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Old fashioned values in a brave new world

February 2011

If you’re dreaming of starting your own business but are leery of Facebook and would never flitter on Twitter, you might want to glance at Social Nation, Barry Libert’s carte de route on “Harnessing the power of Social Media to attract customers, motivate employees and grow your business.”

Written for aspiring entrepreneurs, the book is not an instructional manual on using social media websites, but rather a revealing look at how basic human values—considering others, being willing to listen, treating others as you would like to be treated—can create the win-win situation that allows an enterprise to prosper.

With anecdotes sprinkled throughout the text, Libert illustrates how “principle-based businesses,” successful companies that focus on people’s needs at least as much as they focus on products and services, thrive in the world of transparency and accountability that the Internet has engendered. He is convinced and convincing that bringing the emotional/social realm into the world of business is the way of the future.

“I got criticized since 1993,” Libert, a specialist in social technology and business strategy, said in a telephone interview. “Now people are saying we have to do this. Social media will force us to be open, engaged and transparent.”

“Medium is not the message,” Libert says.

His book talks about connecting in cyberspace, but he insists that his guidelines are not specific to online communication. “Face to face interaction is as important. I’m a medium agnostic, I want to meet you in person and want to interact with you online. The medium is not the message,” he says, disagreeing with Marshall McLuhan, who had claimed the opposite to be true, in 1967.

Libert’s message is direct: “As we become more interactive, heartfelt, collaborative and accountable, ultimately crime will not pay,” he says. “Crime pays when things are hidden—you can commit crimes on Wall St., crimes of mind, crimes of finance, but when everything is transparent like on Amazon and eBay, you’re trying to protect your reputation. They can all see you, millions are watching. Openness allows for more accountability.”

Though Libert never read Dale Carnegie, his philosophy is in line with Carnegie’s suggestion that social and communication skills are essential in one’s personal and professional life. He says he’s read everything Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, has written.

Social Nation is meant for the 21st century, and is rife with terms that have acquired new meanings.

“The old definition of the word ‘social’ is that of people sharing common interests and interacting with each other. I think most people understand how to be social in their personal lives. When they start using ‘social’ in the business world, it is a bit confusing.

“I think what’s happened is, because of the Web, those social interactions we understand in our personal lives are now becoming part of the vocabulary of business.” Friends, Fans, Followers and Fanatics (the new definition is not negative) all have a role to play in growing a business.

Libert insists that the idea of business being nothing personal is outdated. “[The openness on the Internet] is forcing organizations, businesses and governments to take things personally. If you’re taking responsibility for meeting the needs of other human beings, you now apply this to government, business, education. Your job is not just to care for yourself but to be interested in the well being of others.”



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