#SocialSM: Guest insights courtesy of @BrianSolis

Tom Liacas —  June 2, 2013 — 3 Comments

EDIT-LIFT11-Geneva-by-Ivo-Napflin-597x396It is my pleasure to welcome Brian Solis to this series of discussions around the #Social Survival Manifesto. Brian, for those who have not yet crossed his formidable online presence, is one of the few people today who can claim the title of ‘social media guru’ without raising sneers. And Brian’s expertise spans much more than social media. He’s a principal analyst at Altimeter Group where he studies disruptive technology and its impact on business. He is also someone who studies digital anthropology and sociology and documents technology’s impact society and culture. Through his work, he attempts to bring the two worlds together. Brian is the author of the recent critically-acclaimed business title: WTF – What is the Future of Business?

Below is a recent exchange with Brian on the themes of the #Social Survival Manifesto and their crossover with concepts covered in WTF – What is the Future of Business.

 In my Manifesto, the principal drivers for change I put forth revolve around the specters of social media crisis and #fails. In other words, the risk that online critics or pressure groups could do some serious damage to a brand’s reputation if the corporation is doing social media poorly or not at all. This is my ‘stick’ when arguing for change in corporate communications. You have yet another that you propose in your book: The idea of ‘Digital Darwinism’. Can you tell us more about this concept?


“Digital Darwinism” is a kind of natural market selection that favors innovative companies at a time when technology and society are evolving faster than the ability of many organizations to adapt. It is this dynamic (along with a myriad of other problems of course) that in fact killed Borders, Blockbuster, Polaroid, Kodak, and the like. Not only did digital Darwinism cost us close to a half billion jobs, it’s only accelerating.

But there’s more. You’re right on track with your manifesto. In WTF, which is not only the abbreviated title of my new book, it’s also an expression of what many strategists and executives declare when they attempt to bring about meaningful change. The future of brands, including reputation, is not created, it’s co-created by shared experiences. In a connected society, these shared experiences pool and intensify and at some point, they outclass traditional branding and marketing. Conversations, reviews, and experiences aren’t Snapchats, they don’t self destruct.

In a connected world where people don’t necessarily start with the discovery process with Google and don’t rely on websites as much as their traditional counterparts, it’s shared experiences in social and mobile communities that become the catalyst to decision-making.

TOM LIACAS: Why is it so hard for businesses to adapt to the new cultural realities and public expectations of the digital age?


Part of the problem is that decision makers and stakeholders react to shareholders and not necessarily customers or markets. When they are ready to react, it’s typically a technology-first rather than a people-first initiative. Without understanding behavior, expectations, patterns, and new touch points, technology is often the right answer at the wrong time. It’s not unlike the famous saying about missed targets when they follow a “ready, fire, aim” command.

TOM LIACASWhat are the necessary conditions for making change happen?

Over the years, I’ve studied how disruptive technology affects consumer behavior and decision-making. I’ve also researched how businesses react (or don’t) to these changes. What I’ve learned is that barring a few exceptional instances of complete ignorance, organizations are open to adaptation if there’s indeed a case made for it and a path outlined to strategically and effectively navigate meaningful change. This is about relevance…anything less is competing for complacency

TOM LIACASA case you make in WTF – What is the Future of Business and  I make, in my own way, with the #Social Survival Manifesto…


Indeed. Let’s get to work already…#WTF

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Tom Liacas

Tom Liacas

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An M.A. graduate in Media Studies, Tom Liacas is an experienced Social Network Strategist who first cut his teeth creating and managing advocacy campaigns as an activist.
  • Ke’Aun Charles

    Loved the interview Tom; I admit that I often think problems can be solved with technology rather than through people. In your experience, are there any companies that stand out in “people-first” initiatives?

    • TomLiacas

      Thanks Ke’Aun. One example I like to use, though I’m using it too much lately, is McDonald’s Canada Your Questions campaign. It’s a portal through which you can ask them any question about their food, no matter how sensitive it might be. Behind the scenes, McD’s has mobilized staff from all levels of the company to field technical questions and provide thorough answers. No way you could do this without major human resource mobilization and, of course, massive buy in from top levels of management. It’s an example for others to follow though definitely an early adopter case. http://yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca/

      • Ke’Aun Charles

        Wow, I had no idea McDonald’s was doing anything like that Really cool stuff, would love to see other companies adopt the same practices -looking at you Microsoft Xbox division.