Luddite To Leader – My Social Epiphany

200 years ago, English textile workers chose to actively resist the industrial revolution that was threatening to take their jobs. They decided not to embrace the disruptive technology of the day – no steam engines for them or mechanized mills and factories. An honest day of manual work supported by the horse had served them well for millennia. Human sweat was an eternal pillar of value creation in society.

They were passionate about their cause and took up arms, even assassinating mill owners. Amazingly, at one point in time there were more British soldiers fighting the Luddites within the UK than there were British redcoats fighting Napoleon. A 'Luddite' is defined today as someone who seeks to resist technology and throughout history there have been recalcitrants. When the phone was invented, religious leaders opposed it because it would encourage dishonesty and fraud. "If you can't look someone in the eye when you're talking to them, how can you trust what they are saying?"

Beyond those who resist are the people who underestimate the power of what's really happening. In 1943, Thomas Watson, President of IBM boldly stated: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." In 1977, Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, said: "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Industry experts are often wrong andpeople enjoying current success often foolishly ignore the trends that make them irrelevant.

I've lived through the pioneering era of mobile computing, ERP, CRM and cloud computing. They all crossed the chasm and right now social selling is making the crossing. Mike Derezin from LinkedIn states the case masterfully in the video below. It makes for compelling viewing and here is my challenge to you: Don't be a late adopter when it is all about catch-up without any commercial advantage. Right now is the perfect time to invest your time in understanding the power of moving away from the paradigm of 'interrupt and push' to instead 'attract and engage' where your customers are... in social.


I'm 53 and my own journey is testimony to the fact the those with grey hair and wisdom can become hyper productive and relevant in a Millennial ADD world. Almost exactly twelve months ago I was challenged to embrace social by a client I was mentoring in the USA. She convinced me to move from Luddite to leader by embracing social platforms. I turned my excuses into the very reasons for embracing the power of LinkedIn, Twitter and content publishing. It's been transformative for me and here are some reasons you should embrace it too.

Psy [in main photo] was a middle-aged oddity who went Gangnam-style busters because of YouTube and social media

Social selling matters because we live in the age of massively empowered buyers. Our customers can research and commoditise what we offer with just a few clicks. They can assess our assertions of value and then introduce competitors with ease. Sellers therefore need a framework for attracting customers through strong personal and corporate brands. But it’s not about spamming, pushing or annoying anyone. Those who narcissistically drone or aggressively sell are unfollowed and disconnected as quick as a click. Connecting to someone new and then immediately seeking to sell is a serious mistake. I define strategic social selling for business-to-business (B2B) as follows:

Social Selling is the strategy and process of building quality networks online that attract clients and accelerate the speed of business, and achieved with a strong personal brand and engagement through social listening, social publishing, social research, social engagement, and social collaboration.

In my definition, technology is merely an enabler but can be leveraged to create truly incredible results with the right strategies. Obviously, social initiatives are supported by the use of technology and social platforms but it’s really all about human connection and interaction to provide real value through insight or assistance with relevant content and conversations.

Social platforms, especially Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google have driven the era of personal brands and a new reality of transparency. The days of being able to project a manufactured persona are gone… people can quickly uncover the reality of who you are, how you operate, how well you’re connected, and the value you offer… all before you ever get to say a single word on the phone or face-to-face. Social proximity is a real factor that enhances or undermines potential connection, often without the seller ever discovering how their network (or lack thereof) helped or hindered their efforts.

Your social strategy will depend on what you’re seeking to achieve and where your market is but don't fall into the trap of becoming busy in social without having a strategy for both connection and content. For example, think about the reasons for posting in LinkedIn Publisher or creating Facebook pages. Are you seeking to attract and build an audience platform? Are you wanting to evidence your credentials? Are you wanting to provide insights and credibility to support your new business meeting requests? Are you wanting to proactively deal with potential objections you could encounter? Are you seeking to associate yourself with admired brands and thought leaders? Are you perhaps chipping away at commonly held myths about your disruptive solution set to cause a sea change? 

Social selling is a strategy, not a set of technologies. Most importantly, you need to know exactly who your target audience is and what insight or value you can provide before they would be interested in what you sell. Once you know what you’re seeking to achieve and have defined goals and metrics, then you can design your strategy and action plan to cascade down to the individual elements.

But more than all of this, moving from Luddite to Leader means being relevant in serving you customers and employer. You deliberately choose to give your intellectual property (IP) away and to adopt a 'pay it forward' approach to helping others. You reject the concept of trading favors and instead become a person of transparent goodwill. Leadership is about courageous service.

Once you are a person worthy of the success you seek, you then need a vehicle or platform on which to build your following. You need technologies that increase your reach and sphere of influence. Social is that platform today.

It is inevitable that all business people will embrace social and focus on building strong personal brands. so don't be late in having your epiphany; embrace social now. The very books I can recommend for you to read are The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott, and Platform by Michael Hyatt.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker

Main image photo by: Flickr: Eva Rinaldi - Psy