Getting “Social” off the ground

Lately I’ve been working with a fantastic team of professionals, navigating the wonderful maze of Social Media and the hurdle in getting “Social off the ground” in a big company. 
It’s been an exciting, awe-inspiring, sometimes heart breaking, but always eye opening experience. I’m in the middle of the journey and so I thought I’d share the experience as it happens.
Not unlike our fantastic boom– Social is now the driving channel- and everyone wants to get involved, however, not everyone is on the same page. The two common hurdles seem to be either technology or people driven.
Here are some of the hurdles involved in social:
1. The awareness gap– most people know about twitter, facebook, foursquare right? 
It’s a generalisation I know, but one I can feel safe making given the numbers. What seems to be the case though, as with any kind of ‘relatively newish’ channel, is that there are differing levels of understanding. Most people understand how social applies to them in a personal sense, but not as it applies to business, and more specifically, the organisation they are working in.
2.  The technology driver– otherwise known as the “tail wagging the dog”. I’ve found that people want a facebook page, an iPhone app or a linked in group, even if they don’t know what they want on it, who it’s for or what the end goal is.
The other more perplexing issue is access. Many large corporations ban the use of social media for employees due to concerns about bandwidth use, productivity and conduct. Not only does this enrage an already vocal group of stakeholders, but it really cuts the organisation off at the knees. No social, is akin to no email or any other widely used communication channel.
3. The legalese – most large corporate companies have large corporate legal teams who have large, rigorous, time-consuming approval processes. Content publishing models need to adapt to facilitate engagement. Organisations need to be able to respond quickly.
This is a massive cultural shift for many large corporations. Getting social off the ground, means a ground swell of change.
4. The naysayers– whilst it’s easy to get frustrated with the naysayer, they play a critical role. They require proof. They require numbers, analysis, processes, budgets, policies, development and planning . They help negate risk to the company. In converting a naysayer to a champion, you’ve acquired copious amounts of supporting documentation, that will inevitably guide the engagement process.
5. The marketeers– I’ve come across two kinds of marketeers. Both are the opposite of the naysayer. They are enthusiasm and passion wrapped around a brand and generally see the vast opportunities involved in social. However, in my humble experience, I’ve noticed a worrying trend to tack social onto campaign without assigning any of the usual campaign metrics associated with success . It just doesn’t work. There needs to be a plan. Going social with no plan can prove a disaster, and be just as risky as not going social at all.
6. Employees- are already engaged in social, even if your network access is shut down. All you need to do is look at how many employees have web enabled phones and you’ll get a good idea of the volume. Employees can be your best advocates, or unfortunately, your biggest threat. Learn from Domino’s. The critical thing to recognise is that empowering an employee and trusting them in the social arena requires legwork and getting human resources, legal and IT all in the same room. It also means the development of a social media policy. 
7. Customers- are already talking about you even if you don’t know it. What looks like obvious negative sentiment about your company can become the greatest company intelligence for improving communications with the people who are paying your wages. The trick is to make sure you are listening to the conversation, and are preparing to respond.
Jumping the hurdle (Part 1):  
  1. Start listening, conduct a social landscape survey and report internally on what’s being said.
  2. Identify your audience, your pain points, your opportunities- share this information with anyone who will listen.
  3. Identify your champions, subject matter experts and your naysayers. Get them in the same room.
  4. Engage early with all the business units that need to be involved (e.g EVERYONE), by setting up education sessions.
  5. Start asking questions: “Why should we get involved?”, “What does it take to get involved?”, “Who must be involved?”
  6. Start talking to content specialists rather than social media specialists. You’ll find someone who has a firm grasp of content strategy eats social for breakfast. 
  7. Teach a man to fish by training your subject matter experts. Let them teach others. Share the love.
  8. Identify cultural changes that need to happen in order for social media engagement to become a reality- talk to the lawyers, get IT to unblock access, talk to HR about adding social to your Internet usage policy.
  9. Pick quick wins for social media engagement. If you know that customer service is the biggest pain point, then start there.
  10. Above all, get social and surround yourself with like minded people

I’ll be back with Part 2 once I’ve furthered the journey, if you have any experiences to add get commenting 🙂

Published by Claire Spencer

Senior social media specialist combining mindfulness with content to build a better world.

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