Social Business, Social Media Staffing and Operations

Why You’re the Key to Social Media Success

The biggest obstacle standing in the way of companies’ embrace of social media isn’t the tools, or measurement confusion, or even being able to make the time to do it day-to-day. The biggest obstacle is corporate culture.

New research from White Horse of 104 companies found that in 86% of companies, executives are not using social media. How can you instruct your team to implement and operate something that has so much potential to immediately win (or lose) customer hearts and minds, if you’ve never used it yourself? Would a company launch a major television campaign if the CEO had never watched TV?

Until executives move beyond the notion that social media is somehow for the rabble, and not for them – that somehow they are too old, too non-techie, too erudite to utilize something as juvenile as Twitter (which evokes the manic texting of their junior high-aged daughters), we’re never going to see full (or even majority) social media adoption in corporations.

Social Media? Never Heard Of It

This is of course a situation that is most acute in B2B, where White Horse found that 60% of companies either have low executive interest in social media, or have modest interest but a lack of education. This makes no sense. If anything, social media is MORE important for B2B companies than it is for B2C companies. Most B2B companies have fewer customers, so the opinions of each are magnified. Also, many B2B purchases are heavily researched, providing a real success path for content creation and socially-derived thought leadership. Lastly, the people factor is huge. You often are buying in part because of the service and personnel of the company in question. For whom is it more important to have a humanizing social media presence? A B2B software company, or Skittles?

Somehow, thousands of B2B companies seem to have come to the conclusion that because they aren’t being mentioned 65 times per hour on Twitter, that social media doesn’t matter to them, or their customers. The problems with that are clearly one of culture (truly believing that every customer is a reporter), and of definition (thinking that social media is somehow driven by Twitter and Facebook).

Be Your Own White Knight

I know this blog is called Convince & Convert, and originally I thought that was a perfect description for the social media and real-time business revolution.

But now I realize that it’s not.

I can’t convince companies that this makes sense, because even though I’m a pretty hype-free character (by consultant standards), I’m not viewed as objective by your CEO. And she’s right. I’m not going to tell your company that social media is pointless and “not for them” because that’s simply not true. Social media is (or will be) for every company, because customers will eventually flat-out demand that you interact with them there (the same way they previously insisted on interaction via phone and email).

But the job of arm twisting and education can’t come from outside. You can’t rely solely on me or any other consultant or agency to turn the tide in your organization. No stack of case studies or conference road trips will do it, either. It has to come from you. You have to do the convincing and the converting within the walls of your company. If you don’t have the obvious social chatter about your brand, you have to make the case that content creation will drive search, which drives traffic, which drives sales. You have to work on a pilot program – maybe even in secret – to show social media’s impact on customer satisfaction. You have to train a select few of your salespeople to build business by demonstrating category expertise in social outposts.

Do You Believe?

There’s only one precursor to successful social media adoption, and that’s believing that it will work. Too many companies are “experimenting” with social media because they feel they have to, not because they want to do so. And that’s a recipe for finding flaws and bailing out at the first sign of smoke.

Unlike every other form of marketing and communication ever devised, you can’t treat social media like taking medicine – something that you do when you have to, and only because someone told you so. The impacts and effects of social media are too broad for that. And the guarantee that you will fail at some point is too iron-clad for you to pull up stakes the first time someone posts a negative comment on your blog.

The company has to believe that it’s inherently a positive for your company to get involved, from the CEO on down, and that’s a lesson that only you can teach, however long it takes.

(photo by Mild Mannered Photographer)