Why you shouldn’t subcontract social media communications

Hardly any organisation can get by nowadays without a presence in social channels, but many still feel uncomfortable about how to do it. Luckily, most have realised that it’s not just like pushing your marketing messages onto some audience, as in traditional marketing (but some still do, unfortunately). So what’s the big difference? And what are the consequences?

Social media marketing works like a rock band

  • Traditional marketing speaks to non-customers, trying to turn them into new customers
  • Marketing in social media speaks to existing customers, caring and enthusing them, leaving to them to recruit new customers – like a rock band tending to their fans

But how’s that relevant for subcontracting your social media communications or not?

Putting it very simply, when the fans reach out, who do they want to reach? The promotor or the members of the band? Your professional tweeters/facebookers or your genuine experts? The hard currency in social media is trust. Go-betweens like band promotors or social media subcontractors don’t have the same credibility, expertise or authenticity as the members of a band or your own staff. When it will show through, not if, it risks eroding trust in your brand rather than the opposite.

You may well use social media subcontractors, but not as spokespersons

Instead, there are two very useful areas where you can leverage social media specialists:

Train your experts to communicate in social networks

Instead of speaking on behalf of your experts, have social media specialists train those experts to speak for themselves. Writing skills, tools and practices, do’s and don’ts. Plus some coaching on demand. Much better bang for your buck. Helps your experts gather market intelligence and do some brand building for your company and themselves too.

Get help scanning the buzz, identifying influencers and interesting content or discussions

The online networks are so vast and fast moving that it might be too much for your experts to both improve their communication skills and keep tabs on the networks. If so, you could hire someone with good tools and methods to scan and apply analytics to identify who to reach out to and build relations with – maybe also how best to succeed in doing it – and to identify relevant hotspots of content or discussions, passing the tips on to your experts to action, explore and respond to.

What’s your experience of social media go-betweens, training of spokespersons and social media analytics and scanning?

Photo: Pendulum 2007 by www.flickr.com/photos/wonker

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Resilience – bouncing back from setbacks or daring to take on new challenges

Tougher together – How companies and their employees better can face setbacks and challenges through transparency and collaboration

Where should I stay and eat om my upcoming first visit to Madrid? How do I take a screen shot om my mobile phone? By which watering hole can I find animals to hunt? What did those poisonous berries look like, really? From the beginning of time, our best source of knowledge has been other people. We ask others for help or advice when our own knowledge, experience or skills fall short. Within the family, our village, our school, in Q&A columns of the papers, over the phone, on Facebook or on Twitter. But at work, who do we ask? And how?

This is the third blog post of six on the topic of benefits for companies and their employees to communicate transparently and collaborate online.

These blog posts are published in parallel in Swedish on the Smarter Planet blog of IBM Sweden

Old style

In old style companies we tend to ask our colleagues we already know for help, or maybe some manager. Usually live at the office or via email. How many times haven’t we sent an email to someone only to get an automatic reply that they are on holidays or in training and will be back in a week or two. Or that they pass your question on to someone else who send it to yet another person who in turn passes it on to a fourth person who replies, four weeks later The answer is available on the intranet. Just follow this link.

Does it feel familiar? It was for me, too. But no more.

Sharing and caring

Nowadays, I ask my question in a status update on our social intranet. Maybe I mention a couple of persons who I guess may have the answer or if I guess that someone in their network has it (as mentioning them makes my question appear also on their board, for their network) or in a suitable online community. Usually, I get an answer within an hour or two. I rarely have to wait longer than until the next day. I even share half finished sketches of presentations and documents, stating “I know that this isn’t quite correct and will appreciate any help to improve or any other views”. Such an amazing response I have received! From the foremost experts in the field among my 400.000+ colleagues. Compare that with “Johnny is on vacation and will be back in two weeks”. Every time, it feels as amazing and empowering to be able to get help, without even knowing who to ask. There always seems to be someone who knows, who has sufficient time or willingness to reach out to help. Admittedly, it does help to have a pool of many colleagues at hand, but the positive effects show also in smaller organizations. An open and helpful culture is more important to have than an ocean of colleagues. As is a culture where it is accepted that everybody cannot know everything. Asking is nothing to be ashamed of. Just imagine being able to close a deal or solve a problem with the help of a colleague who you might not know, but who knows what you’re facing and how to resolve it..

It may not even be necessary to get hold of the actual colleague. Often it is sufficient to find the knowledge and the experience they have shared earlier. Either intentionally through working transparently, sharing their documents, presentation and other whatsits. Or unintentionally through answering questions from others in the transparent way I’ve described above. The more transparently everybody works, the easier it becomes to find what you need to overcome the challenges. And you can always ask the author for explanations or supplementary information. We do not realize how much we do know and can share with intention. The rest surfaces when we help others.

With such support it doesn’t only become much easier to bounce back after a setback, but also challenging your limits becomes much easier too.

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By Pingswept (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0] Helping a struggling runner at Boston Marathon

Enablers and obstacles

As mentioned earlier, a condition for this to work is that you have a culture of transparency, helpfulness and acceptance that everybody cannot know everything, of generously sharing your work products and of communicating transparently. And, as a fundamental enabler, that you have a collaboration and communication platform that makes all of this possible and that, through design, encourages and supports transparency rather than closing up.

The obstacles include, of course, a culture where you don’t dare to admit shortcomings, a culture of “withheld knowledge gives power” and without a sense of all working towards a common goal. But also technology can be an obstacle. Questions and answers via email benefits nobody except those involved in the correspondence (plus it takes much longer as I mentioned earlier, or results in an overload of many parallel conversations). The replies can’t be reused by others faced with the same challenge, but they have to search again for the people in the know who, in turn, have to answer the same questions all over again. Shared drives and closed team rooms do not create open collaboration either. They may be beneficial for those with access, but for no-one else. How many other team rooms with similar content do you think there may be in a large organizations, do you think?

Additional benefits for the company

The benefits for employees, described earlier, benefit their employers too, obviously. Employees being able to deal with challenges benefits the company too, of course.

But there’s even more in it for the companies:

  • As long as work is done in the old style, knowledge keeps being locked up with the individual employee. It’s locked up in their heads, on their hard drive or in their mail conversations. What happens if they disappear? The head disappears. The hard drive usually gets erased and the email on the server usually only resurfaces if it’s needed in a legal context. Remaining intellectual capital = 0. If employees work transparently, though, share their work and answer questions transparently, the knowledge stays within reach for all to use also after they have left. The dependency on the individual employee is reduced.
  • In addition, since the knowledge is easily available for re-use and you can Like what you have appreciated, since you can see the number of downloads and so on, you can easily see a de facto standard emerge, based on the benefits and appreciation of peers. Not bad, either, I’d say.

Do you have experience of your own of the difference of searching for help and knowledge in the old fashioned way and of doing it in a transparent organisation? Either inside your company or externally? Maybe in your personal life? I’d appreciate reading about it in a comment.

If you want to read more about how we at IBM look at online collaboration tools and transparency, I recommend you to read “The only constant is change”.  And if you want to read more about how to transform your organization to work more transparently, “Best practices for establishing a new way to work”.

 

As the wheels turn faster, people are more important than ever before

The world around us changes at a pace we haven’t experienced before. It’s harder than ever to know where we are headed. Exciting and stimulating – and nothing any one of us can change. I talk about the digital transformation.

geograph-4302931-by-Walter-Baxter
Just imagine working as agile as a murmuration of starlings! Copyright: Walter Baxter Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 2.0

Over the coming months, I will publish a number of blog entries, expanding on five important factors to succeed in this changing environment. Factors organizations can realize through changing their ways of working based on collaboration tools. I will touch on them one by one, both from the perspective of the organization and of the individual. The blog entries will be published at the Smarter Planet blog of IBM Sweden in Swedish and here in English. The five factors are:

You’ll find an overview in this white paper, “The only constant is change”

Technology, business models, market preferences, communication habits, power balances, you name it. They all change rapidly and simultaneously. You have to stay  alert, agile and always informed with many and sensitive tentacles. We don’t need much time or effort to come up with examples of drastic changes, for better and for worse: Air BnB, Über, Kodak, Nokia, video rentals…

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Photo credit: William Warby on Flickr

But for decades, companies and organizations have focused on structuring, standardizing, streamlining and, to a large extent, eliminate “the human factor”. The result? Shiny system and processes that work efficiently, but which are static, insensitive and uninspiring.

It’s time to reintroduce people and positive human factors like creativity, engagement, flexibility and relations. To show that talking about the employees as “our most important resource” was earnest, not just empty words. Listen to employees, customers and partners. Engage them through including them and give them opportunity to leverage their entire potential, not only what the standardized job description says. Not just leverage, by the way, but grow their potential. It’s time to engage and inspire! I want to give people possibilities to communicate, collaborate, learn, share and help, easier than ever before. To find the people and the knowledge you need and to be able to show what you’re really made of, with minimal extra effort. All to the benefit of both people and organizations.

I don’t think it’s enough to be able to produce and manage pretty documents and presentations. What is important is to enable people to fill them with the best possible content.

What do you think? What makes work interesting? What brings out the best in you?

Originally published here in Swedish on the Smarter Planet blog of IBM Sweden

 

 

 

From “social switchboard” to “direct dial”

In his recent blog post “How to avoid having your social media team becoming a “social switchboard”, my good colleague @AndrewGrill makes a good case on the dangers of adding a filtering (switching) layer of social media people between employees and the world around them – similar to the phone switchboards of days gone by.

So far so good.

But, extending the switchboard analogy, for direct dial to work well, everybody needs to have a phone that can be reached directly, they have to know how to use it, how to speak and call in a professional way and to know what they may or may not say as representatives of the organization.

Bypassing the switchboard without enabling the employees to handle direct dialing may result in substandard responses or maybe even in some major commercial or reputational hazards.

“Direct dial” translates, in our digitally connected world of today, into “Enabled and Empowered Employees”

Many times, I have compared social media marketing with the way rock bands tend to work. Traditional marketing is all about companies communicating with non-customers to turn them into customers. Rock bands play for their fans and leave it to them to communicate with non-fans to turn them into new fans. This is also the fundamental formula for successful social media marketing. But, to extend that analogy too, when the fans approach, they don’t want to speak with the band manager. They want the band members. Just like customers approaching your company don’t want to be “switchboarded” by your social media team. They want to get in touch with the folks who know things for real, from experience, the experts.

Jon Iwata said it very well already in 2010:

Your best social media marketing is made by engaged customers and engaged, enabled and empowered employees.

So, to make it work well, you need:
  • A social communications policy coupled with thorough training of employees (include online security and respect for copyright while you’re at it)
  • Communications professionals who coach the experts instead of insisting of themselves being the voice of the company
  • For your foremost experts, it doesn’t hurt with some analytical support to help them improve their communications, to be made aware of which influencers to engage with and where there are relevant discussions going on
  • And, as usual when I’m involved, a social intranet where they can get backed up by shared knowledge and easy-to-reach experts is of great help too. It sure will speed up answering the tricky questions.

Replacing the old telephone switchboard with a social media filtering and forwarding team is no good. Automatically channeling them to identified experts who aren’t on board is not much better (but a little). You need to attend to both sides of this equation to get the full value.

Social is something you are, not a tool you use

We’ve got all the tools implemented, but people don’t use them! What’s wrong?

Unfortunately, this is not too uncommon a statement. Organizations buy and install software for internal collaboration, pay the bill and then pray that staff will find them and use them just because they are there.

Sure, some curious enthusiasts may find the new “cool tools” but you will not reach widespread adoption for a very long time unless you supplement the social enablement with changes to the way the organization works and with communication and motivation for the employees.

Watching several sessions from IBM Connect in January on Livestream triggered me to summarize some input from there and adding some of my own.

The mindset you should encourage carries a set of characteristics:

Show trust in others to earn trust by others (and be worthy of trusting, of course) – Guy Kawasaki

All positive, productive relations and social interactions are based on mutual trust. The fastest way to gain the trust by others is to start displaying trust in them. This goes for companies trusting their customers (generous return policies to encourage trying of products as in Guy Kawasaki’s examples) as well as executives trusting their associates with not misusing the openness of social intranets.

Default to openness  – Chris from Lowe’s (sorry, I didn’t get his family name)

Is there a good reason to keep “it” under wraps? No? Then work “out loud” as Lowe’s called it. Let others see what you’re working on and what you have achieved. Save your documents as public files, make your bookmarks public, update your status frequently. If there is no reason to keep it to yourself, you may just as well let your work speak for you. And, you never know who may stumble over it and be able to help you improve it or get unstuck. At the same time, your work may be useful to someone else, increasing efficiency and maybe inspiring to new and better ways of doing things.

Default to “yes”Guy Kawasaki

Being positive pays back. If you respond positively when others ask you for help or favours (within your capacity of course – because not delivering on promises is not good for building trust). If you help out when you can, your network will help you out when you need it. Maybe not exactly the same person you helped out the other day, but since your positive attitude has been on public display, your “karma-account” will be positive.

Dialogue, not monologue

Monologues may communicate your experience or view to others, but they aren’t great for building relations. Just how popular is the guy at parties who keeps talking about himself and listens to nobody else? Just like offline social life, being social online is a matter of listening and responding. It’s a new medium for behaviours man has cultivated for centuries.

What’s so disturbing about the new option in Google Search?

For a week or so, there’s been hoards of tweets and posts by people being upset about the new feature in Google Search results: the possibility of including search results powered by your network (in Google+, that is).

The criticism seem to fall into one of the following categories – or both:

  • It’s unfair to include only Google+
  • Search fundamentalism

Before looking closer at these to I have to state: the more I’ve read, the more puzzled I have become. What’s so bad about an option to get a little help from your friends by boosting your search results with their experience and activities? After all, they are more likely to share your interests than all the other folks out there. Friendship is usually based on having something in common, isn’t it?

In our social intranet, we have similar concept, which we regard as an advantage: “Your friends are your filter”. Faced with an abundance of information, it’s usually a good help to have get a helping hand to find the trees in the forest.

Particularly as you really don’t need to be active on Google+ once you have created your network there. Just get an account, add people to your circles and off you go. They don’t even need to accept your following of them like they would have to on Facebook. Topping up, the search results is based on their activity, not yours. So you can just idle and inject their results if you want to. Or not, if you so should choose.

Let’s look instead at the “unfair” argument.

I thought Google wasn’t a public service, but a business. Just like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are. If the same possibility was available to Facebook, they wouldn’t have thought twice about doing it. And would anybody have been surprised? They are not known for acting like your local charity. Rather, I’ve been hoping for Google as the challenger with both muscle and brains to be able to finally challenge the overwhelming dominance by Facebook on the social arena. Facebook getting some serious competition is a good thing.

Also, as stated earlier, once you’ve opened an account and added some folks to your circles your ready to roll…and can keep interacting with your friends on Facebook if you’d like to.

Let’s turn to the Search Fundamentalists

Their argument is that adding “your world” to the search criteria distorts the search results compared to the ones generated by the pure search algorithm. Apart from the ability to turn off the “your world”-option, I’ve had more sympathy for this argument. Many of us still remember how sponsored search ranking caused the downfall of Alta Vista (had to search my memory for the name actually). It would be stupid by Google to fall into the same trap. But are they? The network results are clearly indicated as such and the sponsorship is unpaid, made by people  by your choice. And… once again… you can easily turn it off.

Finally, just a couple of days ago, I came upon the final nail in the coffin of the fundamentalist way of thinking, a blog entry in C-net “Why Google is ditching search“. It brought to my attention what I already knew, but hadn’t thought off: that search results rankings are already distorted, but not through Google selling ranking, but through people engaging SEO services.

So, case closed – at least in my book. I will keep using the Search and your world option most of the time and now have one more reason to add interesting people to my circles weather we know each other or not, as long as they seem to post interesting stuff.

Uppmuntra anställda som engagerar sig i sociala medier, det tjänar både företaget och samhället på

Häromdagen tipsades jag om en artikel i CSR i Praktiken om att användare av sociala medier tar större samhällsansvar. källa Kan det verkligen stämma?

Tja, utan att värdera eller verifiera undersökningen bakom artikeln är det ändå inte svårt att föreställa sig att det nog kan vara så. Alltsomoftast brukar jag referera till den feelgodkänsla jag ofta får på Facebook, Twitter och min arbetsgivares sociala intranät. Men det borde väl inte förvåna att folk som dras till sociala mötesplatser, på nätet eller på stan är mer medkännande än de som håller sig för sig själva. Eller?

  • Sociala medier är just det – sociala – man umgås, exponeras för andras åsikter och känslor, delar med sig av de egna
  • Mycket går ut på att dela med sig och att ta del av vad andra delar med sig av, att svara på frågor, att bli hjälpt av andra (särskilt tydligt på intranätet)
  • Avstånden minskar, du får med lätthet och ögonblickligen inblick i livet på andra sidan jordklotet – och upptäcker ofta att det egentligen inte är så olikt ditt eget

Den andra delen av artikeln handlar mycket om min arbetsgivares attityd till de anställdas engagemang i sociala medier – vi uppmuntras. Jag låter den tala för sig själv men kompletterar med lite information av intresse: Av IBM:s över 400.000 anställda är åtminstone 200.000 medlemmar på Facebook, cirka 25.000 twittrar och 17.000 bloggar. Det blir en exponering som varje marknadsförare drömmer om och som får varje kriskommunikatör att darra. Självklart blir siffrorna slående stora i och med att företaget är så stort, men kontentan blir allmängiltig; det är bara att gilla läget. Att hantera det. Gärna så som IBM har gjort: med en tydlig policy, med hjälp och coaching och med att tydligt kommunicera företagets värderingar.

I sammanhanget kan det nog ändå vara bra att kika på denna sammanställning av aktiviteter på sociala medier som gjort att folk blivit nekade jobb (i USA, såvitt jag förstår), att se över sina integritetsinställningar och att tänka noga efter vad man publicerar var. Intressantast av allt är att 95% av de tillfrågade företagen kollade upp kandidaterna på sociala medier. Och, i ärlighetens namn, den rekryterare som inte kollar ditt CV mot LinkedIn gör ju tjänstefel egentligen.