Not every craze is good. Some are just crazy.

Do you tweet? I don’t. I almost did – last year, carried along on a wave of enthusiasm for Twitter, I signed up for an account. Imagine if somebody had come to me five years ago and said they had a great new idea.  From my mobile phone, I could send frequent updates (but no longer than 140 characters) to a public site, listing my most insignificant daily doings, my moods, my highs and lows, and my innermost thoughts. I’d have thought they were one bit short of a byte. So would you. So would we all. But then along came Twitter. And lo, people tweeted. So by last year, I was in good company. After all, if Barack Obama was doing it, there had to be something in it, right? Not necessarily. But it does tell us something important about the human mind. If you’re the only person doing something, it takes a lot of strength of character to keep it up. But if you know that thousands out there are doing the same, you can go to bed happy at night. Just think about it. 10 years ago, men wouldn’t have gone around with plastic Alice bands in their hair – they just wouldn’t. And then footballers started doing it, and it became socially acceptable. The same goes for jeans worn at half-mast. It’s not practical (they keep falling down) it’s not stylish (your underwear spills out over the top) and it’s not attractive (especially viewed from behind, going up steps). So why do people do it? Peer pressure. Social acceptability. The desire to fit in with the crowd. Also, the desire to be different. There’s just one hitch: if lots of people are doing it, you’re not a rebel. You’re a conformist.

Facing the music

Here’s the thing about Twitter and Facebook: they require lots of time and even more thought. And you need to think very carefully first what it does to your corporate image. Early last year, a friend sent me an email that was brimming over with exclamation marks. Look what he’d found! A business associate’s Facebook page. So what, I thought? Lots of people use Facebook in a professional capacity. Then I had a look. My eyes widened, and my jaw dropped. This senior director of a large international organisation had slung all his dirty laundry on his virtual clothes-line. Photos, compromising detail, names, dates, places. Everything on public show, in the public domain. All you had to do was Google his name and you’d go straight to his Facebook page. A week later, I checked back for more juicy details, but the page had vanished. Good sense, it seems, had finally prevailed. Nonetheless, the damage was done.

Look before you leap

Not all crazes are bad. Nor are they good. The important thing is to stop, think and ask yourself why you’re considering jumping on this particular bandwagon. The key here is authenticity. If it doesn’t feel right for you, don’t do it. Just like Cinderella’s ugly sisters, if the shoe doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit – no matter how many times you try it on. So what does all of this have to do with business? Everything. For just as we decide to stick Alice bands in our hair, let our jeans hang low and sport a stud in our eyebrow, so every business decision we make is subject to the pull of the crowd.
  • Do you really need to put Flash on your site? Why? If nobody was doing it, would you?
  • Do you absolutely have to blog? Yes, corporate blogging’s the Next Big Thing, but can you keep it updated day after day, week after week?
  • Do you need a mission statement?  (Let me answer that for you – no. When they were new, they were new. Now that they’re old, they’re old. Dump it, and do something different.)
  • Is a focus group really  better than your gut feel? And if they come back with something you think is wrong, who’s right?
The list is endless. But the lesson is simple: whenever you see a bandwagon go by, ask yourself if you know where it’s going. And whether the journey is worth it. Because not jumping on it might just make you stand out from the crowd. Find out more: