Are you just managing social media or are you a social organisation?
To some Marketing Directors and Managing Directors, social media is seen as a set of tactical tools that sit within the Communications Department. More often than not, those tools are handled by digital natives on their behalf, those people that have a familiarity with social media, that they themselves do not.
This means there is a significant deficit of understanding at the heart of many management teams and at the core of brand and businesses strategies about how to really adapt to, and make the most of, social media.
Social media is an experiential medium, iterative and generative in nature and it asks for human, hands-on involvement. This means that many brands and businesses have yet to appreciate how large a difference there is between an ‘organisation that uses social media’, and a ‘social organisation’.
The difference has a direct bearing on the level of success one can expect from social media. The social web offers the advantages of friction-free connectivity and real-time, impactful engagement, but in return asks that brands and organisation are socially relevant and involved in a conversation. This requires new perspectives on brand positioning, strategy and management.
To generate value-rich relationships and long-term user participation, brands must develop social leadership skills that can encourage them to engage with people, and not just manage them through social media. This reframes marketing communications and requires new storytelling and content management capabilities.
The social web asks that businesses are lean and agile, without being slowed down by the ‘middle third’, the layer of management that sits below the parapet in terms of the strategic vision and is also disconnected from the groundswell and group of people ‘formerly known as the audience’. This asks for new perspectives on business modelling.
Socially smart brands operate with minimal slack, in a way where every key contact connected makes a positive impact. They are networked. This asks for new perspectives on enterprise technology and how human resources are developed.
Organisations that are not digitally calibrated beyond being in the game of social media, run the risk of adopting 2.0 platforms to deliver 1.0 broadcasts. What we’re seeing today is just the beginning of a fundamental shift, one that a great deal of business and organisations aren’t ready for.
Without having the strategies in place to develop user participation, inbound communication, distributed, collaborative growth or the social skills to create network effects and cultivate communities of influence, these are organisations that run the risk of being completely unprepared to compete well for the minds and hearts of users and consumers in a new, connected, social marketplace.
For social media to have an impact, the adoption of social media by brands and businesses has to be much more than skin deep. Being a digitally networked organisation, able to take full advantage of the opportunities that social media brings, requires looking at an organisation’s positioning strategy, establishing of new business benchmarks, new ways of working cross functionally, deeper levels of insight gathering and user-centric research, digital commerce, new marketing methods, as well as cultural skills, corporate competencies, technologies and user experiences. Most organisations have quite simply never been calibrated to be digitally effective businesses.
For businesses and brands that struggle with digital adoption, most that resistance comes from not having the time, being too busy or not being able to see the operational benefits – all valid arguments given the pressure of managing a hectic pace of change. But a lot of the pressure of change itself comes from managing the shift from old model to new model businesses piecemeal, without having a fully integrated and inter-disciplinary digital strategy. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Organisations need to develop bespoke migration strategies for this that can deliver returns with minimal disruption.
As digital integration becomes sore to marketing communications and business management, one challenge is how to maintain stakeholder relationships as things scale. At Visceral Business, we work with large organisations to develop strategies on just this point, that deliver the answers to these challenges without compromising the strength of the brand. Brand strength can be diluted by outsourcing the brand’s social voice or by taking a too-technical approach to data management. Each of these can end up stripping the organisation of its ability to add value by creating deep, visceral connections with users.
The networked organisation offers one big advantage beyond just using social media, in that networked organisations are sustainable. They’re sustainable because they help people connect where they buy and buy in to the business in new ways. Networked organisations offer more than automated transaction, they have human business principles embedded into their core values. They grow their social influence, the strength of their community and their operational productivity on the basis of intertwined and inclusive objectives, in tandem and in real time, with users.
For many organisations managing digitally, the Achilles heel is still, as one client put it recently, ‘Heaven help anyone who wants actual conversation!’ It is true that we get the return on digital media we deserve.
My colleague Steve Bridger puts it this way: ‘The so-called failures of social media to deliver are misplaced; rather they are the result of our own failure to commit – to sustain an online presence in more than a fleeting, one-night stand.
Digital media today may fail to deliver that campaign result you had pre-determined, but it might, if used well, instead unleash a series of promising relationships, connections and surprises.
Consider our failure of exposing our meeting culture (or our advertising) to the same rigorous demand for immediate return that we demand of social media.
What digital technology does is it lifts a mirror and reflects back on our own failings to make time for other people. When contemplating the failures of social media, we need to first look at ourselves.