19 August 2008

Contemplating the Social Media Plunge

When I asked around about the reasons why companies hesitate to get involved with social media - whether misconceptions or legitimate concerns - it sparked some great discussion.

By far, the overwhelming consensus was that social media makes companies far more transparent than they're used to being. Dave Murr and Matthew T. Grant on Twitter and Sonny Gill on Plurk all said that companies are uncomfortable not completely controlling the brand message anymore. Of course, the message we're delivering loud and clear is that customers are the ones driving much of your brand messaging anyway, with or without you (and they started doing it the minute they became your customers). Frank Martin says that the practice of some traditional media - press releases, advertising messages - being company-controlled gives companies the illusion that they should be able to control all of their marketing. In a digital age, that's nearly impossible.

Putting time and money toward something that doesn't have hard ROI attached.
Beth Harte and Laura Pritchard agree that many companies want to see a hard, direct line between efforts and sales leads. So far, metrics for social media are soft and indirect, and tend to be reflected instead through measurements in other areas - website traffic, customer satisfaction levels, strength of relationships with customers and prospects. How do you think these effects compare to other cultivation efforts - like customer appreciation events, golf outings, or other business development activities?

Taking communication outside the communication department. Companies may have a hard time trusting their non-communications trained employees to do and say the right thing without intense supervision. The trick is that customer service reps are talking to customers about product issues, your accounting team is discussing the slow decision processes with their vendors, your product managers are talking about disagreement about the new widget design. Employees aren't following the script in their everyday business interactions, anyway, and giving them a chance to communicate more openly on behalf of the company can bring to light new insights.

Thinking that social media is an all-or-nothing proposition. Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester has a great post today about how scare tactics are causing some companies to steer clear of social media. The reality is that social media isn't an overnight sea change, nor is it a silver bullet. It's one (important) part of a comprehensive, and well thought out communication strategy for any business.

Being faced with questions they don't have answers to. Tara Whittle mentioned this one and I was glad she did. Sometimes, online customers will ask questions or point out issues that don't have immediate resolutions. In these cases, I think it's less the immediate solution to the problem, but how the company handles it that matters. Do they have the confidence to answer "We're not sure! But we're going to find out, and here's how we'll let you know when we do." That can build trust and credibility.

Committing the resources to do it right. Social media done comprehensively takes an investment of time, capital, and human resources. As I've posted before, engaging in social media can be a part of anyone's job. Listening alone takes effort - GM alone has at least 10 staff people dedicated to monitoring their brand on the web. As Sonny says, monitoring social media has become an extesion of brand mangement. And once you've heard what's being said, responding and doing something of value with the feedback you receive requires new thinking and sometimes, new ways of doing things. And, as another savvy plurker pointed out, some companies might even think that
shifting their position and messaging in response to feedback can make them seem weak. I'd venture to say that evolving your messaging to respond to your community does quite the opposite, but would welcome your take on this too!

It's just new. Frank points out that it may not be fear so much as that many companies simply aren't early adopters, and he's right. Kellye Crane points out that much like websites once were the unproven tool, some companies are waiting to see just how other companies are making use of social media and how they in turn can leverage it for their specific business. And some may be comfortable with the status quo, thinking that "if it ain't broke...". The more that bellwether companies like Dell, Starbucks, Ford, Beam Global, Southwest Airlines and more blaze the trail, the more likely others are to see the value for themselves, too.

So how about you? Is your company venturing into the waters of social media, and what are your concerns? Are you the champion for social media, and how are you addressing these concerns with your clients or management? Please share in the comments!

Photo by danflo
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

9 comments:

Frank Conrad Martin said...

Great post Amber! The reality is that social media is GOING to happen to companies - IS happening to companies, whether they take part in the process or not!

Telling yourself otherwise and refusing to acknowledge it is like those people in FL who just aren't going to leave their homes despite the Category 5 that's on its way.

Thanks!

David Alston said...

Great post Amber. And very timely too. Hopefully the folks that join in on the Twebinar today on "The Importance of Listening" will stop by this post. It's a great list to help any person, trying to incorporate the power of social media into their business, sell it to the powers that be.

If it wasn't for the wonderful relationships we've made over the past 10 months via social media/WOM Radian6 would not be where it is today. For marketers they must put social media/WOM at the center of how they listen and communicate vs. making it simply an add on. Once this happens everything else falls into place and decisions on what to do next become much easier.

Just jump in with both feet. The swimming is great in here. :-)

CKeithley said...

One of the main things I have heard from representatives at other companies is that they don't have time to do what they have to do now: how will they add this other layer?

While social media may take some of my time, it has helped us build stronger relationships with our partners, customers, and the media. Rather than just looking at the end result produced, we are thinking about the people involved and building better partnerships that I believe will eventually effect the bottom line as well as the strength of the organization.

So, in a nut shell, it's worth it to me. Some people may see the value now, some companies may wait till more people adopt these views. But I prefer to be a though leader rather than a follower within the business community, because playing catch up all the time doesn't sound very exciting to me.

Thieleman1 said...

This is right on. We've been looking to get more involved in social media, but have been trying to deal with the first two concerns you posted: giving up control of the message and giving up resources to such a new medium.

But the more we look, the more we realize that the conversations are already happening, so if we want a say we had better jump in.

Tara said...

Amber, great post! Other concerns I've heard (sometimes explicitly said, but often implicit) are along the lines of "our competitors will know more about our weak points" or "where do we draw the line?" We tell every client we work with (and we aren't doing marketing or social media work, either) that they need to be doing SOMETHING because someone out there is talking about their brand. The first breakthrough is often the realization that the conversation is already happening. They don't have to start anything - they have to JOIN.

Again - excellent post!

Webconomist said...

Really enjoyed this post! Great summaries.

In the 50's, businesses suddenly woke up to the fact that most household buying decisions were made by women; advertising changed forever.

With Social Media, it is the new power of the consumer. Money speaks, and consumer pressure/activity will spark.

One other fear: Transparency for public companies and the threat of Sarbanes Oxley and how to manage that.

Krista said...

Kodak is another company active in social media from blogs to twitter to youtube. It's part of our overall communications and marketing strategy and gives us another way to connect with customers and share information about the "New Kodak." Earlier this year we named a Chief Blogger, Jenny Cisney, who oversees all our social media activities. Our Chief Business Development Officer, Jeff Hayzlett, twitters and is on facebook. It's about being part of the conversation. Throughout the Olympics, our CB and others have been blogging from Beijing, sharing the experience (and of course, pictures!) as well as information on our products and the services we provide at the Games.

Amber Naslund said...

@Frank - you're so right. It's scary for some, but it doesn't mean it's not happening anyway.

@David - enjoyed the Twebinar about listening.And I'm with you about jumping! Learning what works for you takes time, a little flexibility, and a bit of trial and error, but I believe the rewards - as you testify to - are indeed worth it.

@Cara - to me it's about shifting priorities, not adding them. Adapting, and learning to work differently. It's a new ballgame now.

@thieleman1 - My congrats to you and your company for taking on the challenge. I think you'll find it to be very worthwhile. Please keep me posted!

@Tara - you make a great point. It's not always about leading the conversation. sometimes, it's just being a part of it that matters.

@webeconomist - it's definitely a culture shift on many levels. And we have lots yet to figure out re: the right amount of transparency and the balance between transparency and vulnerability. Appreciate your perspective!

@Krista - it's great to hear about all that Kodak is doing. I hope many companies can learn from your examples - case studies like yours are priceless for helping companies learn from others' experiences. Thank you!

Beth Harte said...

I am constantly asked 'how long will this take to see leads?' or 'who is going to do it, when will the have the time?' Conversation doesn't always produce a lead. When your sales team goes golfing or out to dinner with prospects or customers it's about building a relationship. Now we are just doing that online. Relationships take time and effort and don't always produce an immediate ROI.

The other trend I am seeing is temp-to-perm social media positions. It hauntingly reminds me of the .com era. And is a clear indication that companies aren't quite ready for social media.

Thanks Amber!

19 August 2008

Contemplating the Social Media Plunge

When I asked around about the reasons why companies hesitate to get involved with social media - whether misconceptions or legitimate concerns - it sparked some great discussion.

By far, the overwhelming consensus was that social media makes companies far more transparent than they're used to being. Dave Murr and Matthew T. Grant on Twitter and Sonny Gill on Plurk all said that companies are uncomfortable not completely controlling the brand message anymore. Of course, the message we're delivering loud and clear is that customers are the ones driving much of your brand messaging anyway, with or without you (and they started doing it the minute they became your customers). Frank Martin says that the practice of some traditional media - press releases, advertising messages - being company-controlled gives companies the illusion that they should be able to control all of their marketing. In a digital age, that's nearly impossible.

Putting time and money toward something that doesn't have hard ROI attached.
Beth Harte and Laura Pritchard agree that many companies want to see a hard, direct line between efforts and sales leads. So far, metrics for social media are soft and indirect, and tend to be reflected instead through measurements in other areas - website traffic, customer satisfaction levels, strength of relationships with customers and prospects. How do you think these effects compare to other cultivation efforts - like customer appreciation events, golf outings, or other business development activities?

Taking communication outside the communication department. Companies may have a hard time trusting their non-communications trained employees to do and say the right thing without intense supervision. The trick is that customer service reps are talking to customers about product issues, your accounting team is discussing the slow decision processes with their vendors, your product managers are talking about disagreement about the new widget design. Employees aren't following the script in their everyday business interactions, anyway, and giving them a chance to communicate more openly on behalf of the company can bring to light new insights.

Thinking that social media is an all-or-nothing proposition. Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester has a great post today about how scare tactics are causing some companies to steer clear of social media. The reality is that social media isn't an overnight sea change, nor is it a silver bullet. It's one (important) part of a comprehensive, and well thought out communication strategy for any business.

Being faced with questions they don't have answers to. Tara Whittle mentioned this one and I was glad she did. Sometimes, online customers will ask questions or point out issues that don't have immediate resolutions. In these cases, I think it's less the immediate solution to the problem, but how the company handles it that matters. Do they have the confidence to answer "We're not sure! But we're going to find out, and here's how we'll let you know when we do." That can build trust and credibility.

Committing the resources to do it right. Social media done comprehensively takes an investment of time, capital, and human resources. As I've posted before, engaging in social media can be a part of anyone's job. Listening alone takes effort - GM alone has at least 10 staff people dedicated to monitoring their brand on the web. As Sonny says, monitoring social media has become an extesion of brand mangement. And once you've heard what's being said, responding and doing something of value with the feedback you receive requires new thinking and sometimes, new ways of doing things. And, as another savvy plurker pointed out, some companies might even think that
shifting their position and messaging in response to feedback can make them seem weak. I'd venture to say that evolving your messaging to respond to your community does quite the opposite, but would welcome your take on this too!

It's just new. Frank points out that it may not be fear so much as that many companies simply aren't early adopters, and he's right. Kellye Crane points out that much like websites once were the unproven tool, some companies are waiting to see just how other companies are making use of social media and how they in turn can leverage it for their specific business. And some may be comfortable with the status quo, thinking that "if it ain't broke...". The more that bellwether companies like Dell, Starbucks, Ford, Beam Global, Southwest Airlines and more blaze the trail, the more likely others are to see the value for themselves, too.

So how about you? Is your company venturing into the waters of social media, and what are your concerns? Are you the champion for social media, and how are you addressing these concerns with your clients or management? Please share in the comments!

Photo by danflo
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

9 comments:

Frank Conrad Martin said...

Great post Amber! The reality is that social media is GOING to happen to companies - IS happening to companies, whether they take part in the process or not!

Telling yourself otherwise and refusing to acknowledge it is like those people in FL who just aren't going to leave their homes despite the Category 5 that's on its way.

Thanks!

David Alston said...

Great post Amber. And very timely too. Hopefully the folks that join in on the Twebinar today on "The Importance of Listening" will stop by this post. It's a great list to help any person, trying to incorporate the power of social media into their business, sell it to the powers that be.

If it wasn't for the wonderful relationships we've made over the past 10 months via social media/WOM Radian6 would not be where it is today. For marketers they must put social media/WOM at the center of how they listen and communicate vs. making it simply an add on. Once this happens everything else falls into place and decisions on what to do next become much easier.

Just jump in with both feet. The swimming is great in here. :-)

CKeithley said...

One of the main things I have heard from representatives at other companies is that they don't have time to do what they have to do now: how will they add this other layer?

While social media may take some of my time, it has helped us build stronger relationships with our partners, customers, and the media. Rather than just looking at the end result produced, we are thinking about the people involved and building better partnerships that I believe will eventually effect the bottom line as well as the strength of the organization.

So, in a nut shell, it's worth it to me. Some people may see the value now, some companies may wait till more people adopt these views. But I prefer to be a though leader rather than a follower within the business community, because playing catch up all the time doesn't sound very exciting to me.

Thieleman1 said...

This is right on. We've been looking to get more involved in social media, but have been trying to deal with the first two concerns you posted: giving up control of the message and giving up resources to such a new medium.

But the more we look, the more we realize that the conversations are already happening, so if we want a say we had better jump in.

Tara said...

Amber, great post! Other concerns I've heard (sometimes explicitly said, but often implicit) are along the lines of "our competitors will know more about our weak points" or "where do we draw the line?" We tell every client we work with (and we aren't doing marketing or social media work, either) that they need to be doing SOMETHING because someone out there is talking about their brand. The first breakthrough is often the realization that the conversation is already happening. They don't have to start anything - they have to JOIN.

Again - excellent post!

Webconomist said...

Really enjoyed this post! Great summaries.

In the 50's, businesses suddenly woke up to the fact that most household buying decisions were made by women; advertising changed forever.

With Social Media, it is the new power of the consumer. Money speaks, and consumer pressure/activity will spark.

One other fear: Transparency for public companies and the threat of Sarbanes Oxley and how to manage that.

Krista said...

Kodak is another company active in social media from blogs to twitter to youtube. It's part of our overall communications and marketing strategy and gives us another way to connect with customers and share information about the "New Kodak." Earlier this year we named a Chief Blogger, Jenny Cisney, who oversees all our social media activities. Our Chief Business Development Officer, Jeff Hayzlett, twitters and is on facebook. It's about being part of the conversation. Throughout the Olympics, our CB and others have been blogging from Beijing, sharing the experience (and of course, pictures!) as well as information on our products and the services we provide at the Games.

Amber Naslund said...

@Frank - you're so right. It's scary for some, but it doesn't mean it's not happening anyway.

@David - enjoyed the Twebinar about listening.And I'm with you about jumping! Learning what works for you takes time, a little flexibility, and a bit of trial and error, but I believe the rewards - as you testify to - are indeed worth it.

@Cara - to me it's about shifting priorities, not adding them. Adapting, and learning to work differently. It's a new ballgame now.

@thieleman1 - My congrats to you and your company for taking on the challenge. I think you'll find it to be very worthwhile. Please keep me posted!

@Tara - you make a great point. It's not always about leading the conversation. sometimes, it's just being a part of it that matters.

@webeconomist - it's definitely a culture shift on many levels. And we have lots yet to figure out re: the right amount of transparency and the balance between transparency and vulnerability. Appreciate your perspective!

@Krista - it's great to hear about all that Kodak is doing. I hope many companies can learn from your examples - case studies like yours are priceless for helping companies learn from others' experiences. Thank you!

Beth Harte said...

I am constantly asked 'how long will this take to see leads?' or 'who is going to do it, when will the have the time?' Conversation doesn't always produce a lead. When your sales team goes golfing or out to dinner with prospects or customers it's about building a relationship. Now we are just doing that online. Relationships take time and effort and don't always produce an immediate ROI.

The other trend I am seeing is temp-to-perm social media positions. It hauntingly reminds me of the .com era. And is a clear indication that companies aren't quite ready for social media.

Thanks Amber!

19 August 2008

Contemplating the Social Media Plunge

When I asked around about the reasons why companies hesitate to get involved with social media - whether misconceptions or legitimate concerns - it sparked some great discussion.

By far, the overwhelming consensus was that social media makes companies far more transparent than they're used to being. Dave Murr and Matthew T. Grant on Twitter and Sonny Gill on Plurk all said that companies are uncomfortable not completely controlling the brand message anymore. Of course, the message we're delivering loud and clear is that customers are the ones driving much of your brand messaging anyway, with or without you (and they started doing it the minute they became your customers). Frank Martin says that the practice of some traditional media - press releases, advertising messages - being company-controlled gives companies the illusion that they should be able to control all of their marketing. In a digital age, that's nearly impossible.

Putting time and money toward something that doesn't have hard ROI attached.
Beth Harte and Laura Pritchard agree that many companies want to see a hard, direct line between efforts and sales leads. So far, metrics for social media are soft and indirect, and tend to be reflected instead through measurements in other areas - website traffic, customer satisfaction levels, strength of relationships with customers and prospects. How do you think these effects compare to other cultivation efforts - like customer appreciation events, golf outings, or other business development activities?

Taking communication outside the communication department. Companies may have a hard time trusting their non-communications trained employees to do and say the right thing without intense supervision. The trick is that customer service reps are talking to customers about product issues, your accounting team is discussing the slow decision processes with their vendors, your product managers are talking about disagreement about the new widget design. Employees aren't following the script in their everyday business interactions, anyway, and giving them a chance to communicate more openly on behalf of the company can bring to light new insights.

Thinking that social media is an all-or-nothing proposition. Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester has a great post today about how scare tactics are causing some companies to steer clear of social media. The reality is that social media isn't an overnight sea change, nor is it a silver bullet. It's one (important) part of a comprehensive, and well thought out communication strategy for any business.

Being faced with questions they don't have answers to. Tara Whittle mentioned this one and I was glad she did. Sometimes, online customers will ask questions or point out issues that don't have immediate resolutions. In these cases, I think it's less the immediate solution to the problem, but how the company handles it that matters. Do they have the confidence to answer "We're not sure! But we're going to find out, and here's how we'll let you know when we do." That can build trust and credibility.

Committing the resources to do it right. Social media done comprehensively takes an investment of time, capital, and human resources. As I've posted before, engaging in social media can be a part of anyone's job. Listening alone takes effort - GM alone has at least 10 staff people dedicated to monitoring their brand on the web. As Sonny says, monitoring social media has become an extesion of brand mangement. And once you've heard what's being said, responding and doing something of value with the feedback you receive requires new thinking and sometimes, new ways of doing things. And, as another savvy plurker pointed out, some companies might even think that
shifting their position and messaging in response to feedback can make them seem weak. I'd venture to say that evolving your messaging to respond to your community does quite the opposite, but would welcome your take on this too!

It's just new. Frank points out that it may not be fear so much as that many companies simply aren't early adopters, and he's right. Kellye Crane points out that much like websites once were the unproven tool, some companies are waiting to see just how other companies are making use of social media and how they in turn can leverage it for their specific business. And some may be comfortable with the status quo, thinking that "if it ain't broke...". The more that bellwether companies like Dell, Starbucks, Ford, Beam Global, Southwest Airlines and more blaze the trail, the more likely others are to see the value for themselves, too.

So how about you? Is your company venturing into the waters of social media, and what are your concerns? Are you the champion for social media, and how are you addressing these concerns with your clients or management? Please share in the comments!

Photo by danflo
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

9 comments:

Frank Conrad Martin said...

Great post Amber! The reality is that social media is GOING to happen to companies - IS happening to companies, whether they take part in the process or not!

Telling yourself otherwise and refusing to acknowledge it is like those people in FL who just aren't going to leave their homes despite the Category 5 that's on its way.

Thanks!

David Alston said...

Great post Amber. And very timely too. Hopefully the folks that join in on the Twebinar today on "The Importance of Listening" will stop by this post. It's a great list to help any person, trying to incorporate the power of social media into their business, sell it to the powers that be.

If it wasn't for the wonderful relationships we've made over the past 10 months via social media/WOM Radian6 would not be where it is today. For marketers they must put social media/WOM at the center of how they listen and communicate vs. making it simply an add on. Once this happens everything else falls into place and decisions on what to do next become much easier.

Just jump in with both feet. The swimming is great in here. :-)

CKeithley said...

One of the main things I have heard from representatives at other companies is that they don't have time to do what they have to do now: how will they add this other layer?

While social media may take some of my time, it has helped us build stronger relationships with our partners, customers, and the media. Rather than just looking at the end result produced, we are thinking about the people involved and building better partnerships that I believe will eventually effect the bottom line as well as the strength of the organization.

So, in a nut shell, it's worth it to me. Some people may see the value now, some companies may wait till more people adopt these views. But I prefer to be a though leader rather than a follower within the business community, because playing catch up all the time doesn't sound very exciting to me.

Thieleman1 said...

This is right on. We've been looking to get more involved in social media, but have been trying to deal with the first two concerns you posted: giving up control of the message and giving up resources to such a new medium.

But the more we look, the more we realize that the conversations are already happening, so if we want a say we had better jump in.

Tara said...

Amber, great post! Other concerns I've heard (sometimes explicitly said, but often implicit) are along the lines of "our competitors will know more about our weak points" or "where do we draw the line?" We tell every client we work with (and we aren't doing marketing or social media work, either) that they need to be doing SOMETHING because someone out there is talking about their brand. The first breakthrough is often the realization that the conversation is already happening. They don't have to start anything - they have to JOIN.

Again - excellent post!

Webconomist said...

Really enjoyed this post! Great summaries.

In the 50's, businesses suddenly woke up to the fact that most household buying decisions were made by women; advertising changed forever.

With Social Media, it is the new power of the consumer. Money speaks, and consumer pressure/activity will spark.

One other fear: Transparency for public companies and the threat of Sarbanes Oxley and how to manage that.

Krista said...

Kodak is another company active in social media from blogs to twitter to youtube. It's part of our overall communications and marketing strategy and gives us another way to connect with customers and share information about the "New Kodak." Earlier this year we named a Chief Blogger, Jenny Cisney, who oversees all our social media activities. Our Chief Business Development Officer, Jeff Hayzlett, twitters and is on facebook. It's about being part of the conversation. Throughout the Olympics, our CB and others have been blogging from Beijing, sharing the experience (and of course, pictures!) as well as information on our products and the services we provide at the Games.

Amber Naslund said...

@Frank - you're so right. It's scary for some, but it doesn't mean it's not happening anyway.

@David - enjoyed the Twebinar about listening.And I'm with you about jumping! Learning what works for you takes time, a little flexibility, and a bit of trial and error, but I believe the rewards - as you testify to - are indeed worth it.

@Cara - to me it's about shifting priorities, not adding them. Adapting, and learning to work differently. It's a new ballgame now.

@thieleman1 - My congrats to you and your company for taking on the challenge. I think you'll find it to be very worthwhile. Please keep me posted!

@Tara - you make a great point. It's not always about leading the conversation. sometimes, it's just being a part of it that matters.

@webeconomist - it's definitely a culture shift on many levels. And we have lots yet to figure out re: the right amount of transparency and the balance between transparency and vulnerability. Appreciate your perspective!

@Krista - it's great to hear about all that Kodak is doing. I hope many companies can learn from your examples - case studies like yours are priceless for helping companies learn from others' experiences. Thank you!

Beth Harte said...

I am constantly asked 'how long will this take to see leads?' or 'who is going to do it, when will the have the time?' Conversation doesn't always produce a lead. When your sales team goes golfing or out to dinner with prospects or customers it's about building a relationship. Now we are just doing that online. Relationships take time and effort and don't always produce an immediate ROI.

The other trend I am seeing is temp-to-perm social media positions. It hauntingly reminds me of the .com era. And is a clear indication that companies aren't quite ready for social media.

Thanks Amber!