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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tom Guarriello On Bridging New & Old: Social Media Series

Tom GuarrielloThis week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Tom Guarriello.

Tom Guarriello in addition to co-founding VloggerHeads, a community of video bloggers, is Chief Idea Officer of TrueTalk, a management consulting firm that focuses on organizational social systems to bring out the best in an organization. He's passionate about innovation and challenges us to break down silos and think differently. Example: his latest video on Innovate? Great.. But How?

In fact, you can find more thought-provoking inspiration on the TrueTalk YouTube video channel and on his TrueTalk Blog which we started in 2004.

I find fascinating how much Tom bridges from new to old as he helps rethink how people within organizations operate, immerses himself in a digital social community and actively participates in new, social and digital media to communicate his passion for creativity and innovation.

I routinely bump into Tom Guarriello at the twice yearly Columbia Business School BRITE conferences and look forward to doing so again soon. Meanwhile, he can be reached via Twitter @TomGuarriello; look for him, too, on Facebook at the TrueTalk Fan page.

C.B.: Tom, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Tom: I'm a psychologist by training (my Ph.D. is in clinical psychology), so I've always been interested in the way people function and interact. I got involved in technology in 1982, when I managed a system for the mental health center in which I was working at the time. My first "social media" experience was on CompuServe. Even then, I was amazed by the number of special interest groups, newsgroups and forums that offered an inside look at how people were thinking and feeling about the world around them. I knew we were about to see unprecedented changes in the way people interact with one another.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Tom: The immediacy. We can connect with people about the things we care about practically instantly, unencumbered by time and space.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Tom: The degree to which these channels amplify human shortcomings. One disruptive individual can still distract our attention from the things we most want to focus on. The ongoing battle against spam is an example.

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Tom: I do practically all my business as an online customer. I expect to be able to interact with the companies I work with. If they make that interaction difficult, or impossible, I definitely look for alternatives. They don't have to be members of social media communities like Twitter or Facebook but they do need to understand the need to present clear channels through which I can connect with them. If a lengthy customer service phone menu is the only way to communicate, they're on my "look for alternatives" list.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

1. Listen. If you're not plugged in to the things being said about your brand in online conversations you're missing a tremendous amount of valuable information. Dell showed they could listen after the Jeff Jarvis ""Dell Hell" incident. After stumbling badly, they turned listening into millions of dollars of sales and good will.

2. TrueTalk. We named our consulting company TrueTalk about a decade ago to reflect our belief that the language of business too often obscures meaning. Listening to real people and telling them the truth in plain language is a key to being successful today. See Jeff Bezos' video about the Zappos acquisition for an example.

3. Experiment. Distrust anybody who tells you s/he has the answers to effectively using new media. Your business and its customers are unique. Try things. Measure the results. Ask customers what worked and what didn't. Numbers are great but descriptions of experience are also very valuable. Google is the ultimate in this regard.

4. Don't forget your workforce. Everyone in your company is a 21st century citizen. That means s/he leaves your offices and goes out into the world. If your company's culture and practices are out-of-whack with the rest of her/his experience, you're in jeopardy. Use social media tools to connect your workforce with itself and with your leadership. You'll learn a lot. Much of it will surprise you, no matter how many employee surveys you're doing today. IBM has a vibrant network of workforce connectivity.

5. Culture is destiny. If your organization's culture is still rooted in 20th (or even 19th!) century mindsets, no amount of investment in new tools will be adequate. Re-think everything about the way you approach your customers, your workforce, your business model. Disruptive innovation is lurking. The failures are already b-school cases. W.L. Gore is a great example of success.

C.B.: Tom, any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers and how best to do so?

Tom: Read, or re-read The Cluetrain Manifesto.

I'm continually amazed at the number of smart leaders who approach social media as if it were a theology: either "believing" or "not believing" in using these tools. These were the same objections that were raised to using every communication device.

A telephone on every desk was once wildly extravagant. Locking your workforce out of social sites because you're concerned about people "wasting time" is akin to prohibiting them from making "personal calls" on company time.

The 21st century demands a fresh re-conceptualization of the idea of "control."

Thank you, Tom!

Comments? Questions? Feedback?

I love that Tom addresses employees and organizational culture. And, that we are all 21st century citizens!

And what about these statements?

+ "The language of business too often obscures meaning. Listening to real people and telling them the truth in plain language is a key to being successful today."

+ "Distrust anybody who tells you s/he has the answers to effectively using new media."

+ "Use social media tools to connect your workforce with itself and with your leadership. You'll learn a lot."

Definitely worth thinking about.

For additional insights from other participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old, please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Series, including a link to the e-book based on the first 26 interviews in the series.

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