of the new economy.

Just do us all a favor and try to leave the lol cats out of it.


  1. holdthemayo4653 · ·

    Awesome closing remark on cognitive surplus. We do have all this digital efficiency in our lives and it is difficult not to spend this extra time reading articles about “10 celebrities whose parents were convicts” or some other completely useless click bait article. Another great point you had was about how the successful platforms were able to pivot their core operations in order to continue reaping profits. I like to think of it as “innovate or die”. In this era of technology things don’t stay the same for more than 30 seconds. Even the best companies and ideas need to be looking for continuous improvement.

  2. Austin Ellis · ·

    Great job! Each of your sections was very insightful. On social media success, adapting and becoming a platform really is key, as you say. Being able to expand and change to best suit what custoemrs want is the reason why some digital companies have grown to the size they are today. But again as you say, digital is not something companies can just jump on the bandwagon and do; they must carefully consider how to create a digital offering that actually provides something new and valuable. Customer needs should direct what is developed. Nice post!

  3. mashamydear · ·

    Really enjoyed reading your conclusion! I totally agree with your thoughts about platforms. It’s really quite amazing to think that Facebook started as a “hot or not” website for Harvard students and developed into this massive platform that also juggles responsibilities of a news source (no matter how much they don’t want that label). These platforms have to constantly evolve and find ways to monetize their content in order to survive! Also appreciated your distinction between social and digital, I do think some companies believe they are synonymous. I think being digital can mean a number of things, but social media is only one aspect of that (given it’s a pretty big aspect). Also appreciated your insight into how digital companies zone in on customers. Technology is really about making our lives easier and more efficient, so it makes sense to think about how consumers traditionally go about things and then alter that based on your business model!

  4. francoismba · ·

    Nice post! I really enjoyed how you drove the ‘Social Media Can Move Markets’ point home with the example of Trump’s tweet. It’s amazing how one social media comment can have such an impact on companies and the stock market. Also, I completely agree that companies need to start focusing on the customer more. Companies and brands are no longer telling consumers what they want, rather consumers are telling them what they want and need. This is a drastic change and therefore required adaption on the companies’ part. Their success depends on the customer so they need to take the customers’ opinions into consideration.

  5. Great final post. I really enjoyed your final conclusions. I cannot believe how something like social media can have such an impact on the world and on the stock market. The inclusion of your graphics especially trump’s tweet really supported all that you said. Your last statement, “Cognitive surplus is real and I believe most of us starting to experience the benefits of automation and digitally focused improvements in our daily lives if we have not already. At the end of the day, it’s all about what we do with our newly freed time/brain capacity that is going to determine whether we fully achieve the promises of the new economy.” is something I agree with and feel others need to understand as well.

  6. vicmoriartybc · ·

    Really thoughtful post! I especially liked your analysis of how using social media does not make a business digital. Before taking this class, I probably would have thought that every business with some form of online presence was “digital,” but that is definitely not the case. I feel like whether or not a business can become digital quickly in today’s changing landscape is a determining factor in whether or not they will survive. As we’ve learned, social media is definitely one component of that, but not all of it.

  7. Really great post I really enjoyed reading it! You did an incredible job of giving a comprehensive review of what we have learned over the course of the semester, as well as offering insights into things I haven’t thought of before looking at the future. I especially agree with your assessment of cognitive surplus. At the end of the day technology is created and operated by humans and we decide what is it that we will do with it. Whether or not it helps us improve our future is up to us!

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