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Black and White Television

I am old enough to remember watching a black and white television as a kid. No, I am not talking about black and white movies on a color television, I am referring to a television with no color. When I grew up, color television was not groundbreaking, but it was still an upgrade from the technology of black and white sets. Color was optional. This was really a buzz kill when watching The Wizard of Oz the 1 time a year CBS aired it – Kansas and Oz both looked like California. Steadily black and white television went away. Now color television is an assumption – an expectation. Sure people talk about how vivid the color is because pixels or mirrors or yellow, but they don’t brag about the fact that the television just has color.

Social media and technology are similar. Once upon a time (like 3 years ago), just having a blog was noteworthy. Not so long ago just being on Facebook or Twitter was fascinating to people. It was experimental. It was new. It was fascinating that real people could really talk to one another. However we are quickly moving from an initial experimentation, past fascination to a time where social technologies are an expectation. Just being there is no longer enough to raise a lot of eyebrows. Being there is like color television – an expectation.

Now, we are starting to ask “why?” when a company lacks a social presence on the web. Businesses with no social presence look more and more like black and white television every day. Meanwhile, our fascination with just having colors on a television is being replaced with actually paying attention to the shows that are on it. A couple of years ago, if your company decided to actually talk to customers publicly on the web, people would talk about how innovative your firm was. Now, not being there is what people talk about. Seems crazy, but the world is evolving very rapidly these days, and those that can not adapt will struggle.

Every disruptive new technology changed the market simply through its mere introduction and adoption. The car killed the buggy whip. The telephone killed the telegraph. Early adopters who figure out new applications for new technology often reap rewards, but once everyone adopts it is not an advantage in and of itself. It is just another expectation. My first sales job required me and my colleagues to use pay phones frequently. When I got a cell phone, it made me faster than them… for a while. Then they caught on, and it became an expectation. The same is now true with smart phones and mobile devices that empower us to be productive anytime, anywhere. It becomes an expectation, and the playing field levels. Results were driven by the adoption of technology, but really had more to do with just being good at sales. Technology can drive efficiency, but it requires effectiveness to create real results.

I am not smart enough to claim to know what platforms will be most successful 2 years from now, nor am I dumb enough to lie about it. There is still a significant amount of experimentation going on in the space, driving continued fascination for me and others. What I do know is that regardless of where you do it, openly engaging with people is becoming an expectation. Get over your apprehension. Do some experimentation. Move beyond fascination, and get busy with going far beyond the new level of expectation.

Bottom line: Figure out how technology can improve your processes and empower your people. Use it to be more efficient with things and more effective with people. Make it easy for people talk about the amazing things you do for your customers, and not just the fact that you are using technology.