The Uphill Battle of Social Media Buy In

If you talk at any length to any large corporations these days, they are all excited about the possibilities that social media might bring to their organizations, except that they are scared to death of the risks that social presents.

As a practitioner, before you can have meaningful conversations about those possibilities, you need to have that conversation about how to cover the ass of the employer when their rogue employee does something stupid and lets everyone know it-which is then picked up by every major news outlet around the world. Does anyone remember this?

This is the uphill battle that all consultants, marketers, and marcomm people are facing. That looming Fortune 500 question, and it’s a valid one of- “How are you going to prevent our employees from doing something as stupid as these two did at Dominos?”

You, as a practitioner, have to be able to answer this question and the following which is, without a doubt, the number one concern of every company, large and small, out there today as they address social media.

“How can we protect ourselves?”…

The second question right behind it is, “How can we protect ourselves from others who choose to use social media channels to trash us?” The question is legitimate and can extend, as it normally would, to former disgruntled employees who have an ax to grind who actually can be protected when taking to social media channels to trash their employers.

If you haven’t already figured it out, it starts with creating a social media policy that outlines how people are to behave. Cisco is a good example of a company doing it the right way. You have to have something that sits right next to the employee handbook that covers social media usage both in house and off hours. I know off-hours is a slippery slope because a lot of lawyers and employees will tell you that when a person is not on the clock, their time is their time-however in a sense, your social self can still be mapped back to who you work for 24/7/365. Digital footprint are not made in sand.

If you can’t help a company through the early stages of social media adoption, and that extends not only to external initiatives but also internal policy creation, or you don’t know how to get them there-then you need to get out. You can’t skirt this question. We live in a world where transparency is the new black, and with that comes a concern for mitigating risk. Explaining it away by saying that, “People should know better when using social media or People will use their best judgment,” won’t cut it anymore. Trust me, social media has given people an artistic license for stupidity unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

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Social Media Conundrum #34-You Hired Them but Don’t Trust Them

Why is it that social has created a whole new set of problems in the workplace? You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the employee with the  new found voice, the social employee. I think it’s an interesting dichotomy nowadays in which we have interviewed, poked and prodded this person before we have hired them, and yet we do not trust them to use social tools and platforms- Essentially, we have scared ourselves into thinking that every trusted employee that has been hire to be a part of the family and the culture is a social media risk.  Which begs a few questions:

How is it you hired someone you might not trust? Where is the disconnect? or better yet, why is there a disconnect? How can we ease the tension of the employer when it comes to the social employee?

Two words.

Manage Expectations.

The long form answer is that it starts with guidelines that include internal and external social policies, rules and guidelines that everyone can live by like what Cisco has done and it extends to adult like socially acceptable behavior. Social Media gives you the privledge of having conversations with anyone about anything but it does not give you the right to use it to run roughshod over the people that trust you and pay you to do a good job. At the end of the day it’s a two way street in which you both have to meet at the intersection of expectations and understand what is expected of each other.

Need more examples of social media policies and guidelines? Here’s a database with 174 examples.

5 Ways To Reduce the Risk of Engaging in Social Media

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Last week I was invited to talk with my good friend Paul Chaney from Bizzuka on his very popular show User Friendly Thinking on Blog Talk Radio. Paul and I got to talk about the risk of engaging in social media on a corporate level and from that conversation bubbled up this post.

In the age of the social web, companies can no longer afford to delay their response to the conversation taking place. They need guidance, structure and security when embarking down the road of social media and how to use it. Companies need a “risk aversion process” for learning social media. So here are 5 ways that a company can reduce that risk.

1) First,  approach it like a product launch in other words, you need to assign one or more resources and make them accountable. It’s amazing what happens when more people or departments have ownership, or “skin in the game”, of a project or task.  So for instance typically IT initiates or has ownership of most web 2.0 projects, and thus a lot of the heat falls on them, right?

But what if marketing, PR and IT all had ownership of the success of a social media initiative? And what if the word came down from the top first?  Typically when employees know that their president or CEO is supporting it, they’re more apt to embrace it.  The point is, if you engage the right internal resources that will need to be involved (legal, marketing, corporate communications., executive leadership, IT, and product management)…and do it early on, AND let them have input and belief that they have influence, and ownership as well?… You have a much better chance to succeed in the long run.

2) Second, you can reduce the risk by reviewing the corporate goals / objectives in three month increments and APPLY or review the social media strategies that are complimenting the overall corporate strategies. Make sure the strategies mesh-the same way your marketing materials and their messaging is consistent.

Obviously you need to know the social media objectives first before you can apply the strategies, but the key is to weave them into the rest of the mix. This way they are as relevant, and as high priority and as funded(hopefully) as everything else on the table. And keep the social media goals reachable.

I like to use the analogy of the team that is getting ready to start their season: a) Lets have a winning season b) Lets win x amount of games c) Lets make the playoffs d) Lets win the division etc etc.. I think a lot of people or companies think that social media is this cure-all elixir that happens over night and it’s just not so.

By periodically reviewing the goals, this allows you to see progress and to tweak where appropriate.

3) Next you need to map the results back to either making  money, building equity or reducing costs. This is your mantra!

This ensures longevity and value to the company. CEO’s and business owners can wrap their arms around that. We all know that a lot of people and organizations are currently hung up on the ROI of social media and rightly so; because that really does track back nicely to the risk argument and the reasons NOT to do social media… but that’s why we like to look at the results from the 3 goals mentioned above. Those are tangible and measurable.  I’ll say it again…You need to make money, save money or build equity.

4) Let’s make sure there are guardrails.  Companies will not move forward if they feel there is no control.  As well, companies do not like to operate without nets.. (For example a bad product goes out, or gets released. There is a process there to Recall, Refund, and service those affected customers- there’s a process.  There has to be some semblance of a crisis management plan where it’s… If this happens, then we will do this….If this happens, so and so will handle this etc etc..

5) Lastly, let’s have a road map with intervals where you can Test, Measure and Adapt-TMA. In social media, one of the great things about the space, is that you have the ability to test and measure certain things and adapt fairly quickly because the results are so real time, and so immediate.  So yes, Analytics are key and I love them, but let’s make sure we’re measuring the right things in social media. Because it’s easy to think you are being social, if you’re measuring the wrong thing.

Lastly I was asked about instituting corporate social media policies and if I had any resources to suggest and at the time, I did not have my resources readily available, So here are 2 great links to some sources for (1) Corp. Social Media Policies. and (2) Social Media Policies

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