Archive for January, 2010

How do you ‘sell’ social tools to the enterprise?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on January 18th, 2010 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

This blog post from Cecil Dijoux at Social Computing Journal  sets out some guidance on how to introduce the concept of social media tools into an organisation (in the Enterprise 2.0 sense). It references another post by Bertrand Duperrin that cautions against using 7 specific web 2.0 words with business managers.  Both authors posit that the words ‘conversation’ and ‘social’, among others, will very likely scare managers, creating visions of endless chats and online surfing.

Our suggestion: Use business language.

While we often lament the nature and extent of meetings, meetings are essentially conversations. But they’re not defined that way, because whether they are well run or not their primary purpose is to provide an outcome. We remarked in a previous post that you wouldn’t find ‘conversations’ as a line item on a project plan, even when they might be a necessary part of changing the culture or the context.  That’s because business works hard to define activities, and a conversation is an activity in search of an outcome.

So if I was still in line management and someone tried to sell me a tool on the basis that it would improve, encourage or facilitate internal conversations, I’d give them a look too.

We organise ourselves into social groups defined by interest, interaction and function. Business relies on people working together, talking together and making decisions together. We are social beings, and so at the purest level the word ‘social’ in ‘social media’ shouldn’t put us off.  But I suspect also that the word itself might have inhibited the leap into the enterprise. We use it colloquially (as in ‘my social life’), and it is seen in a highly visible form online in what are primarily friendship and connection sites like Facebook.

So facilitating or improving conversations is not the business outcome. That’s part of the benefit, but what’s needed is establishing exactly what conversations will do for the business. Will they facilitate decision making and so speed up time to market? Will they strengthen the corporate culture by communicating and embedding core values? Will they aid compliance through greater knowledge, gained from the ability to discuss and question? Will they help a business manage risk through improved transparency?

Put simply:

Collaboration tools → One output is conversation → Outcome=?

It seems to me that there is a whole lexicon not yet created around web 2.0 tools in the enterprise. We still talk in terms of social media marketing outcomes, externally to customers, when within the organisation it is about decision making, information management and culture.

The use of web 2.0 tools is a more complex transaction within an organisation. Perhaps this is because the relationships are more complex or multi-faceted. The tools themselves are so flexible that one size does often fit all, and are all the more meaningless because of it. You need to articulate the business case for business people, and to do that you need to speak business language and understand its outcomes.

Can you ‘control’ your brand online?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on January 13th, 2010 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Imagine this.

You are the VP of marketing. Your new product line is a series of children’s t-shirts, with edgy and quite controversial slogans on the front. Soon after launch, an influential blogger and media personality slams the t-shirts. She charges that they are in extremely poor taste in a world struggling to cope with the early sexualisation of children and an increasing online problem with child pornography.

Almost immediately, the online news media picks up the story. The reports are quite factual but mention the blogger by name and in some instances link to her article. It doesn’t take long for the issue to become a trending topic on Twitter.

Or you are a fast food company. You create an ad for the Australian market, which shows a lone Aussie cricket fan, at the cricket (which is playing at the time in Australia), surrounded by exuberant West Indies fans barracking loudly for their team. After a comment about an uncomfortable situation, he hands out fast food to his fellow spectators to break the ice and settle things down.

The ad is one of a series where the main protagonist uses the same tactic with a number of other cricket attendees. While it is not released outside Australia, in no time it has been posted on You Tube (in breach of the company’s copyright btw), and is picked up by the US internet commentators. It is slammed as racist, perpetuating a stereotype, and the company withdraws it from broadcast.

These are real stories. There are many more organisations that have had similar experiences.

Social media gurus will tell you that if you don’t engage in response to these circumstances, then you risk losing control of your brand and/or your message.

The challenge for senior management in organisations today is that the concept of ‘control’, in relation to brand and message online, is a dramatically different beast than it used to be.  Once upon a time there was authorised content, put out by a company. We relied on the traditional news media to ferret out the stories and bring them to light. The timing was controlled by the channels used. Now anyone can raise the issues. While there is still legal protections in the case of defamation, opinion and factual experience can be freely shared by a great many more people.  

If you have described social media participation to your senior management as controlling your brand and message, then I’d suggest you might be in for a surprise.

I would offer that it comes in several parts:

  1. We should participate online to build our knowledge of and capability in social media.
  2. We must build our knowledge and capability of social media to enable us to act appropriately should there be an issue, or a reaction involving our organisation.
  3. Our branding and advertising must take account of the fact that the market or channel we are targeting is not the only one that will see it, participate in it, or comment on it.

It’s the new version of the old crisis management plan. Only now the speed with which it may happen will astound you.