Some of you may have been following the events as they unfold in Iran. Many have probably watched the news on CNN, but increasingly more of you have been taking an active role in spreading the stories on Twitter. The news in Italian newspapers have a bit more depth than that on CNN or US news channels, but there is more color to it on Twitter - green to be exact.
It does sound like there is a pretty sizable public relations issue with the situation in Iran. While before the widespread adoption of social media, people organizing in basements and dark alleys (I read too many mystery books, I'm sure) would have had word of mouth and rudimentary tools to transmit those communications, today they have a number of options, even as the options inside the country are severely restricted.
Twitter may not lead the revolution, but it's certainly getting the word out about it. With the blurring of personal and professionals, we are witnessing the blurring of country-lines. Online thought leadership can be exported everywhere and people vote by joining it and participating. They do not need to have permission to feel empowered.
This is a big lesson for businesses of all kinds - B2B, B2C, small to large. Gary Hamel was leading another kind of revolution by saying that corporate complacency and single-strategy business plans leave no room for what he describes as the key to thriving in today's world of business: a deeply embedded capability for continual, radical innovation. He was saying that would-be activists needed an intelligent, comprehensive plan of action.
Today they do. Innovation is happening everywhere. Information is finding new ways to flow between users. When one conduit fails, it flows to the next. Just as in Iran, users have moved from service to service - they're using SMS, email, Twitter, whatever they can find working - to broadcast news and organize, so will your customers and employees. If businesses don't use these tools, information will simply bypass them.
People who approach social media as a novelty fail to understand its importance - or the way its presence is being taken for granted. What's happening with social media in Iran - it's being used in a couple of ways: to get the story out, and for communication - is indicative of its maturation elsewhere.
From the streets of Tehran to corporate marketing departments, social media is approaching commoditization. Like the light switch or the telephone -- it's just there. The competitive lesson for business here is it's no longer possible NOT to use these tools, because information will otherwise flow around them, as it has flowed from conduit to conduit in Iran.
[vintage image courtesy of Contact Sheet - looks a little like Twitter advice, doesn't it?]