Chapter 2

Social Media Is an Octopus

In the classic Indian tale of the elephant and the blind men, several sightless wanderers come upon an elephant for the first time. In trying to determine what it is, each man touches a different part of the animal. To one fellow who grasps the trunk, it is a squirming snake. To another who holds the tail, it is a rope. For a third who falls against its side, it is like a wall, and so on for each wanderer. Not only do their various perceptions lead them to quarrel, but they also fail to accurately identify the beast.

Such is currently the case with social media. Practices as diverse as marketing, public relations, customer service, and even crisis management claim it as part of their domains. Traditional creative agencies may see it as a funny video spot on YouTube. Public relations professionals would argue that it is all about influencer outreach. Customer service might say it is just another form of customer relationship management. And to some degree they would all be right.

As social media quickly expands across the enterprise and beyond, it touches just about every facet of business, making it more analogous to an octopus than an elephant (Figure 2.1). Indeed, it is becoming ubiquitous both inside and outside just about any type of organization, and it is driving change throughout the entire business process.

Figure 2.1 The Social Media Octopus

Consider, for example, some of the different disciplines social media affects.


Get Content to Commerce: Engaging Consumers Across Paid, Owned and Earned Channels now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.