Tao of Social Media

What is Tao? Tao is often referred as the pathless path. What does it mean? Osho, in his commentaries about Taoism, succinctly puts it, “..the way and the goal are one.” Leaving aside (for the purpose of this post) its deeper meaning, I would like to use this language to ponder over the way we perceive Social Media.

Given the staggering amount of discussions this topic generates everywhere, with innumerable consultants, gurus and the like, who are dying to share with you “Everything you wanted to know about…”, “The Ultimate guide to..”, ” Top 5 killer strategies of ..”(Ok.I confess.I made this up) Social Media, I think it would be worthwhile to examine whether whether such a thing exists.
Let me make myself clear. I am not denying the validity of their claims. Those killer strategies might work. I am simply pondering over their language desperately clamoring for attention. (Any one who has been in the content-blogging business for long will tell you that such titles with numbers [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]ways, paths,strategies etc.] will definitely attract more traffic)


What does it mean when we say that the way and the goal are one? It implies that means is the end. Whenever we are exploring a new territory, or when we are chartering through unfamiliar terrains, the way is a pointer, a compass which helps us navigate through the maze. They guide us like maps, helping explorers navigate through hitherto known territories.

More often, the human mind likes to divide the means from the end. In the case of Social Media, we have our Social Media gurus, enthusiasts and the like who strongly vouch for the means. They belong to the camp where the means is celebrated over the end. The reasons are obvious. Their occupassion demands it. (Aren’t they defining their occupation based on their passion?) They want you to outsource means to them so that they could profit and you need not be bothered over anything beyond the results. As much as pornographic artists love showcasing their assets, people who belong to this social ilk are eager to flaunt and share their kick-ass strategies, tactics and frameworks, which would delight customers and transform businesses. They would go all the way to keep the means at the altar, because, ultimately, that’s what their business is all about.

On the other hand, we have several, celebrated people gurus(or success gurus) who, with the power of their high caffeine rhetoric, celebrate ends over the means. Focus on people. Rest everything(read as technology, processes, tactics, strategies) will fall in place. Means are just necessary. They seem to be saying it all over. End is meaningful, as it changes everything. Ultimately, it’s all about people. In today’s networked age, these are biblical truths. There is no need for strategy.

Seth Godin recently echoed such views,when he said

Hard to imagine a consultant or investor asking the CMO, “so, what’s your telephone strategy?”We don’t have a telephone strategy. The telephone is a tool, a simple medium, and it’s only purpose is to connect us to interested human beings.

And then the internet comes along and it’s mysterious and suddenly we need an email strategy and a social media strategy and a web strategy and a mobile strategy.

No, we don’t.

So on one end, we have people who go ballistic about their best practices, strategies and go about evangelizing it in the networks,while on the other end, we have people who completely debunk such highfalutin claims, and focus only on the transformation it manifests.

As several wise sages have proclaimed, the truth lies in the middle path. That which is able to embrace the means and the ends mindfully. Belonging to one continuum in which the way is the beginning of the goal and the goal is just the ending of the way.

This understanding, beyond the philosophical realm, is very critical in the case of Social Media, because it helps us to understand one critical component which bridges people with the technology.


This topic, within this context, warrants several posts in detail to understand its complexity. Of late, I have noticed myself using this word quite often when I am talking about the new realities of business with my colleagues and clients. I shall try to summarize my thinking within the context of Social Media.

What is an ecosystem?

Businesses today in the networked world operate out of highly dynamic, continuously evolving ecosystems. Ecosystems point out to the emerging terms of reference which helps us comprehend the bewildering array of changes happening. It has almost replaced the term industry used in business parlance.

In the case of Social Media, for the purpose of this discussion, it refers to the chaotic,emergent environment arising from the humongous amount of conversations that are happening about products, brands, services etc. As these conversations cannot be (and should not be) controlled(You will be nailed to death, even, if you dare to think of it), the best way for brands and products is to participate in these conversations (and thereby in such ecosystems) in an open, transparent manner and seek to build humane relationships with customers.

The word humane is important because the emerging business environment driven by Social Media and its conversations places humans above institutions, business processes and systems. This is very critical to understand,because our old patterns of thinking, if you care to look deep, is imbued with tacit assumptions over the supremacy of the institutions and processes, as they were considered infallible.

Until recently, businesses only knew of relationships that were built on transactions, as dictated by their CRM systems. Ask any Social Media Guru. He would, in fact, find the word relationship demeaning to be used in such a context.

Ecosystems play a critical role as they bring the people at the fulcrum of business. Social strategies are increasingly being defined by the social relationships it fosters amongst its customers. Without strong understanding of the complexity of the ecosystems, any talk about people and technology would be wishful optimism, naive, to say the least, without being anchored to the ground realities of today’s business.

What makes ecosystems so powerful? They operate based on a simple, fundamental principle which drives the networked world. Aggregation is bound to happen around value. When one begin to understand the mind-boggling implications of this principle, along with its open, dynamic and evolving nature, one begins to understand its strong potential.

Having established the context, I would like to look, in my subsequent posts, at what ails the current state of affairs in Social Media and what are alternative ways to look at these.

What are your thoughts?

[Disclaimer: I work as a Social Media Analyst for Deloitte. My (fleeting) opinions expressed in this post are solely mine and not my employer’s.]

Reposted from here

Image courtesy Webtreats