Commentary

Social Media Fundamentally Changing Corporate Worldview

I had the good fortune today of having a conversation with the visionary John Marshall Roberts, whose focus is on igniting inspiration and overcoming cynicism. By understanding the lens through which people see the world, Roberts suggests, we can better appreciate each other, communicate with each other, and connect with each other.  

To understand those lenses, Roberts has built a psychometric tool, based on the work of the late psychologist Claire W. Graves. The Gravesian framework explores different lenses through which people see the world; Roberts categorizes these lenses by color for reference purposes.

"Copper" thinkers, for example, have an individualistic, success-oriented worldview, one that thrives on the legend of the self-made man and belief in the auto-regulating nature of unfettered free markets.

"Jade" thinkers are humanistic, experiencing, as Roberts puts it, "the source of all life as the benevolent spirit of one's fellow man." In contrast to the copper folks, jade thinkers might reject materialism altogether in the name of love or spiritual connection.

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And "Gold" thinkers take a systemic approach. These are the people who recognize money is great, but you still have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror -- and, conversely, that group hugs are wonderful but that you still have to pay the bills. They're the folks who embrace the "power of and" described by Collins and Porras in the book "Built to Last."

For decades, we've looked at traditional marketing from a copper framework. The only questions we asked ourselves were how we could better succeed: how we could reach a bigger audience, get more leads, grow more market share, sell more product. The purchase of AdWords is a copper purchase, a straight financial transaction: I puts my money in, I gets my clicks out. We don't have to bring no relationship into this.

In and of themselves, those things aren't bad. AdWords isn't bad! But it is certainly a different framework from the one through which social media operates.

Companies looking for success in social media must start with a different set of questions: "Why would anyone care? How can I better serve this audience? What can I do to make an authentic contribution to this community?" As Eric Qualman said in his Socialnomics video, today's successful companies "act more like Dale Carnegie and less like David Ogilvy: listening first, selling second."

Bear in mind, though, that selling is still in there. The jade approach -- the one that puts relationships above all else -- tends to fall a bit short when it comes to making payroll. It's the systemic, gold thinkers who can tackle both imperatives simultaneously: How can we contribute to this community in an authentic way while maintaining our company's financial sustainability?

What's interesting is that frameworks evolve iteratively. We begin with a framework, which then gets reinforced or inhibited based on the feedback we receive. There have been plenty of companies that have approached social media marketing from a copper worldview. These are the ones taking the exact same commercials and messages, putting them up on Facebook or YouTube, and wondering why nobody's following them. The responsive ones are learning from this reaction, and evolving their approach to be more inclusive and systemic -- to apply more gold thinking.

Is it ironic that, with gold thinking distinguishing successful social media players from Whole Foods to Gary Vaynerchuk, everything we know about Mark Zuckerberg from the media puts him squarely in the copper camp? Different lenses create different types of success in different types of environments. It is up to you to choose your worldview.

Which worldview resonates more for you? And from which one is your company approaching social media? Let me know, in the comments or via @kcolbin.

5 comments about "Social Media Fundamentally Changing Corporate Worldview".
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  1. stephen bateman, July 20, 2010 at 4:11 p.m.

    Occasionally (more seldom these days) one has the privilege to read an inspired article - I wish I'd had a bit of this prose for my client meeting this morning - well done @kcolbin

  2. Mike Patterson from WIP, Inc., July 20, 2010 at 6:19 p.m.

    Awesome insight and references to the work of Claire Graves and what then evolved into Spiral Dynamics from a guy named Don Beck. We need more of this kind of thinking in our business world today. Well done!

  3. Brandon Sutton from brandonsutton.com, July 21, 2010 at 8:44 a.m.

    Excellent article Kaila. John is a friend of a friend, but I haven't had a chance to meet him yet. I love his thinking on this subject. I had to pause and consider whether I tend to fall into the Jade camp or the Gold camp more often. When I'm consulting with clients, I bring Gold thinking to the table. Sometimes on a personal level, I might be more Jade. This is definitely thought provoking, so I appreciate the article. Thanks!

  4. Diane Dzurochak from NONE, July 21, 2010 at 12:46 p.m.

    I would consider myself a gold, both personally and professionally. Have spent many years in a copper corporate marketing world and have struggled to excel to the point I have considered a career change. I hope more marketers can learn to (and are allowed to by their industry) wear multiple color hats as I concur with your article -- it is essential to look at how the consumers approach your product, not how your CEO and upper management do (unless of course they ARE the target customer!).

  5. Pat Lewis from Social Media Concepts NY, July 21, 2010 at 3:25 p.m.

    Great article. I'm definitely in the Gold camp!

    Pat Lewis
    Social Media Concepts NY

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