Whether your company is a small shop of just a few intensely hard-working pros or a large venture with hundreds or thousands of workers, good communication is critical to your success. And by "good communication," I mean communication that works. With the right collaboration tools and a little operational discipline, you can overcome any communications challenge and get your teams in sync.
When I started my career back in the olden days of the 20th Century, the workplace was largely synchronous. For the most part, everyone showed up at more or less the same time, worked in the same office together, went to the same meetings, ate lunch at 12:30, and gathered around the same water cooler when they felt like taking a break. Communication wasn't always of the highest quality, but there was plenty of it and if you missed something, somebody was always right there to fill you in.
By contrast, today's workplace (mine and, probably, yours too) is fairly asynchronous. Many of us work remotely or from the road a good deal of the time. Everyone's juggling multiple complex projects, making it difficult to sync up schedules enough for live, real-time meetings. And when we do manage to line up a meeting, many of us have no choice but to attend by phone, introducing additional communications challenges that can reduce the clarity of the message. (I take a hefty portion of my meetings by phone, and far too many of them while driving a car, walking through an airport, or in an otherwise distracted state.) In this asynchronous workplace, where it's increasingly difficult to get all of our key players focused on the same task at the same time, social collaboration tools are essential to good communication.
Even as social media presents unprecedented business opportunities for marketing, customer service, brand building and consumer relationships, many organizations are still struggling to embrace it for fear that it negatively effects worker productivity or puts the company at risk. A 2011 survey by Society for Human Resource Management reveals that 43% of businesses block access to social media on company-owned computers or handheld devices.
Rather than policing employees, these organizations would be better served by a social media governance model -- a collection of policies, procedures and educational resources that allow you to manage social media internally. A sound social media governance model empowers your employees while keeping them accountable. It allows you to quickly recover from a blow to your brand, or even sidestep it completely. It helps you keep your social initiatives on track and aligned with your business’ strategic goals.
While many of the elements of a social media governance model will vary across industries and organizations, here are five fundamental components that should be part of any plan.
I've ranted before against the perils of delegated social strategies. You know: Management decides it's time to get into social media, and appoints some whippersnapper to the task. The potential perils with this approach are many and severe, but even under good circumstances, this approach comes with a steep lost-opportunity cost. And that -- even if we ignore all the ways a lone-gunman social strategy can backfire on a good company -- is a very compelling reason to spend less energy thinking about your business's social strategy and more energy thinking about your company's social culture.
In a delightfully insightful opinion post on Fast Company last week, Bulldog Drummond CEO Shawn Parr advanced the observation that "culture eats strategy for lunch." The point, in brief, is that no matter how much strategic thinking you do, the culture of your company will either bolster your success or unravel your elegantly wrought plans. And while Parr didn't talk about social specifically, it occurred to me that this is a great opportunity for some dialog about the overwhelming impact of company culture on the effectiveness of social campaigns.
Good leaders know how to delegate, so there's no great shock in the observation that most business leaders offload social media projects to underlings, henchmen, and Twitter-savvy interns. But as in so many areas of 21st-century business, the anachronistic nature of the social web has changed the rules and turned the delegation instinct into a liability.
A report published last week illuminates just how some organizations are using social tools inside and outside their enterprise and what results they’re seeing, and it’s worth a read.
The report “When Social Meets Business Real Work Gets Done” shows tangible gains from the use of social initiatives within organizations of all sizes. Written by MIT professor Andrew McAfee, the paper reveals the results of an AIIM study that looked at the progress of social business technologies in organizations from 10 to over 5,000 employees, with a focus on three use cases: sales and marketing collaboration, open innovation and enterprise Q&A.
"All three areas addressed by the Task Force demonstrate that when people engage properly with each other and with technology, trust, self-organization, and good business results emerge," McAfee said in a press release. "The three use cases are true examples of social business because they depend on people with strong, weak and potential ties to organize their own workflows, roles and credentials."
There's no shortage of talk about engagement in marketing circles, but really honestly engaging with people (not just customers, but any target audience) is a lot harder than most of us are willing to admit. It takes real work. It takes creativity. It takes a sincere desire to understand the people whose influence can elevate your brand. And, critically, it takes a commitment to create social content that resonates with the personalities you're trying to reach.
At the start of the social gold rush, the prevailing attitude among businesses that "got it" was that we just needed to get in there and join the conversation. Social media strategies focused on figuring out ways to crank up follower counts. Quickly, though, savvy brands realized they needed to do something more, and there are now -- happily -- hundreds of companies out there creating genuine, mutually valuable relationships with their customers on the social web through thoughtfully executed strategies that reward customer interaction.
While there are undoubtedly some major differences between managing a company's relationship to its customers and managing your own interpersonal relationships, the basics of both are pretty similar. Here are four fundamental social principles to consider before you launch a social campaign. (And if you're already on the social web, they should help you get more traction from your efforts.)
Hyperbolic headlines like these might convince you that if you don’t incorporate social media into your business, you’ll soon be out of business. But before you race to register a Twitter account or create a Facebook fan page, you should check a few of your assumptions. Is it really necessary for you to be part of these two social networks? Sure, they’re the most popular platforms and likely your competitors are already using them – both compelling reasons – but that doesn’t mean either of them is the best option for you.
There’s a universe of social media platforms available with a variety of capabilities, some of which will be more suited to your business needs than others. Effective social media strategies take money and resources, two things most businesses today have in short supply. And despite the cacophony of voices that would have you believe that 100,000 Facbook followers or a steady diet of a half-dozen Tweets a day is the magic bullet for all your marketing ills, marketing may in fact be the least valuable -- and most unnecessarily limiting -- social media tactic for your business. To maximize your investment, you need to decide what the best use of social media is for you. Here are a few things for you to consider.
Does the world really need another blog about social media? We invested some serious effort into exploring this question before making the decision to launch "Go Social," the blog you're reading now. (As you might have surmised, the conclusion we came to was "yes.")
There's no shortage of chatter about social media on the web, but much of it -- in our opinion, anyway -- remains too tightly focused on a narrow set of use cases loosely described as "marketing." The lion's share appears dedicated to the dubious aim of getting more followers, getting more shares or retweets, or "going viral" (whatever that means). But it’s not clear to us what followers, as a numerical value, actually do for a business. Shares and retweets may be a vague indicator of engagement, but only if they come from (and go out to) genuinely engaged human audiences. And "going viral" is, more often than not, an objective doomed to failure.
So while there's a lot of noise on the web about using social media in business, relatively little of that chatter actually helps businesses to discover the potential value of social media across the whole spectrum of business use cases and guides companies in developing holistic strategies and practical tactics for putting social tools to work inside and outside their organizations. This blog aims to do exactly those things.
Who We Are
Over time, we'll work hard to make sure "Go Social" exemplifies the principles it espouses. That is to say, it'll be open, inquisitive, interactive, and engaged with its audience on the social web. While we'll always uphold PCWorld's high editorial standards in choosing which content to serve on this blog, we intend to open it up to outside contributors whose perspectives illuminate the broader landscape of social business.
Anchoring the blog on a week-to-week basis will be Robert Strohmeyer and Michael Ansaldo, two veteran technology journalists who've written for a wide selection of top tech sites over the past couple of decades, and who now put their collective energies to work creating impactful social media and content campaigns for top-tier technology partners through our company’s content marketing service, PCWorld Content Works.