Social Media Not Just for Marketing Dept.

Illustration of social media addictAlthough often seen as a new tool for Marketing people, social media (SM) is having a much greater impact on traditional organizations than is yet recognized.

The issue of social media and the innovation changes it will force on companies was the topic of this week’s #innochat, a Twitter conversation held by innovation experts and practitioners from around the world.

It was moderated this week by Mike Parker (@sysparatem), and the #innochat framing post is here.

How Innovative?

The first question posed by Parker was how innovative do legacy organizations need to be to cope with the new social media environment?

“My own take on this is that social media is much more disruptive than most organizations want to think,” Parker said.

“Agreed. Many companies think that social is either irrelevant or just about posting a few messages as a broadcast,” said Brenda Young (@4byoung) in Tampa, Fla. “Many companies discover the importance of social only after they have a Social Media PR disaster.”

“As I see the ability of SM to interject and transform opinion (and action), I think the [organization] boundary is porous,” said Drew Marshal (@DrewCM), principal of Primed Associates in New Jersey.

On the other hand, Ken Rosen (@Ken_Rosen) in Silicon Valley said, “Legacy organizations don’t need innovation. They can leverage old [revenue] streams. Of course, they won’t be around for long, but they can get other jobs.”

“I’m not sure they need to be ‘innovative’ around social, they just need to see the value in it and stick to the basics to start,” said Vincent Carbone (@insitevc) co-founder of in Utah.

“Innovation is about communication channels,” said Renee Hopkins (@Renee_Hopkins) in Austin, Texas. “More channels are available — more that companies can control and more they can’t control.”

“Just because they are out there — social media, new technology, etc. — does not make them a necessity for your organization,” said Lois Martin (@LoisMarketing) in Atlanta.

Failure to Implement

The next question was: How will a failure to implement adequate innovation to adapt to this new environment threaten organizational viability?

“Social media will not save any organization trapped in an antiquated mindset,” Martin said.

“But it can be their downfall,” replied Tom Kubilius (@tomkubilius) in Pittsburgh. “Companies need to innovate structure. More openness, less hierarchy, fast reaction, communication.”

Many participants spoke of the importance of getting employees to understand and buy in to the company message, and have them act as evangelists. But then Carbone quipped, “Then the next problem is getting the lawyers out of the way.”

Attorney Kendall Thiessen (@ideasurge) replied, “Don’t be dissing on the lawyers — especially those of us that try to get it. LOL (And I agree).” He added later, “Lawyers often focus on the risk of engaging rather than not engaging.”

“Yes, if employees can’t relate the company story, shame on the company,” Kubilius said.

What to Innovate?

Parker’s third question was: In what main areas will organizations need to innovate to process the new environment? “My own take on this is that the key innovations have to be in organizational design and management,” he said.

“I think the main barrier is Middle Management. Somehow they need to innovate that layer of the organization,” Carbone said.

“Transform the boundary walkers … (sales, customer service, tech support) to be eyes, ears and mouthpiece to engage,” Marshall said.


At one point, Carbone agreed with Thiessen on a point and noted, “I hear you, no disagreement. I am drinking the kool-aid.” As often happens at #innochat, off-hand comments can start a riff that lasts most of the session.

So, Thiessen replied, “Phew. The kool-aid is really good. I even added extra sugar.”

“Drink the kool-aid like a margarita, with grains of salt,” Recio joked.

Then as discussion of corporate culture and employee buy in of the company story and strategy progressed, Recio said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

“And drinks the kool-aid for lunch!” Hopkins quipped.