Corporate Social Media Perspectives – Plus Six Success Steps

I keep getting surprises – good, bad and ugly – when it comes to social media in the corporate world.

There are social web leaders like Intel, Intuit, Comcast and Jetblue. The Social web just seems to be working out right for them. And then there are others, who are getting nowhere!

Social media is definitely different when you’re a business (with multiple people running the show) than when you’re an individual person. This brings in a few key differences and perspectives:

  1. Social web takes on two dimensions – internal and external. Internal refers to everything that stays behind a corporate network and is not publicly available.
  2. There is a bigger brand than just “brand you” involved in both the internal and external dimensions.
  3. Perceptions about your brand build up very quickly – and many a times are a reflections of reality. Perceptions are reality!

Bill Seaver had a write up, Dealing With Employees Who Are Social Media Celebrities, on Social Media Examiner a few weeks ago. In his write up, Bill spoke about the five opportunities and threats with celebrity employees – but concluded that:

The pressure social media and employee celebrities bring to the workplace is mostly positive. It changes the dynamic from “human resources” to “talent management” and that’s really a good thing for everyone.

Businesses will get better people, employees will be better people, and customers reap the benefits from the whole arrangement. Employee celebrities will be viewed as a threat in some companies, but they’ll be rock stars in other companies. Social media gives every organization yet one more thing to consider for the future of their business.

Problem is – many businesses, small and big alike – are still not embracing the social world. For every leader that I see embracing social media, there are hundreds (if not thousands) that are either not there – or just not getting it right.

Here are the problems:

  1. Business leaders themselves are too orthodox and/or bureaucratic to embrace anything social.
  2. They are too closed to open up and allow employees to embrace anything social.
  3. They are situations (either genuine or forced upon) which makes them believe that social media isn’t for them – or their employees.

Mike Clough got it right when we examined the reasons why (small) businesses are still struggling in the world of social web. He calls it the traditional mechanical marketing model where:

  • Consumer exposure through print, outdoor, radio, and/or TV ads
  • Company has command and control of the message
  • Message is broadcast (one-way) to the consumer
  • Message is direct (hard sell) “buy from us, because…”
  • Designed with a “call to action” to generate immediate revenue
  • Declining consumer response to messages delivered in this way
  • Measures “outputs”

No wonder the social web just doesn’t work for them. Challenge is – social media isn’t just about marketing. It is also about the other three pillars that keep it thriving:

  1. Community Engagement (Feedback, Support, Loyalty)
  2. Real Contacts, Connections
  3. Brand And Value Creation (For everyone involved)

Want to see how social media works at its best? Here’s a quick summary from Casey Hibbard’s post on how Avaya turned the tables around:

At a time when businesses are using social media to promote content and start discussions, Avaya has found that listening trumps talking.

“We’re listening to social media and responding,” said Paul Dunay, Avaya’s social media ringleader, who is global managing director of services and social media marketing.

There is no Tweet that goes unturned. No forum post that goes unturned where our name is mentioned.”

This isn’t an isolated example – there are others in this space who are making social media work for them.

The IBM experiment with social media is a bit different:

“We don’t have a corporate blog or a corporate Twitter ID because we want the ‘IBMers’ in aggregate to be the corporate blog and the corporate Twitter ID,” says Adam Christensen, social media communications at IBM Corporation.

“We represent our brand online the way it always has been, which is employees first. Our brand is largely shaped by the interactions that they have with customers.”

Danny Brown had some splendid suggestions about corporate social media success while he was talking about Running Your Business Like A Cocktail Stick:

  • Open a company-wide wiki.
  • Use a good messenger system like Yammer or Socialtext.
  • Remove the phone tree approach to letting ideas be heard.
  • Cut down on redundant descriptions that no-one but the CEO cares about.

For if corporates don’t embrace the cocktail stick approach in their social world, they’re just still atop a disaster waiting to happen. Want an example? Here’s a story what happened when Air Canada decided to ignore this wisdom.

As Danny succinctly summed up –

… there’s business and there’s good business. You screwed up. You replace. Then you find out what happened.

How many businesses are being agile like Ayava? Not too many.

How many businesses are blowing up opportunities offered to them on a platter to make a difference? All the others!

Here are six recommendations for making social media work in the corporate world:

  1. Do you have a formal Chief Media Officer? How about social strategists who come from the real world?
  2. Do you create an army of Social Media Scientists who can make a positive difference for your brand?
  3. Do you have a good – and sensible social web strategy for your employees? Or are you like the millions of businesses who decide to put Websense in the way of your employees and the rest of the world?
  4. How realistic are your internal social strategies? Internal blogs are good – but are you making sure if they are leaning against the right walls? Or are they merely serving as yet another pulpit for your executive agendas?
  5. Do you, as a corporate entity, put people first? Focus on building real connections with employees and customers alike? Or do you continue to be driven by profit margins that would put Dilbert’s Pointy-haired Boss to shame?
  6. Is your social web balanced both internally and externally?

Social media isn’t rocket science – even when it comes to using it successfully in the corporate world. Perhaps that’s the reason we see so many accidents and disasters on the way.

What do you think? What else are businesses doing right – and wrong in the social world? I’d love to hear what you think.

(Image Credit: Scott Adams, and Wikipedia

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