Join ’em, have some pie, and release control…

Reading Qualman this week, I began to think about big businesses and how they stay big.  They adapt usually.   I had heard of Viacom previously, but this week’s reading allowed me to really understand why giants stay giants, such as Viacom.  Instead of fighting or resisting the changes social media brought to the world of business, Viacom chose to embrace it after realizing it was useless to attempt to beat social media and its power.  It just wasn’t going to happen.  I thought the shift from attempt to impose a “no” strategy to “let’s derive some benefit” really demonstrated a point:  resistance is futile.  Why waste time and money suing social media sites, such as YouTube and MySpace when one can turn around and devise a business plan to make some profit or gain some PR?    Therefore, that is why Viacom will continue to be a giant.

I thought it was interesting that some companies have entered into this “world of yes” in terms of social media and allowed everyone to “play” while others refused to release control of the “ball” as Qualman would call it.  Furthermore, I loved this line from Qualman, ” History repeats itself because no one listens the first time” (199).  What a great way to put it!    Then he provided the example of Associated Press, which took the resistant path as opposed to Viacom’s eventual path of least resistance.  Because AP went into panic mode, refused to let others “play with its toys,” and became fixated on the failure of others, it most definitely did not embrace social media and the idea of working together for profit.

I thought the comparison of these two companies was a great demonstration of this point made by Qualman:  “Companies that keep a level head will be fine and in some instances better off as their competition self-implodes” (201).   Those that do stay calm will enjoy a piece of the pie (even if it is smaller at times); it is better than no pie at all.

Now, we see the majority of businesses embracing social media, or rather, using social media to propel business and involve the customer.  I can’t help but think about the examples Qualman provided to show that “this is all about becoming part of the content and enhancing the user experience rather than an interruption model” (204).    I thought the example of Green Mountain advertising that asked viewers to complete this line by texting their response and then waiting to see if theirs would appear as the line was ingenious as a business tactic.  This type of advertising has customer appeal and a real-time pull-in effect.    And the billboards by Mini-Cooper with the ability to read chips in

Mini-Coop cars and then welcome the driver by name to downtown Chicago–what a hoot!   Who wouldn’t get a kick out of that one?   These offer some powerful examples of embracing the changes technology and social media bring to the world of business and the way it can now offer an engaged experience.

Finally, I think Qualman was right here:  “Also, part of being successful in the socialnomic world, as we have discussed, is for companies to be more open and comfortable in letting go of the ownership and control of their brand.  It’s not going to be perfect every time, and the end user is smart–they understand that user generated content is beyond a brand’s control” (204).

Businesses and large companies that allow some of the control to be in the hands of its consumers and the use of social media are going to move forward.  Allowing the users to see what is good and what is bad gives them the respect they want as consumers.   The positive will outweigh the negative in the end, and if the businesses let the users alone to experience the ups and downs without trying to dictate their experience, then in the end, those users will stay with them.    Otherwise, what Qualman notes will take over for the business:  Fear of failure is crippling in the world of Socialnomics.  Those who let the fear control their choices will inevitably lose the consumers, the pie, and control.

Posted on November 3, 2013, in Social Media, Society, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. evelynmartens13

    Thanks for the discussion of the Mini-coops and Green Mountain. For some reason, I wasn’t following that in the book. I guess I need pictures!

    I think Qualman is most persuasive when he talks about letting consumers control and drive the brand because he does use very good examples. I’m still not quite clear about the Associated Press example, though. I followed what happened, but I’m not sure how AP is going to make money in the future, since what they’re selling is the news content. In the past, a news media outlet would subscribe to AP and that’s how AP got revenue. Now, though, if anyone can get it for free by “Googling,” how will AP survive? I checked it’s annual report and it still gets 70% of its revenue from tv and newspaper companies. Why would they continue to pay AP if they can get AP’s content on Google for free?

    Yes, I know I’m an example of thinking the old way, but I’m just a little confused.

  2. Yes, I, too, am not sure about AP and its future. Google has changed the way we get information, and the news is a great example. Maybe it is the old-school that keeps the newspapers in print and business, and I do wonder if news in print form will ever be phased out completely.

    You pose a great question about survival. I think that is why companies must adapt to the times and continue to find new ways to grow and expand.

  3. I liked the pie example, and I definitely agree. It is always better to have some pie than no pie at all.
    A former manger of mine use to say “When you are moving in a new direction, it is always better to be the one driving the bus.” The meaning behind it is simple, when change is happening, it is better to be driving those changes because you can dictate the direction and speed. If you are a mere passenger, you have no input on where you are going. This has really stuck with me, and it has motivated me to take on new challenges and learn more to allow me to either drive innovation, or to at least have valuable input to contribute.
    Large companies like Viacom do much better when they adapt and adopt early rather than fighting the change.

    • Yes, you are absolutely correct: it is great to drive innovation, and if not, at the least contributing valuable input is necessary if you want to stay aboard that bus. Nice analogy!

      Fighting change will usually result in getting left behind in some way.

  4. Here’s one example of a giant organization that is not only driving the bus – they’ve attached wings, filled it with jet fuel and are flying down the social media airstrip.

    • Wow! That is pretty impressive and certainly proves Mayo Clinic is not one to be left behind. With “over 580,000 Twitter followers, and nearly 460,000 Facebook ‘likes'”, obviously their social media center is working. That is what I would call a front-runner in the medical field when adapting to the times and desires of its “customers”.

  5. I agree for a business to be successful the customer can control the brand. Big companies get big because people trust in them and their product. Happy customers influence people that are trying to make a decision. I think of an experience I had over the weekend at the dealership I bought my car from. I scheduled an appointment for an oil change and wound up waiting 3 hours for the car! For an oil change that I made an appointment for! I was aggravated that I went out of my way to schedule service and the dealership didn’t feel my time was a priority. So, guess what happens now. I’m not jumping to bring my car back there again for the next oil change and I also told my friends I went out to dinner with on Saturday night what a bad experience I had. I’ve now become an upset customer that can influence people making a decision against going to that dealership.

  6. Excellent post here! When I first started teaching this class in Fall 2010 I doubt there were designated hashtags on Twitter or Instagram for businesses, large or small, and the “fan pages” for these companies were only just beginning. Now if you “like” something, you can get a coupon! BTW has anyone ever used Groupon? I’ve missed that boat but I think you can get some good deals!

    For more on Twitter’s “success stories,” check out They used to list more in-depth case studies, but this list has such variety I think it’s worth reviewing!

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