Guest Posts, Social Business, Social Media Strategy

Social Media Success May Depend on HR

Guest post written by Mark W. Schaefer. Mark is a consultant, college educator, and author who blogs at {grow}.

There is a growing gap between the social media “haves” and “have-nots.”

Some companies I visit have embraced social media enthusiastically and are moving into some pretty advanced ideas.

Other companies are simply checking the box.  They have a blog and Facebook page… and they view the job as complete.

Still others are paralyzed and have not done anything at all.

What’s the difference between these scenarios?

It’s not necessarily resources, ideas, or a strategic vision.  It’s a matter of corporate culture.  And that’s why the key to future social transformation may very well rest with the HR department.

For decades, our companies have been conditioned to “manage” the message, broadcast ads and wait for things to happen. Now, companies have to be reactive, employees have to be empowered, and above all, we have extraordinary new opportunities to “listen.”

One of the things I love most about The Now Revolution is that it is one of the few marketing books to acknowledge the critical importance of corporate culture on social media success.

Despite my best intentions as a consultant, I know that there is no such thing as a grassroots cultural change. Social media success ultimately lies with the understanding and sponsorship of the company leaders. They are the ones who own the strategy and the budget.  And that’s why real progress in your company may be an HR and corporate change issue as much as a marketing challenge.

What has your experience been?  Is HR ready to take on this larger role?

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  1. MikeWise07 says

    Spot on, Mark. I’m currently in a threaded discussion on my blog re executives misunderstanding Social…some interesting reader comments. I think there’s an elephant in the living room. Perhaps leaders just plain don’t want to be Social? Then the question becomes, “Why?” Thoughts?

    • markwschaefer says

      @MikeWise07 I wrote a post recently and observed that most companies i work with would prefer to have social media just go away. Primarily that is because it is so far beyond their cultural comfort zone! Thanks Mike.

      • says

        @markwschaefer@MikeWise07 that sounds like a very interesting post, Mark. Where can we find it? I’ve covered the social video space, and I deal with the same thing in a few of my posts about the “fear of video” syndrome. Part of it is understandable anxiety around the idea that they may fail. The less sympathetic side is just a hostility to any change out of the mistaken idea of self-preservation.

        • says

          @MikeWise07@markwschaefer Hi Mike – I enjoyed reading your article and liked how well you explained the dismissive argument behind why some business people don’t “go social.” That’s really speaking to their preconceived idea that social technologies around online communities and communication (past the direct channel of email or maybe IM) must not be relevant to business, because it is so accessible to everyone and so in use by everyone. T

          he idea that technology that is democratized for the masses must not be serious for doing business with is of course, bunk. But I used to deal with this mentality all the time when I was a member of Chambers of Commerce in earlier years. (I quit my last one the end of 2010.) These are people that on some level feel like they just want to stop learning what’s new, and just want to regurgitate what gives them confidence. To those people I say, do you want to learn, or do you want to be right?

        • markwschaefer says

          @GrantCrowell@MikeWise07 This is going to be the dumbest comment I ever wrote. I can;t find the post I was referring to!! I’m thinking now that it might have been a comment I wrote on a blog some place or perhaps a draft in the queue. Nevertheless, I can’t reference it right away. Sorry!

  2. Elmar Schneider says

    Completely agree with you Mark. Especially Empowerment is one of the big challenges for Companies being successful in Social Media. Since Conversations in Social Media most of the time are Real-Time there’s no time to hold a Meeting with the Management for each tweet (as Jay mentions in a couple of his Videos posted here, too).

    I also do like the fact you mention at the end that Social Media is a process that is not tied to one single department. In my honest opinion, Social Media requires Experts from all kinds of fields, such as HR, Marketing, PR and certainly many more.

    • markwschaefer says

      @Elmar Schneider I think it is time to move the conversation to the “social organization” and to do that you are correct — many departments need to be involved, if the culture can support it. Thanks for the comment!

  3. adgerrits says

    Question is if ‘the ones who own the strategy and the budget’ are the ture leaders as it comes to the use of social media. Personally I don’t think so. Luckily changes may happen bottom-up in this area so that formal leaders may join during the trip.

  4. adgerrits says

    Question is if ‘the ones who own the strategy and the budget’ are the true leaders as it comes to the use of social media. Personally I don’t think so. Luckily changes in this area can take place without the initial support of formal leaders so that they can join afterwards.

    • markwschaefer says

      @adgerrits That may be possible in some cases, but social media applied to PR, marketing, HR, etc. can be a resource-heavy initiative. Who is going to pay for that? Leadership will have to understand and sponsor this activity for long-term success. Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!

  5. says

    If we’re talking about transforming a company into a social enterprise and exercising good business management from that (which is HUGE HUGE HUGE, and so essential today), I think it comes down to these things (which Jay and Amber are good at showcasing in the NOW Revolution)

    1) Do an internal assessment. (Is your company ready to become a social business? Are the mission and values in alignment? Is there potential with your existing staff, or do you need recruitment? Basically what will it take to effectively make the transformation not just happen, but get a “go” to even start?)

    2) Find an executive champion

    3) Make the business case (with goals that are not only profitable, but sustainable)

    4) Build your team (not just technical skills, but the emotional IQ/soft skills, and the strength of their network and ability to participate – frequency and quality of content and conversations)

    5) Create strategy and tasks (your playbook)

    6) Have the right social business tools, and set adoption goals

    7) Allow for as much workplace flexibility as possible

    8) Have a reward/gamification system. (Even just acknowledgement goes a long way!)

    9) Have milestones, and measure performance at key intervals

    10) Get feedback!

  6. says

    Fascinating, Mark. You may be totally correct, and I cringe at this possibility. Back in the not too distant day, PR was relegated in some organizations under the auspices of HR. We choked; no way can HR do/manage PR; can it understand social marketing and be the conduit to its success?

    I’d like to hear more about how this might come to fruition; better yet, how this can drive success.

    • markwschaefer says

      @Soulati | PR It’s interesting that you seem to assume that HR is not up to the challenge of leading change. Don’t we fight the same characterizations in sales and PR? : ) I see HR as a facilitator of cultural change. And in most cases, that is exactly what social media needs to be optimized in an organization.

      • says

        @markwschaefer Human resources professionals are taxed with huge responsibility internally within organizations. I never said HR couldn’t lead change. In my view HR focuses inward managing employee capital, polices and organizational behavior. Social media and social marketing include varying routes external to company infrastructure; although many areas within a company get tapped for social marketing.

  7. shelholtz says

    Absolutely consistent with arguments I’ve been making for years about opening employee access to social channels (at, in addition to other places). I’ve added this post to my curated collection of material supporting open access (accompanied, of course, by policies and training): As The Altimeter Group study released last year pointed out, employees who know the guardrails and have been trained present less of a risk than those who are barred from participating, and barring participation minimizes the benefits the organization can reap from transparent, ethical access to employees’ social graphs.

  8. says

    Great post Mark! Yes you are correct the companies are joining social bandwagon, The ones haven’t trust me will be joining them sooner or later. It is becoming a compulsion for each and every business. Grant Crowell also gave some important tips, it is good that he talked about ‘workplace flexibility’ which is essential for any social campaign!

    • RepCapital says

      @thisislars Going better than I ever dreamed it would! We need to catch up soon. I’m planning a D.C. visit in April.

      • ThisIsLars says

        @RepCapital That’s awesome, you deserve it. Let me know when you’re here in April. We still need to get those ‘outside beers’…

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