Business leaders fail to understand social web

More evidence has been published which shows that big business has failed to grasp the value of the social web. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts discovered that the social web has not caught on in the big corporates. Technologies such as blogging appear to have passed them by.

The study showed a mere 11% of Fortune 500 corporations actually use blogs; remember, these are the world’s top companies. Most of the world’s leading businesses do not use any form of social web technology, the study showed. However, the staff of these big companies are spending their evenings on social networking sites, writing blogs and taking part in forums. Why has the penny not dropped amongst those staff that the activities they are taking place in themselves could be of value to their business?

Well, that’s because of the way staff tend to perceive a business they work in. Most businesses have an “us and them” culture, whereby the “bosses” run the company and the rest of the staff are just worker ants. Those workers do not perceive it as their responsibility to come up with ideas to help improve the overall lot of the company – that’s the boss’s job. The result is that the staff may well know that social networking or blogging could improve their company, but don’t bother mentioning it because the expect the bosses to already know about it.

In smaller businesses the reverse is true. In smaller firms staff tend to feel much more involved, they get a sense of belonging to the company, that they are part of it. As a result, they recommend, suggest and generally do things to help improve the company.

So it will come as no surprise that the researchers in Massachusetts found that the uptake of social web technologies is significant in the “Inc 500” – this is a league table of the top small businesses or entrepreneurial start-ups. It’s the “non-corporate” version of the Fortune 500. Well guess what? The Inc 500 is full of bloggers. As the New York Times put it recently, smaller firms are web savvy.

As the world increasingly turns towards outsourcing, flexible working and an entrepreneurial way of thinking, so too do pressures against the whole notion of being a “corporate”. Some pretty substantial businesses already exist with a mere handful of staff, no main “HQ” building and none of the trappings of corporate life. This research shows us that the successful online businesses (in terms of attracting audience) are the smaller ones. It’s yet another example showing us that big business has failed to understand the world has changed. They are not adapting to that new world and that can only mean one thing – extinction.

And why haven’t they learned the world has changed, even though their staff know? Well that’s down to culture. The very structures and procedures that have helped corporations grow and thrive are now the very things which will see them destroyed in the increasingly online world in which we live.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
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