Archive for December, 2011
You know the statistics: Facebook is the most popular method for sharing online content. It’s approaching one billion users worldwide. 85% of B2B journalists are on Facebook. 61 of the world’s 100 largest companies maintain Facebook brand pages, as do 71% of B2B firms. Three-quarters of North American advertising agencies say their clients run PPC campaigns on Facebook.
While having a presence on Facebook is no longer an “if” question for most companies, many “how” questions remain. How can I design my company’s Facebook page for maximum impact? How can I grow my company’s following? How can I increase the probability that my fans will see my content updates?
Find the answers to these questions and many more here in more than 30 of the best articles and blog posts on Facebook marketing of 2011.
Facebook Marketing Tips and Tactics
The Best Facebook Page Strategies and the Pages That Use Them by Inside Facebook
How To Make a Facebook List (& 6 Ways To Use Them) by Search Engine People
Ruud Hein steps through a quick process for creating Facebook lists, and recommends various uses for them such as sharing information with only a specific subset of your contacts, or using Facebook lists as a CRM tool.
Facebook is FOREVER by iMedia Connection
Lucia Davis uses an infographic titled “Obsessed with Facebook” to argue that Facebook has become so ingrained into our lives that it will never go away. And given that all of the attacks from would-be “Facebook killers” along with Mark Zuckerberg’s own complete disregard for data privacy or user experience still haven’t doomed the platform, she may well be right.
Five Top Facebook Marketing Tips by LiveWorld
Bryan Person shares highlights of a presentation from Ekaterina Walter on five best practices for Facebook marketing, including optimizing wall posts for the News Feed and using Facebook Insights data to better understand your fan base.
A Big Brand’s Social Strategy Really Means ‘Facebook’ by MediaPost Online Media Daily
Justin Archer notes that despite the fact that for much of the Fortune 500, “social media” really means “Facebook,’ many still fall short in this area. Socialcasting the latest company updates is a fail; planning and engagement are key.
Ranking in Facebook Search by Vertical Measures
Kaila Strong notes that Facebook now accounts for close to 3% of all U.S. searches—a still small but rapidly growing and not insignificant figure. She then shares three ranking factors in Facebook organic search and three tactics that can be used to improve ranking for your company Facebook page.
The Basics of Advertising on Facebook by Practical eCommerce
15 ways to increase your brand’s impact on Facebook by Socialmedia.biz
JD Lasica starts by pointing out that, “Your brand isn’t reaching as many people as you think through its Facebook Page…88 percent of Facebook members never return to a Page once they’ve clicked the Like button. Your opportunity lies in engaging with fans through their News Feed. But…only 1 out of every 500 updates makes it into your fans’ critical Top News feed, which is how 95 percent of Facebook members get their updates.” Ouch. Fortunately, he also notes that turning “your Facebook presence into a larger conversation strategy for your brand” can dramatically increase a company’s visibility on Facebook, then delves into 15 tactics to support that strategy.
Facebook Pages Just Got Easier for Brands by Dose of Digital
Though it’s no longer news, Jonathan Richman here provides one of the best and most comprehensive summaries of the changes Facebook made to Pages earlier this year, as well as tips and techniques to capitalize on the new features. This rather long post is also conveniently available in PDF format.
For those who prefer a more condensed summary of Facebook’s switch to iFrames earlier this year, the brilliant Jeff Ente explains how iFrames work and why they are potentially very, very important to marketers.
20 Tips to Get Your Content Seen on Facebook by HubSpot
Ellie Mirman explains how Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm works, then offers 20 ideas to make your content more visible, including posting a variety of content to attract interactions, including images on blog posts, and asking questions to solicit feedback from your fans.
Easy ways to attract more fans to your Facebook page by Facebook Toolkit
10 tips to make your page more visible and encourage “likes,” such as using the photo strip call to action, investing in Facebook ads, and featuring influential fans as your favorite users.
20 Facebook Tips/Tricks You Might Not Know by Hongkiat.com
Learn how to place Facebook chat in a sidebar in Firefox, how to update Facebook without using Facebook (e.g., through Ping.fm [http://ping.fm/]), how to specify which of your friends’ photos display on your Facebook profile page, how to create quizzes, block ads and more in this helpful post.
7 Awesome B2B Facebook Fan Pages by HubSpot Blog
***** 5 STARS
While there are lots of posts written about “great Facebook brand pages” that highlight large consumer marketers, few include examples from the B2B world. Eric Vreeland addresses that gap in this excellent post, showcasing companies like Saleforce.com and Forrester Research, and also provides tips and guidance on how B2B marketers can make the most of the world’s largest social network.
15 Ways to Get ‘Liked’ on Facebook by Practical eCommerce
Paul Chaney recommends including a “Like Us on Facebook” link in marketing emails, investing in Facebook ads, providing incentives for fans to spread your message, and posting multimedia content among other tactics for growing your fan base on Facebook.
How to Build the Perfect Facebook Fan Page, 2011 Edition by techipedia
Writing that “With the new layout providing so much screen real estate for visual branding, it has raised the bar for a Page’s visual branding on Facebook. The new layout offers the opportunity to claim visual ownership of your Page,” Tim Ware outlines the six key areas of a Facebook brand page and how to optimize the use of each area.
Make the Most of Your Facebook Marketing by Alison Zarrella
Alison recommends cross-promotion (e.g., through Twitter, marketing emails and your blog) and utilizing the many types of Facebook updates and tools in order to maximize the probability that your fans will actually see your Facebook posts.
Facebook Publishes Guide to Social Marketing Best Practices by ReadWriteWeb
John Paul Titlow outlines and links to Facebook’s 14-page PDF Best Practice Guide: Marketing on Facebook which “serves as an official resource on how to take advantage of Facebook’s advertising products, social plugins, analytics and other tools to grow one’s business.”
Facebook Apps and Tools
5 Facebook Applications to Add Useful Tabs to Your Facebook Fan Page by Search Engine Journal
Frequent best-of contributor Ann Smarty reviews five Facebook apps to help extend the functionality and engagement value of a Facebook fan page (though note that Facebook has moved away from support for Static FBML).
Mark R. Robertson lists and briefly describes more than 40 Facebook video apps, organized into categories for YouTube, Vimeo, live video streaming, video chat/calling, Facebook video, and miscellaneous video apps.
10 Killer Facebook Page Creation Tools by All Facebook
3 Tools to Create New Facebook iFrame Pages by Practical eCommerce
Paul Chaney (again) summarizes the problems that Facebook’s switch from FBML to iframes created for Facebook page developers, then reviews three tools that simplify the creation of iframes apps.
4 Free Facebook Landing Page Creation Tools by DreamGrow Social Media
Priit Kallas reviews ShortStack, Pagemodo, Wildfire iFrames and TabSite, then offers his recommendations. A follow-up post, Facebook Cheat Sheet: Sizes and Dimensions, details the real estate (dimensions, text characters, file size etc.) available on each key area of a Facebook brand page.
Facebook Stats, Facts and Research
More Inc. 500 Companies Succeeding With Facebook by MarketingProfs
Among the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S., Facebook has become a key marketing platform: 71% of Inc. 500 companies use it, with 85% calling their efforts successful. About 60% of those companies also use Twitter, and roughly half maintain corporate blogs.
JD Rucker highlights an infographic and slide deck with detailed Facebook demographics, showing Facebook’s population broken down by country, age, gender and more. The top-line number (just under 600 million) is a tad out of date though.
Survey: Facebook Strategy Should be About Deals Not Engagement by Social Commerce Today
A UK study found that 19% of users follow brands on Facebook, and more than half of those people have recommended a brand there. However, 70% follow specifically to get special offers, and most will unfollow a brand if they stop getting them. No mention of “engagement.”
Facebook Skeptics, Haters, and Tellers of Uncomfortable Truths
Why Only Idiots Promote Their Brand’s Facebook Page via Traditional Media by iMedia Connection
Think Facebook is the ultimate brand marketing platform? Or even remotely close? Kent Lewis reminds marketers about what’s “not to love” about Facebook from a marketing standpoint, such as the fact that Facebook owns all content on the site, can (and does) change page design and functionality at any time, the analytics are limited, and the UI is distracting.
Designing Email Campaigns for Facebook Messages by Campaign Monitor
Ros Hodgekiss details the capabilities and limitations of Facebook Messages for email, and concludes that “its limitations as an email platform will most likely prevent it from being widely used as an everyday email address. Plus, would you take a job applicant really seriously if they were sending from a @facebook.com address? Really?”
8 Reasons Marketers Can’t Trust Facebook by iMedia Connection
Douglas Karr details eight lessons learned about what can—and at least sometimes does—go wrong with Facebook as a marketing platform, from access control issues to lack of recourse / customer service to the risk of data loss.
Why I Don’t Use Facebook by PC Magazine
Professional curmudgeon John C. Dvorak writes that he doesn’t use Facebook because it’s a closed system, it’s essentially AOL 2.0, and, in his view, “There is no reason for anyone with any chops online to be remotely involved with Facebook.” Hmm, I wonder what he really thinks?
Is Facebook Losing its Marketing Mojo? by Oz2 Blog
The delightful Catherine Lockey details some of the problems induced by Facebook’s design changes earlier this year, and offers partial solutions, but concludes by noting that “Facebook is not your brand. Facebook is Facebook’s brand…If you put all of your marketing eggs in Facebook’s basket then you’re in trouble.”
Ultimately, as Olivier Blanchard has pointed out repeatedly, social media marketing has to demonstrate an ROI (though he acknowledges the questions have to be made more specific). In the b2b world, the “R” is generally leads (website call-to-action conversions) with some monetary value applied to them.
But it’s crucial to the social media ROI debate to recognize that “R” is an end-of-the-process measure. There are numerous in-process measures that may be impossible to tie directly to ROI, but are nonetheless critical in producing that final “R” value.
Consider automobile manufacturing as an analogy. There are an abundance of measures, from machining tolerances on shafts to the temperature in the paint room, which are vital to track during the manufacturing process. The C-level folks may not know or particularly care what these numbers are, but if those values are off, they will affect quality, which impacts rework and warranty claims, which impact manufacturing and repair costs, which impact the ROI of each vehicle.
Similarly, in social media marketing, there are numerous intermediate “process” measures that don’t fit into an ROI equation, but which are vital in optimizing social media efforts in order to minimize “I” and maximize “R.” These metrics don’t represent the goals of social media marketing in and of themselves, but are critical measures to help optimize processes to achieve the ultimate objectives.
Here are 46 intermediate metrics (and two final measures) to help marketers evaluate the success of their social media programs and optimize their associated processes. Most of these are easy and free to track.
Nine Blog Metrics
- • Overall traffic
- • Traffic quality (e.g. bounce rate, average time spent per visit)
- • Most popular posts (indicates topics with highest interest)
- • Search traffic
- • Social media/network-referred traffic
- • Other key sources of traffic (e.g., company website, newsletters, syndication sites)
- • Number of RSS subscribers (regular readers)
- • Number of email subscribers
- • Top visiting organizations (measure of targeting effectiveness)
Six Twitter Metrics
- • Total number of relevant followers (exclude the inevitable spammers and oddballs who seem to be attracted to any active Twitter account)
- • Interaction (@ mentions)
- • Retweets (reflects both level of engagement and quality of shared content)
- • Most tweeted links (i.e., which content is most popular with followers)
- • Influence (e.g., Klout and Kred scores)
- • Brand and mention tracking (e.g., from HootSuite or other social media monitoring tool)
Six LinkedIn Metrics
- • Number of company followers
- • Recommendations on products or services
- • Page views (of LinkedIn company overview)
- • Unique visitors
- • Click-throughs (on product links)
- • Followers by industry, function and company
Five Facebook Metrics
- • Number of Facebook page “Likes”
- • Friends of fans (indicates an organization’s total potential reach on Facebook)
- • Number of people talking about you (the number of unique people who have created content about the company page on Facebook in the past week)
- • Weekly total reach (the number of people who have seen one of the firm’s messages on Facebook in past week)
- • Most popular posts
Ten YouTube Metrics
- • Number of subscribers to the company channel
- • Total number of video views
- • Change in views and subscribers over last 30 days
- • Engagement measures:
- » Likes / dislikes
- » Comments
- » Shares
- » Favorites added or removed
- • Top videos, last 30 days
- • Playback locations (e.g., regular YouTube page, company channel, mobile device, etc.)
- • Top traffic sources
Two Google+ Metrics
- • Number of people / organizations in company circles
- • Number of people / organizations that have company in their circles
- • Note: Google has indicated that it plans to introduce more advanced analytics for Google+ soon
Ten Company Website and Cross-Social-Network Metrics
- • Total social media-generated visits to the company website
- • Lift in direct visits (an imprecise but correlated measure)
- • Lift in branded search visits (another imprecise but correlated measure)
- • Major social network visits by source
- • Traffic quality by source
- • Most-viewed pages by social media visitors
- • Top visiting organizations (all social media sources)
- • Top visiting organizations (by major social network)
- • Lead conversions (all social media sources)
- • Lead conversions (by major social network)
If you’ve utilized the first 46 metrics to continually monitor and adjust your social media activities, the final two—the real return on investment for b2b marketers—should validate and quantify the value of all your hard work.
Social networks are essential for expanding your web presence—not only for creating social signals now a key component in search engine rankings, which makes your website and blog easier to find in search, but also by giving you more places to be found online.
Creating your profile on each of the major social networks is a first step, but just that. A profile alone won’t get you much. As with most things in life, you’ll get out of social networks what you put into them.
Once you’ve filled out your profile (particularly including your core keywords and links), the basic process for using any of the more than 500 social networks now in existence is pretty much the same:
- Find interesting/relevant/influential people to follow/like/connect with.
- Grow your influence and attract followers/friends/connections by sharing interesting and relevant content—your own, from third parties, and from people you are following / would like to have following you.
- Interact (e.g., ask and answer questions).
- • Twitter, YouTube and Google+: you can follow/add virtually anyone you find interesting/relevant/influential. Don’t be offended if they don’t follow/add you back immediately; they may very well do so once they’ve gotten to “know” you better through your social networking activity.
- • LinkedIn: it’s best to have some familiarity (real world or online) before trying to make a connection. This is a level deeper than the majority of more superficial social networks. This also applies to other professional / social networks (e.g. Plaxo).
- • Facebook: liking a brand page (or asking someone to like yours) is fairly superficial. However, friending someone on Facebook is widely viewed as a deeper level of social networking connection. Put another way, the common pattern is to have more Twitter followers than LinkedIn connections, and more LinkedIn connections than Facebook friends. Only the gauche and boorish would try to friend someone on Facebook that they have no prior connections to.
With those basics established, here are 10 ways for small (or really, almost any size) businesses to use social networks for marketing and PR.
1. Create valuable backlinks for SEO. Links from your profiles and social network posts / updates all help to increase the authority of your website and blog with the search engines, leading to higher rankings. What helps most, however, is having your content shared and passed along by others with high influence in your market space. To encourage sharing, in addition to being active on the leading social networks, place social sharing buttons on your site.
2. Expand your online presence. Google, Yahoo and Bing aren’t the only places people go to look for information. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube all include their own powerful and popular internal search capabilities, and there are numerous social search engines that specifically search social networks and other social media sites. The only way to found on social networks is to be active on them.
3. Develop reputation as a thought leader (or something equally positive). By sharing relevant and helpful information, whether your own of from other sources, you increase your value to those following you, and expand your network. Sharing content developed by others makes you social; sharing content written about you by others enhances your brand image; and sharing your own thought-leadership or other helpful content solidifies your reputation as a smart, valuable resource that can influence decisions.
4. Promote your content / increase web traffic. It’s been written that, “If content is king, links are queen.” In other words, as essential as it is to develop great content, the search engines won’t give it much weight and few people will ever see that content if it doesn’t get linked. Social networks are a great place to build quality links, again particularly when key influencers within the various social networks share your content with their followers.
5. Expand your network of connections. In almost any major city, on almost any day, there are various types of business networking events: breakfasts, happy hours, seminars, forums and other types of events where local business people can meet each other and form new connections. Social media makes it easy to expand your network globally—or at least well beyond the confines of those who either live nearby or travel to major industry events. Social networks are invaluable for helping you make connections with prospective customers, additional contacts within client companies, industry journalists, bloggers and other influencers that it would be difficult if not impossible to connect with otherwise.
6. Develop and build relationships. Making connections is just the beginning. Social sharing and interactions enable you to develop relationships that can be very meaningful and rewarding, over time, with people you’ve never physically met, perhaps even never spoken with by phone. These relationships can lead to increased online exposure, expanded knowledge, new insights and ideas, partnerships, referrals, and ultimately—increased business.
7. Perform competitive and market research. Social media isn’t all about you, of course. Knowing what kinds of questions your prospective customers are asking, what problems they are trying to solve, and their opinions and observations about competitive firms can help you develop content that better meet market needs and set you apart from competitors.
8. Spot opportunities for innovation. Knowing more about the issues and concerns of your target prospects can also inspire ideas for product enhancements or new products, services or processes that lead to increased sales, greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, and/or new market opportunities.
9. Improve customer service. Traditional customer service channels are great for capturing information about and resolving specific customer issues (e.g., product malfunctions or “how do I…” questions). Social networks, however, open up possibilities for learning about other types of issues that may never lead to a customer service call: your product disappoints in some manner, your online form is too long and/or complicated, your website content is confusing, a particular piece of information or contact phone number is difficult to find, etc.
10. Generate leads and grow your email list (carefully!). There’s a reason this item is last on the list: while the goal of social media marketing is ultimately to produce an ROI, where the “R” is usually generated by increased sales, it’s crucial not to promote your offerings too blatantly or too early in the social networking process. Engaging in self-promotion too early will get you labeled as a spammer, damage your reputation and hobble your ability to grow a productive network. Promoting too blatantly is never advisable. Rather, once you have a network established, use social media to promote “gated” content like white papers or reports, invite followers to register for webinars, and promote your newsletter on your blog and other content pages in order to build a list for lead nurturing.
Establishing a presence on the leading social networks and utilizing an effective social media strategy will enhance your online presence and “findability” on search engines as well as within the social networks themselves.
Many of the same principles apply to optimizing a blog for search as for optimizing a business website: use keywords in the body copy, post titles, subheadings, permalink URL, image alt tags and meta tags. But a blog also presents additional opportunities for search optimization beyond those that apply to standard websites (which is why Google loves blogs). Take advantage of these six techniques to help get your blog ranked highly in relevant searches, and increase your overall web presence.
1. Categories: For the sake of user-friendly site navigation, standard websites usually have a fairly small number (generally no more than six or seven) top-level sections. Furthermore, some of these are virtually worthless for search (e.g. investor pages, and “Contact Us” is almost always a top-level link even though this page has no search value).
But with a blog, you can create any (reasonable) number of top-level categories, and give these keyword-rich labels. For that reason, think about your blog categories carefully: create category tags that will be meaningful and useful to both human readers and search engine spiders.
2. Fresh content. Most B2B website content (other than items like news releases and upcoming events) and much B2C content as well is fairly static; once it’s written, it tends to stay pretty much intact for the life of the website. But Google’s recent algorithm changes (which Bing and other search engines will most likely try to mimic) favor fresh content, as least for certain types of searches. Authority still matters, but freshness is now a much more important ranking factor than it was in the past.
Blogs are one of the best mechanisms for publishing a steady stream of new content. They are also a great platform for responding to breaking news or the latest developments in your industry. So while an editorial calendar can help your blog posts on track and on schedule, it’s crucial to also build in the flexibility to write posts responding to current events in your industry. This both increases the relevance of your blog and takes advantage of new-to-the-world search phrases that won’t show up in keyword tools.
3. Syndication and blog directories. Content syndication and blog directory sites provide valuable backlinks as well as driving traffic directly to your blog. Technorati and AllTop are two of the general-topic blog directories. Nearly every industry has its own specific directories and syndication sites as well; for example, B2B Marketing Zone for B2B vendor and influencer blogs, and Social Media Informer for social media-related blogs. In addition, there are hundreds of smaller blog directories and RSS submission sites that can further increase the reach and visibility of your blog.
4. Social media. Sharing your content on social networking sites like Twitter and (most importantly) Google+ as well as social bookmarking sites creates links to your blog. More important, however, is that Google tracks social signals (the overall level of content sharing for your blog as well as the authority of those sharing it) as measures of the quality and authority of a blog. So while sharing your own content provides some SEO benefit, building and nurturing a network of authoritative people in your industry and producing content they want to share is even more valuable.
Add social media buttons to your blog to encourage readers to share your content. Tools like ShareThis, AddThis and Wibiya, or WordPress plugins like SexyBookmarks, make it easy to add buttons for any of the most popular social networks and bookmarking sites. Of course you can add these sharing buttons to a standard company website as well, but readers are far more likely to share useful blog content than ordinary vendor web pages; while 60% of all social postings link to published content (news sites or blogs), just 4% link to corporate website content.
You can also build high-authority backlinks through commenting on other blogs as well as writing guest posts (with embedded text links) for other industry blogs. Again, you could use these techniques without having your own blog, but many bloggers are more likely to consider publishing a guest post from a fellow blogger (whose writing they can easily evaluate) than from an unknown corporate or agency contact.
5. Clean code. Google and many other search engines reward sites that have fast loading time, use the latest best practices in web coding and are W3C-compliant with higher rankings. If all of that sounds a bit technical, don’t worry; most of the leading blog platforms automatically create fairly clean, compliant code. Free blog platforms like TypePad and WordPress produce clean code out of the box. Fee-based platforms like Compendium and HubSpot are also search-friendly.
6. WordPress plugins. WordPress blogs can easily be made even more search engine-friendly through the use of a few key plugins. You can find lots of posts about the best SEO plugins for WordPress, but a few of the absolutely key plugins are:
- • All in One SEO Pack. Among it’s other features, this plugin makes it easy to add meta title tags and automatically create search-friendly URLs for each post.
- • W3 Total Cache. This plugin uses caching and other techniques to dramatically increase the load speed of your blog and improve the user experience.
- • Google XML Sitemaps with qTranslate Support. Sitemaps help the search engines more fully and accurately index a website or blog. For a relatively static business website, it’s easy to create an XML sitemap using an online tool then submit it to the major search engines. For a blog, which is constantly changing, using a manual process would be virtually impossible. Fortunately, this plugin creates an XML sitemap of your WordPress blog in a format supported by Ask.com, Google, MSN Search (Bing) and Yahoo, and automatically keeps it up to date as you write new posts, add categories, and make other changes to your blog.
- • WP Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides a wealth of information to help with SEO efforts, such as which keywords and referral sites are driving the most traffic and which landing pages draw the most search traffic. This plugin makes it a snap to add the Google Analytics tracking code to all of your blog pages and posts, and automatically include the code on new posts.
- • Sexy Bookmarks. The Sexy Bookmarks plugin adds a configurable set of social networking and social bookmarking buttons to each of your blog posts, making it easy for your readers to share your content on their site(s) of choice. Sharing provides useful social signals to the search engines about the authority of your content and creates valuable backlinks.
- • Do Follow. By default, WordPress applies the insidious nofollow tag to outbound links from your blog. This is done ostensibly to prevent your blog from passing authority to sketchy sites through comment and backlink spam. However, if you are moderating comments to your blog, those kinds of links shouldn’t be an issue. Do-follow outbound links to high-quality, relevant websites actually help with SEO as well as increasing reader satisfaction, generating more comments, and helping with relationship building.
Once you’ve developed and optimized an effective business website and launched a properly optimized business blog, the core of your web presence optimization framework is in place. Now you’re ready to take the next steps to expand that presence and work toward dominating in the search engines for your core terms.
Many books fail to live up to what’s promised on their covers: exciting title, raving blurbs, boring content. But The Power of Strategic Commitment by Josh Leibner, Gershon Mader and Alan Weiss is just the opposite—it’s a vital and engaging guide to effective leadership, despite the yawn-inducing title.
Basically, most organizations operate at a sub-optimal level because employees are more concerned about protecting their status quo than with making bold changes that will propel the organization to higher levels of success. This isn’t because they are bad employees, but because they don’t have effective leadership. (As the writers note, “Only when leaders are willing to ‘own’ the current state of affairs, and admit to themselves that they have caused the current levels of apathy, resistance, or resignation, can they begin to address and improve the situation.”) The authors then outline explicitly why this is the case, and most importantly, what to about it.
Often, it isn’t so much what an organization does that determines success, but how it does it. As a case in point, the authors cite Apple’s retail stores: “Online purchasing has created a new legion of buyers who aren’t willing to wait for bored salespeople to attend to them inn retail outlets. Yet Apple, Inc. was able to create very successful retail outlets by assigning a salesperson to customers from their moment of entry, through all purchases, right up to departures. (As one woman shopper was heard to remark, ‘Life should be like this, with a man assigned to you for as long as you want him.’).” Ouch!
The authors contend that many books about execution, motivation, and leadership fail to provide the information needed to really move the needle because they deal with only single factors of organizational excellence. What’s needed is true employee engagement with the corporate mission; commitment, as distinct from compliance.
Noting, from their observations in years of business consulting, that “when strategy fails it is almost always due to poor implementation, not poor formulation,” the authors argue that consensus is not the same as commitment. “Consensus is not commitment. People agree to ‘live with’ something, but that doesn’t mean they would ‘die for’ it.” They point out that in highly effective organizations, there are often passionate disputes—but these organizations are not disrupted by internal politics.
Along the way, the authors enthusiastically skewer “flavor of the month” management fads:
“In the early 1990’s, process reengineering…was the most popular organizational business response to improve effectiveness…By the late 1990s, it had become apparent that you could improve processes until the cows came home, but if people and functions were not genuinely on board ad buying in, then productivity gains would be ephemeral at best…In a leading manufacturing organization, the CEO’s engineering background and belief in the ‘science’ of Six Sigma drove him to ensure his managers and employees were rigorously complying with the process rather than truly owning the need to improve quality and the customer experience. As a result, Six Sigma was pervasive but customer satisfaction levels continued to decline. No customer ever proclaimed ‘Wow, I love what they’re doing with Six Sigma,” or ‘Quality teams have really improved by loyalty!’”
The lesson they draw is: “Organizational commitment to a CEO’s strategy is…perhaps the key factor in the success of the strategy and its organizational objectives.” In a nutshell, they recommend dictatorship in setting objectives (the “what”) but democracy in determining the means to achieve them (the “how”), and conclude “Including and engaging employees so that they can fully commit to the strategy is the ultimate factor in whether strategy succeeds or not.”
Leibner, Mader and Weiss identify two key issues at the heart of strategic commitment: content and context. Content is “the plan.” To be effective, it must be valid (the correct path for the organization based on research and independent thought) and it must be clearly communicated so that everyone in the organization can “get on the same page.”
Context has four key drivers:
- • Credibility (are leaders and managers being straightforward and honest?)
- • Courage (do leaders have the resolve to see the strategy through? Do employees believe that management will be “open to hearing the real, often negative feedback, and will they have the guts to deal with the real issues?”)
- • Competence (are the organization’s leaders capable of executing the strategy; do they know what they’re doing?)
- • Caring (do the leaders understand the impact that the plan will have on employees? Will they give employees the freedom to contribute, and recognition for those contributions? As the authors sum this up, “the more that people believe that management values them as resources and not as expenses, the more committed they tend to become.”)
Leiber and Mader are the founders of Quantum Performance, Inc., a strategic management consulting firm that has worked with numerous Global 1000 clients. Weiss is a consultant, speaker, author of 32 books, and head of Summit Consulting Group. The three bring years of experience to this book, and illustrate many of their points with true-life stories from name-brand clients. But the principals and guidance presented here apply to organizations of all sizes, and non-profit and government agencies as well as businesses.
The book closes with appendix containing several helpful tools, checklists and tips to help put the authors’ ideas into practice.
The Power of Strategic Commitment, despite the dry title, is an engagingly written and vital guide to developing leadership practices that enable higher levels of organizational success.