Signal Strength and Culture Change

Over the past week I’ve had the chance to have a few conversation with Gary Koelling of Best Buy and founder of, on the subject of business and social media (he also likes the term social technology). In fact you can hear one of those conversations as part of our weekly Minnov8 Gang Podcast. I speak with Gary about alot of things, but I was particularly struck by his thoughts on two subjects.

First, was that of “signal strength”.
(Ok, now you’re talkin’ a radio guy’s language.) As Gary was
whiteboarding away on the topic of reaching customers and fans he noted
how easy social media makes it to leap over so many steps and
interactions to speak directly with the customer. His comment, “Your
signal strength is much higher.”

That of course had me visualizing the good ol’ communication model that
was drilled into me for years. Any time you can eliminate static
between the sender and the real receiver (in that “medium”) the better. both are winners
when you can increase your signal strength.

Of course getting a business to remove the static that impacts signal strength is a discussion of business culture and it’s impact on the acceptance of social media. I’ve mentioned more than a few times here that there needs to be a shift in the business models of many companies, including as it pertains to the long tail, broadcast, and big brands.

In conversations Gary has shared with me many of the accomplishments and a few frustrations he has experienced over the years as he as tried to overcome established business cultures. In a nutshell he emphasized the need to be patient. Business has a long history of not really allowing the customer to directly influence how they do things. It will take time and many attempts at getting business to both accept new ideas and avoid falling back on “the way we have always done things.”

Patience is the key to social media in so many ways, including the patience a company need to have when building relationships. That doesn’t happen quick enough to impact your financials by the end of this quarter, or next. That’s a big change for companies, especially those in crisis, as so many are right now.

Gary pointed to this video as what Best Buy is thinking in this regard.

Clearly, Best Buy is making a move toward changing it’s culture and increasing it’s signal strength. It’s very encouraging and should be inspiring to other companies and business categories. (I’m thinking media…especially radio, where it’s all about signal strength.)