Regardless if the business unit is brand new or fully staffed with all the agency bells and whistles, the reality is social media is a change agent – whether you like it or not. By default, social media is cross-functional, fast and volatile. Recognize and accept that it is disruptive within your company in addition to the consumer landscape. MBA’ers have spent decades combating organizational silos trying to solve for the speed of innovation and inventing every thinkable control mechanism. And after all that time and effort (albeit effort well spent), the social phenomenon emerges as the simultaneous solution and monumental challenge for the silo’ed organization.
So, how does one successfully navigate a company through such a cataclysmic shift in the way business gets done? Yes, there are business models, workﬂows, technologies and consultants (a.k.a. posers who prosper) focused on executing campaigns and preaching about “enterprise 2.0” and “amplification.” But how do you apply what’s on the whiteboard to your work environment? Remember, just because someone runs the social media team doesn’t make that person good (or effective) at organizational change…has he/she ever even read a book on it? (I recommend reading one book by the Heath brothers- SWITCH. Superb.)
Science tells us 20% of people accept change and history tells us revolutions require only 2% of the population. Reality says that when it comes to social transformations at one’s company, initially the 2% sit in the c-suite and the key to success is getting 20%+ of colleagues onboard quickly and effectively. Daunting as it may seem, there is a method to the madness – it is possible to solve the social change conundrum. Below are three keys to success whether you’re at a 10-person startup or a corporation with 10,000 – people, culture and business. They’re ranked in order of importance and remember when all else fails, just keep going. Persistence, especially when polite, will pay off.
“This is a people business.” Even though the social team is tethered to some of the most powerful technology at your company 24-7, everything, absolutely everything, starts and ends with people. Remember, social is unequivocally a team game and TEAM stands for “together everyone achieves more.” People dictate the Culture and Business not some unseen ever-present force. To be successful, one needs many advocates across the organization to spend extra time on social projects, allocate whatever budget’s available to social and stand up for the cause in the conference room. No matter what anyone says, getting everyone onboard is challenging and takes time.
Tip 1: Talk to as many people as possible in your first 30 days. Conduct ‘discovery’ meetings with colleagues above, below and across the organization. This foster relationships, humanizes the initiative and creates an inclusive environment. You’ll learn more than you can imagine about the business, culture and internal politics.
Tip 2: Keep colleagues informed to win them over. Establish a reporting cadence with leaders to update on project statuses. Next to stock price, social can be hottest topic in the office, so be proactive and lead the dialogue around milestones, key wins and future plans. Information is comforting and enables colleagues to empathize with the initiative.
You can’t really touch, taste or smell it (although Google and startups with primo décor and lavish cafeterias may beg to differ – they have a valid argument). You can, of course, see, hear and certainly feel it. Corporate culture is the essence of the company and often directly correlates to two critical elements of the social transformation: the velocity of change and the willingness of people to adapt. Keep in mind that willingness is not uniform across the organization and adoption varies from person to person and by department.
Tip 1: Consider the overarching type of business –engineering, sales, seasonal merchandise, sports, entertainment, etc. People’s personalities draw them to different types of work environments and knowing this will help you understand how fast and comfortable people will be with changing their routine. Are colleagues from recent acquisitions? What’s the tenure of management and managers?
Tip 2: Learn from your department’s leadership. Executives are typically tasked with sculpting the organization’s culture. In the end, social can only move as fast and effectively as leadership allows.
Business is comprised of two halves: tangibles and intangibles. Tangibles are elements like the marketing cadence, products, customer service, logistics, etc. Intangibles are the glue that keeps everything together and moving forward like personal relationships, experience and ideas. Many agree it typically takes a new hire in any department about a year to learn both sides of the biz. But the challenge for social is that it works alongside many departments and learning so much of the biz becomes overwhelming very quickly.
Tip 1: You are the expert on social, so in order to excel, leverage colleagues who are experts on the business. It’s impossible to know everything about everything right away – it takes time. Embrace this fact and include input from peers as much as possible. Continuously ask lots of questions.
Tip 2: Mirror competitors for success. Perhaps the competition is already doing social. This means they’ve likely gone through similar experiences in startup phase and campaigns you see are products of their efforts. Determine if their strategies work for your company then start replicating. Mirroring reduces the ideation phase considerably thus decreasing time to market and operational costs. Remember, there are competitive advantages to being second to market.