Mad props to Hugh MacLeod for his inspirational post about the porous membrane as analogy for social media. And thanks to Mack Collier for getting me there. (Read, follow, listen – these lads are wicked smart)
Brought me back to Grade Nine biology with Mrs. Peabody (Seriously. 51″ tall. Ballerina bun. Big round glasses). We learned about different kinds of cellular structures: the non-permeable membrane, the semi-permeable membrane, and the permeable membrane.
Biology teachers everywhere prepare to cringe, but here’s what I remember. A non-permeable membrane has a complete cell wall with no pores and nothing can pass through it. Although the membrane is elastic, there is no pressure differential between the inside and the outside; ergo, perfect balance. In other words, nothing is happening. It is a static environment; no information is ever exchanged.
Semi-permeable membranes allow for a certain amount of molecular exchange – but only if the molecules on one side of the membrane are (conveniently and appropriately) small enough to pass through it. Then they are welcomed in.
Permeable membranes are the party animals of the cellular world. With open arms, they welcome molecules of all types and sizes – a veritable osmotic bender! [I was going to say ‘osmotic orgy’ because alliteration rocks but thought that might be inappropriate.]
If your business has an impermeable membrane, then it is sending its message out with a bullhorn over the wall, perhaps through traditional types of media that move in one direction. (This may work but I hear that hope is as effective a marketing strategy as it is a contraceptive.) Your business is isolated inside the cell; your customers are floating around it. You are blind and deaf to them.
Perhaps your company has a semi-permeable membrane. Some information is exchanged but you set the standard; you are only open to certain types of exchange. Perhaps the only molecules you allow to enter include acclamation, glowing reviews, and testimonials from ecstatic customers. All the critical stuff? Those molecules are too fat to pass through and float about, angry and disgruntled. And disgruntled molecules? A force to be reckoned with…
Moving on to the next kind of organization; the one with the unfettered, orgiastic permeable membrane that engages fully in the social media landscape. Molecules of every size, shape, and temperament pass thorough. This may seem a bit unsettling – but can behoove success in so many ways. You are able to listen to an audience (of your customers) who wants to be heard and learn about your mistakes (and through that learning, innovate and improve). You’ll also hear all those mad props about your organization. By being open, your business is able to communicate with and gain respect from even your most vehement detractors.
Having a permeable membrane doesn’t put your business on the defensive, it allows it to communicate … openly and authentically.
What kind of membrane does your company have? Are you open to authentic conversation?
(I’m no @gapingvoid so please feel free to mercilessly mock my silly little drawings :-))