Posted by: @spdlm | 20 Feb 11

Openly rigid social media industry

“That is not very Web 2.0”

This is a phrase I am becoming quite familiar with these days. As a relative novice in this industry having just been appointed as co-founder of a start-up company, certain things are almost brand new to me and I am going through a very refreshing period of knowledge exchange with my colleagues at my company. I bring my business development and financial skills to the table and my fabulous colleagues show me the ropes in social media, specifically E 2.0. This is going well and I am really enjoying it. What I am beginning to notice, however, is the certain culture that exists in social network industry that is very open and frank, and yet quite rigid. Let me give you some examples.

Would you say that this is a typical dress-code of a social media company?

T-shirt and Jeans

Let’s take a look at this photo. Now, I know that most of the social media companies are based in sunny California, where apparently, nobody wears suit and tie. What this photograph encapsulates perfectly for me, is the way I often feel that I am to think, behave and even dress in a certain way, to be considered a social media person. I come from financial industry where suit and tie are a must and it has a notoriously rigid culture. When I was baptised into the social media industry, I was quite impressed and pleasantly surprised by the openness of this industry. I still hold this view, but there are areas where I am offered no explanation except a short sentences like “that is the Web 2.0 way”. I am afraid, that is not good enough. I am definitely not suggesting that this image they aspire to (i.e. Mr Jobs look) and the certain way our colleagues behave is not cool or appropriate. I am not in a position to make that call. What I am trying to say is that, this industry should constantly be engaged in innovation in every possible way. I believe that this industry is already a vital part of global economic recovery and will touch every one of us whether you are pro or anti social media. So, why place any boundaries, however minor it may be?

Keeping up with the Joneses

Apparently, it is OK to have a C-class executive title but not VP. I have also heard of stories where a certain type of social media companies must have an address in certain office block in the “valley”. The list goes on and I think you get my gist. Being original is not the issue here but the constant struggle I keep witnessing to ensure the person’s or the company’s appearance complies with the predefined style for that industry seems a little ridiculous. I was browsing a recruitment page of one of the well-known start-ups in this industry where there are two 30 something guys in T-shirts, one holding an iPad and apparently explaining something,  wearing his company T-shirt. The other guy is holding a cup of coffee smiling, with a backdrop of an obviously casual-styled office. Oh dear.

Promote creativity, not conformity

I can totally understand the desire to look cool, whatever the definition of cool is, and to be easily identifiable as a participant in one of the hottest industries right now. (I would also declare here that my fashion sense is quite diabolical most of the time.) I am hoping that the colleagues of social media industry are not driven into keep peering over their shoulders or comparing the rivals’ design, products and services to see whether or not you are better or same level as them, constantly performing like-for-like comparison. Competitor comparison is one of the key factors in becoming a successful business and investors love to see this presented but let’s not be afraid to lead and take risks. If you don’t have what the rivals have, think what can you bring to the game that the rivals can’t. Let’s keep promoting innovation and ingenuity.


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