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This weeks #SocialMedia Tweetchat Topic: Fear Factor: Understanding the Value of Adding Social Media to the Mix

FUDFUD! (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) is typically used by sales and marketing types to position themselves against competitors.  IBM used to be renown for using this tactic and now it’s being used in a different way.  Executives are turning FUD around and using it on their own organizations with regards to the use of social media.  While companies widely accept that social media is transforming the business landscape, executives are still reluctant to approve anything more than small tests or pilot programs.

This reluctance by executives is being translated by many to simply infer that they are scared.  Looking at it from an executive point of view however might shed a different light on the use of social media.  Companies have spent decades building out their networks of consumers, partners, suppliers, employees, and special interests.  So why does management shudder whenever you begin to put a “social” in front of the network?  Consider, today’s business models are developed with layers of hierarchy and managed very linearly.  By this, I refer to the typical order of developing product, inserting the supply chain, managing distribution, creating point of sale campaigns and attracting consumers.  There is a very linear process for managing corporate messaging, customer service, measuring consumer sentiment, channel partner alignment and so on.  What social media does is dis-intermediates most linear processes and connects disparate networks in ways that enterprises have not yet created “management” solutions for.  Like the classic management book implies, we have moved the proverbial manager’s cheese.   So what does this mean to social media champions inside companies?

In order to make decisions, executives need clear objectives, relative impact on short term and long term business and data points to back it all up…not theory.  Introducing a company’s employees to be social is one way to start (a good post by Rachael Happewill help identify ways to get started).  This helps to build confidence, trust and develop skills for those tactical purposes.  What is still missing though is the bigger issues surrounding change management and working procedurally in a non-linear environment.  For instance, at its most basic, what happens when corporate messaging is spread by consumer reviews not Corp Comms department?  What happens when consumers demand (or request) product features instead of market research?  Take it a step further now and consider what might happen if your consumers could connect directly with your suppliers and eliminate your company’s role in assembly?  Now it moves beyond ratty little conversationalists to a complete dis-intermediation of non-essential middlemen and your company is no longer relevant (think newspaper business).

In order for companies to consider adopting social across an enterprise, social media strategists need to move beyond campaigns and tactics and begin considering corporate lineages.  A research study commissioned by Cisco contained keen observations for agencies and strategists to consider.

“Only one in seven of the companies that participated in the research noted a formal process associated with adopting consumer-based social networking tools for business purposes, indicating that the potential risks associated with these tools in the enterprise are either overlooked or not well understood.”

This is only one of the findings that was pointed out.  The entire excerpt was reported by CNN Money here.

How do we ease executive’s minds and begin socially infusing companies?  Our moderator this week is tasked with helping connect those dots.   Helping us out this week, B.L. Ochman will provide her years of insight and success at convincing executives to get past dipping their toes in the water.  Our topic and questions follow:

Topic: Fear Factor: Understanding the Value of Adding Social Media to the Mix

Q1) Why do executives still doubt social media?

Q2) Do companies have time for social media?

Q3) Are there quick tactics that can be used to build company enthusiasm around SMM?

The twitter based chat will take place on Tuesday 02/02/2010 at noon EST.  To participate follow #sm45 on your favorite Twitter client or on our live site.

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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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