Starbucks paradox (Bernie Hou)The very nature of the traditional corporation is called to question by the Social Media Paradox:

Definition (by me):

Social Media Paradox: The degree to which the act of engaging in the social media paradigm reduces one’s ability to engage in the pre-social media paradigm; and vice versa.

Success in social media requires humility, authenticity and commitment to the medium.  Like a tattoo, that impression defines the person and is not easily removed – after all, everyone’s got to have some skin in the game.

Social media rewards people for doing what they are best at and saying what they feel to be most true. Furthermore, brands need to trust their employees to represent them – this means that they need to give up control of the message.  The more they try to control the message, the less effective they are in a social medium.

Sounds like a great idea, but is it practical?

Many people still need to work for a living often find ourselves at the mercy of corporations for an actual paycheck.  Social Media provides a free source of reference material on a new candidate.  If a person is seen as edgy, ‘counter culture’, or defiant by any number of risk averse HR gatekeepers, one’s “old-paradigm” employability can be affected.  The subtle irony that the those who best understand the medium can make themselves unemployable as a result.

The opposite is also true:

What happens when the old paradigm seeks to engage the new paradigm, can they retain their old ways? The US securities and Exchange Commission would go nuts if stockholders were to act on a single employee’s representation of, say, The Boeing Company.

From a recent discussion on linked in, one International Business consultant offered the following analysis:

“It would be wonderful to have most employees represent the company and even feel that their interests and those of the company are aligned. Unfortunately, this assumes that everyone working for you has the ability to discern the same things about their relationship to the company: the perception of a dock worker and an office worker and an executive have to be similar. Personally, I have never encountered this and I have managed businesses from technology startups to fortune 1000s.”

Extrapolating to the end game:

The only outcome that resolves both positions is where everyone exists as a singular corporation and interact as such by representing their individual point of view.  More practically, many small corporations would make up the whole of a big corporate objective, that is, the system integrator.

Solving the Paradox:

It is important to ask these somewhat rhetorical questions in order to identify disruptions that await companies (our clients) entering the new social media paradigm.  We make no pretension to actually having a singular answer for the Social Media Paradox – in fact, nobody does…that’s the point.