Point of view: New tools for old ideas

Molly Flatt

It was the American poet Audre Lore who said "there are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt". But to listen to the social media hype, you'd think that the idea of doing business in a human, connected and flexible way is a wonder of the universe.

Of course, little about social media is new. Most of this 'revolution' simply involves us pursuing age-old human behaviours and tactics on an amplified scale. People have always formed passion-based communities; always sought out the authentic and the disruptive; always trusted peer opinion over the company line. Yes, the technology is a game-changer, but it is facilitating some very non-innovative tendencies.

Our memory is particularly selective when it comes to 'social business'. If this phrase isn't already washing around your RSS feeds, your magazine subscriptions and your pitches, it will be very soon. You may have encountered it a few years back in the guise of Enterprise 2.0. It is the 2011 consultancy Zeitgeist that applies the principles of social media marketing on an organisational scale, and it is already scooping big budgets in America via self-proclaimed social business agencies such as Dachis Group (with clients such as Coca-Cola, HBO and Samsung) and brands such as Cisco and IBM. There are all sorts of complicated definitions out there, but I like to say that a social business harnesses social behaviours for commercial success.