From Social Media to the 3-D Internet: Companies Need to Change Up, Says Former RealNetworks Exec Kelly Jo MacArthur

2/2/10Follow @gthuang

Every once in a while, I sit down with a businessperson who brings a unique perspective to a huge global trend—and helps me see things in a profound new light. In this case, that person is Kelly Jo MacArthur, and the global trend is the explosion of social media and its broader impact on corporations.

MacArthur was the former general counsel, senior vice president, and chief of staff at Seattle-based RealNetworks—and she also did a stint at Linden Lab, creators of the virtual world Second Life—so she has her digital media and Internet technologies down cold. A 10-year veteran of Real, she left the company in 2007 and has been focusing on consulting work with startups, big companies, and other organizations across the fields of social media, networking technologies, cleantech and sustainability, traditional media, and arts.

We were talking recently about the future of companies like Twitter and Facebook, and what struck me was the way MacArthur thinks of social media as an inevitable—and inherently predictable—evolution of communication technologies on the Internet. That means smart entrepreneurs and executives should be able to anticipate how all of this is affecting societal behavior, and what the new opportunities will be. What’s more, she’s finding that these technologies are forcing big companies and organizations to completely rethink their core strategy and value proposition—indeed, their very existence.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation:

Xconomy: So what are you hearing from companies out in the field?

Kelly Jo MacArthur: In my own work as a strategic advisor to CEOs, various boards, and executives on their corporate strategy, the inevitable conversation is, “What should we be doing with social media?” I’m not a marketing person—they work with their advertising and marketing agencies—but it leads you to the conversation that each business, especially in more traditional, entrenched industries, should be thinking about how they’re relevant in the future. And how we as citizens and consumers are demanding more, and also participating more, in the offerings and opportunities that these businesses have.

There’s a huge opportunity, no matter what business you’re in, if you’re constantly thinking ahead about how we as societies are shifting. Versus focusing on, “Should I be using this tool, or should I have a Facebook page?” You should be using these tools for your … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

Single Page Currently on Page: 1 2 3 4

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri

    Kelly is spot on. I particularly like the way she emphasizes the power of people as citizens and consumers, and how it is vastly enhanced via social media.

    Her analysis goes beyond the blunt and obvious “Now people can broadcast their complaints” assessment of social media impact. Instead, she seems to understand that this media gives companies a chance to let people actually form their very offering. Their core value. We are doing this at Daily Grommet, via “Citizen Commerce” but we have the luxury of forming a business around that central notion of asking people create our business with us, in creating a participative commerce experience. But it is SO much harder for a big company to backfill with this kind of participation and sheer personal touch.

    I would be interested to hear Kelly’s POV on the relative balancing of power between small and large business now. I argue that social media levels the playing field and that small is a huge advantage. I think the days of nameless/faceless business are over. Social media takes us back to the notion of living in a village where you know who made your bread and forged your horsehoes.