Note: the following is an excerpt from the book The Social Employee by Cheryl and Mark Burgess. Reprinted with permission.
The first step toward transitioning to a culture full of empowered social employees is to address some of the most common concerns brands face when considering going social. The following lists the most common concerns surrounding social media, as well as why these shouldn’t be concerns at all.
There’s nothing quite like good, old-fashioned fear. Everyone has heard Franklin Roosevelt’s famous Depression-era quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s remarkable how often these words go unheeded. In truth, fear often arises out of lack of knowledge, but brands can’t afford to be ignorant in any era. Fear of social media will likely result in paranoid, overprotective, and ultimately misguided business decisions. Even worse, it will make a band seem out of touch and unwilling to see the writing on the wall.
If brands have anything to fear, it’s not social media, but losing touch with customers. Marketers need to remember that just because something is new and different doesn’t mean it’s bad, or even dangerous. And in all honesty, social media isn’t even that new anymore. It’s time to face the music. Brands should be aware that “I haven’t done this before” only works as an excuse the first time they use it. Afterwards, they’ll just start to look rigid and stubborn.
2: What If I Do It Wrong?
Many Brands express misgivings as to how they should enter the social media fray. What if the wrong platform is chosen or organizations are not properly structured to accommodate these new technologies? On the surface, this may seem like a legitimate concern. As we’ve already discussed, social media certainly isn’t a static entity. But no technology is. Using the same logic, brands shouldn’t use computers simply because they continue to change as well.
The point is this: just because something is constantly changing doesn’t mean a brand is unable to adapt right along with it. Whether it’s with social media or not, brands can’t avoid risk. All things considered, we believe in the old adage that there’s safety in numbers. Countless brands are struggling with transitions into social business models at this very moment, and they are all learning from each other. It’s better to jump in now and learn through trial and error with everyone else than try to wait it out. If the latter is chosen, the competition will have a clear advantage over the more reticent brands.
3: Social Media Policies Don’t Offer Concrete Metrics or Proven ROI
This May have been true at one point, but as you will see from our success stories in the following chapters, pioneering social businesses do indeed measure investments in social media against real returns. Even the value of contributions from individual social employees can be measured, and tremendous results are being seen. As Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim say in Social Business by Design, unlike the early days of social media, results are not the problem managing the richness and sheer scale of outcomes presents the greater business challenge.”
The social media versus ROI debate has actually become somewhat of a punch line in marketing circles. As much as business culture can have its own memes, the ROI conversation has certainly become one. For our favorite example, we suggest checking out “The Social Media ROI Conversation” on YouTube.
It’s important to note here, however, that even though brands are finding proven ways to measure the ROI of social endeavors, it is generally agreed that ROI, in some ways, is beside the point. When talking about social business, the discussion refers to building a culture of empowered, engaged social employees who are as confident working collaboratively as they are working independently. Social business then, is a long-term game plan for corporate sustainability, accountability, and transparency. The benefits of social business grow exponentially- and will continue to be felt for generations to come. Thinking simply in terms of ROI is, quite frankly, far too narrow a view when experiencing nothing short of a cultural revolution.
When thinking of inertia in business terms, think of a brand’s forward movement, or in this case, the lack thereof. It’s far too easy for brands to dismiss global changes in the business world as fads, or as somehow inconsequential to their individual enterprises. Dismissive brands are content doing what they do, and have no desire to go beyond that, despite the many indicators suggesting that perhaps they should.
To a certain extent, there can be no talking sense into brands or executives who stubbornly cling to such a mindset. The truth is that the inertia mentality has been dangerous to businesses long before social media came along. Time and time again, brands have been dragged kicking and screaming into the future. Even though a fierce resistance was initially shown, most have been happy with the results. The most successful brands year in and year out are the ones ready to challenge the status quo. These are the brands that don’t accept the idea that business as usual is god enough. In order to foster a culture of engaged social employees, brands must disavow the dangers of inertia directly in their mission statement-and then make sure they put their money where their mouth is.
5: Lack of Internal Structure
To many of the unindoctrinated, the idea of social businesses sounds like pure anarchy. Without a clear organizational hierarchy, wouldn’t the whole enterprise simply descend into chaos? Let’s put it this way: If a brand lacks leadership, it doesn’t matter how elaborate-or sparse-its internal structure is. Without leadership, brands will lose the confidence of their employees, and if this happens there will be much larger problems to worry about. Social business is not an argument for abandoning a structured approach to organization and collaboration. Instead, its an argument for enriched interaction, stickier connections, and more organic collaboration. In other words, social business is about putting your employees first in order to expose and promote pockets of expertise and skill sets that tend to go unnoticed in traditional command-and-control models.
As the case studies in this book demonstrate, social businesses still maintain clearly defined roles for their employees. However, the difference is that these new social employees have much more freedom to maneuver within these roles, and they are better connected to the enterprise as a whole. To some brands, this approach might reflect the fear of losing control we addressed in Chapter 1. We think it’s more important to focus on the upside of this new approach. Social brands put more trust in their employees than previous business models have allowed the to. The wonderful thing businesses are finding is that employees are almost categorically rewarding them for this newfound trust.
This issue may actually turn out to be the root of all other concerns we previously listed. Sure, everyone has heard the term “social media” as nauseum at this point, but its exact meaning and application remain elusive. Social media in business extends far beyond networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. As the brands in our case studies demonstrate, going social affects every aspect of business, including the way a company structures itself, communicates internally, and communicated externally. the sort of brand engagement the public sees-external social branding-is only the tip of the iceberg. If brands are afraid that the concept of social business is too big of a pill to swallow, we encourage breaking social initiatives down into more digestible pieces and tackling them one step at a time. No one can go social overnight.
Cheryl and Mark Burgess are the principals of Blue Focus Marketing and co-authors of
the best-seller The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work.