Social Media: The Coffee House of the New Millennium

Five characteristics of social media that drive innovation and business value

Following a great Twitter chat recently (#CITEchat), I found myself again questioning whether social media can truly drive business value and innovation; and, if it can, why that would be the case. I believe some key characteristics of social media do, indeed, enable it to be a key driver of innovation and business value.

1.  Social media creates opportunities for businesses to connect with customers and experts with whom they may not have otherwise connected.

Alright, this is the obvious reason. Though social media creates an opportunity for people to interact, that alone does not guarantee there will be any benefit. It could be argued that people have had opportunities of this nature that date back to the creation of the first suggestion box (wiki…). So, what’s different about social media? Quite a bit…

2. Social media is “always there”.

How many times have you had a great idea – for your home, your business, an article… -  and by the time you were able to write it down you had forgotten what it was? With the ubiquity of mobile devices, many (most?) people are almost always within reach of a means to connect to social media. Though wait! You might be thinking: “Those devices can connect to a web page or a wiki too, so this benefit is not unique to social media”. I agree with that premise, though not with the conclusion those technologies present equal opportunities.

Though I do know some people who can (and do) create lengthy documents on their smartphones with a thumb cadence fit for Riverdance, most people would not take the time. And this is where a property of many social media platforms becomes a key advantage…

3. Social media demands brevity.

Many popular social media platforms enforce a maximum message size (e.g. Twitter’s 140 character limit). This results in several key benefits including:

  • The writer must stick to the most important points

  • It takes much less time to create a message

  • It takes MUCH less time to consume the message

Since this is much less disruptive, people are more likely to communicate. It can be done in seconds. Those brief, to the point, messages take less time to consume and therefore it is much more likely they will actually be read – and digested; perhaps in contrast to a thousand ideas on your collaboration wiki, each several pages long.

This aspect of social media increases the number and types of people likely to communicate with you and your business. And it gets even better…

4. Social media is the coffee house of our time.

Once people engage with social media they can, and do, have real conversations. They can happen in real time. They can be compelling and engaging. They can be very productive, improve ideas, and result in real business value and innovation in much the same way Steven Johnson describes the benefit of the coffee house in the age of enlightenment. In fact, it appears to me that social media has become the coffee house of our time. The benefits do not end here…

5. Social media finds you.

With many forms of social media you do not always have to find what you’re looking for. Quite often it finds you. Or, rather they find you. Through social media I have had countless productive and enlightening conversations with people whom I would not have otherwise met; and both my employer and I are better for it.

Join us at the coffee house

If you have not yet taken advantage of social media I strongly encourage you to join in, if only to observe. I did not initially understand the potential benefit and satisfaction social media would bring, both to my personal and professional life. Thus I am thankful that I paid attention to those who first convinced me to try. (Thank you @cmneedles, @kdemacop, and @jayfry3.)

What benefits have you and your business derived from social media? What about the drawbacks? I would be grateful for your comments and insights.

Public domain Coffee House image courtesy of Wikipedia.

This blog is cross-posted at Pragmatic Cloud. Follow @GeorgeDWatt on Twitter.

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George Watt

VP, Corporate Strategy at CA Technologies
A transformative leader, George has spearheaded initiatives that have enabled organizations to simplify and automate their complex IT infrastructures, deliver new business benefits, and drive millions of dollars in savings and productivity gains. In the early 2000s George founded the CA Technologies Engineering Services team, responsible for protecting the company’s intellectual property, managing the consolidated source-code repository, and providing automation and development tools. In this role George led the development of CA Technologies’ own private cloud and enjoys sharing his lessons learned with others who are now venturing on a similar journey. George began his technical career as a systems programmer/ sysadmin and systems engineer. He has held many leadership positions, leading technical and presales teams in Canada, the United States, and globally. Throughout his career, George has delivered innovations such as a lightweight event management agent, a knowledge base for a neural network-based predictive performance management solution, and one of the earliest private clouds. Many of George’s innovations are now available to CA Technologies customers as product components or features. George is co-author of "The Innovative CIO: How IT Leaders Can Drive Business Transformation". He blogs at and tweets as @GeorgeDWatt. George is currently vice president of corporate strategy at CA Technologies.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Great points! I enjoyed reading it.
    I think one other important point is to whom you socilize in your social media. That is why it is important that a social media should support member grouping based on user profile data, such as job title, skill$ experience, companiee that employed you, age, gender. hobies, etc.

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