The Pivot Conference has given me several opportunities to hear some of my favorite thinkers in the industry. This morning started with Saul J. Berman (author of Not For Free) and Clay Shirkey (master storyteller and avuncular NYU professor and author) at a morning breakfast at the Yale club, sponsored by Social Media Today.

Then, even before lunch, I got to hear another one of our industry giants, Charlene Li.  Charlene’s books, Groundswell (co-authored with Josh Bernoff) and Open Leadership are must-haves for the social media professional’s library. When your ship wrecks and you’re on that desert island, make sure you’ve got Groundswell.

Today, Charlene’s talk started with a review of the new media landscape. Looking at the timeline of how much has changed in the past few years: iPhone debut, Facebook platform, Facebook Connect, iPhone app store, Nexus One, Android debut, Ipad debut, and most recently, the Facebook Timeline.

We used to dislike caller ID – but now won’t answer phone if someone is “caller unknown”.  We have a new normal. Other parts of the new normal are:

Yet; on all three – we still see organizations doing the latter of each.

It’s all about relationships. Technologies change.

What’s needed to maintain relationship: authenticity and transparency. Are you really transparent? Do you really want to be authentic?

Brands feel out of control.  Referring to the Dell flaming laptop photo, Dell couldn’t control it. Dell did help manage the disaster, though, by going onto a brand new blog, and talking about it {Dell Flaming Notebook post by Lionel Menchaca} and even linked to the infamous burning laptop photo.

We all have things go wrong sometime.  When asked, very few people in the audience indicated that their companies would be comfortable and ready to engage in that type of relationship.

People don’t feel comfortable with these new relationships. Right now in the streets today, we have something fascinating going on: the Occupy Movement.  What’s happening there is this new mindset. There is a sense of what we can do as individuals because we feel empowered by how we are listening to each other. But with brands, that relationship isn’t there.

So who’s really present, and who’s not. When the Occupy Movement comes into your lobby, what are you going to do?

Today in social media, we have a lot of tools to listen.  But do people really feel like they’re being heard? But I believe that’s not going to be enough anymore.  Need to really truly listen, and learn. Customer can’t just be listened to, but the customer has to feel like they’re known. That’s the true opportunity that lies before us.

It’s about the relationships, not the technologies.  What are the relationships you can have with people because of the technology?

It’s about relationships.