Change required: Social media demands a new way of thinking

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, social media on March 4, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Leaders can be funny people. They talk about driving change, about wanting to lead dynamic organizations and about “pushing the envelope.” They say they need their people to “think outside the box” and urge their organizations in new directions. “If we’re not leading the way,” they say, “we’re following the herd.”

But when their people come to them and say, “OK, in order to go in this new direction, we’re going to need to change the way we do things,” too many leaders slam on the brakes. It’s as though they’re saying, “I’m all for change, so long as everything can stay the same.”

The latest issue to spark this change/stay-the-same tug-of-war?  Social media. Most leaders know they’ve got to tap its potential, but, again, they hesitate when they realize the changes required to make it work.

What changes? Consider the following:

Out. Of. Control. The more you use social media to communicate, the less control you have over your message. It’s OK: Let go. Trust your customers to carry your message forward.

Keys, not key. You know your key message. You’ve drilled it into your people’s heads. Great. Now, let it fragment into a dozen messages, a hundred messages, and more. Don’t worry: Deep down, it’ll still be the same. It’ll just sound a little different to each audience that hears it. And that’s why they will, indeed, hear it.

It’s not about you. Really, it never should have been, but social media consumers must feel that your products, your mission and your communications are about them … or they’ll move on.

Friend of a friend. Make a new friend in social media, and you suddenly have access to hundreds more. Win a new customer, and you’ve suddenly got access to hundreds more of those, too. Cool, huh?

Stand and engage. Once upon a time, you crafted your message for one-way communication. Now you develop the foundation of a conversation. Stop delivering messages and start engaging in discussions.

It’s not what you make; it’s what it does. Products can be cool. Products can be innovative. But what consumers really want is an experience, a solution and a “feel.” Your products are simply a vehicle for delivering that experience, solution and feel.

There’s no place like home … page. That website the organization worked so hard to perfect? It’s not necessarily your home page any more. Instead, your “home page” becomes a virtual concept, a role filled by a Facebook page, a blog or some other web-based outlet.

Give it up. You don’t own your brand any more. Your consumers do. The good news? If it’s a good brand and you stay true to it, they’ll do more to spread the word than you ever could.

Off the clock. Your brand is being discussed while you sleep. That doesn’t mean you can’t sleep. It simply means you have to be prepared for a marketplace in constant motion.

Now, if all of that change makes your leader curl up into a fetal position, let him or her know the good news: Even in the face of all this change, a few things remain the same. In fact, they’re more important than ever:

Strategy. Social media isn’t a magic wand that solves all problems. Like any other tool, it only works if it’s employed as part of a focused strategy.

Relationships. Business always has been about relationships, and always will be. The good news? Social media makes it easier to forge relationships.

Focused message. Remember what we said about being prepared to fragment your message? It’s true, but it only works if you have a strong, focused message to begin with.

Quality. Social media doesn’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears. However, if you make a really good silk purse, it’ll help you spread the word.

Risk. Some things never change. If you want to get the greatest reward from social media, you’ll have to take a big risk. There are no guarantees. Just a lot of potential and opportunity. Are you up for it?

  1. excellent post. nice SM bullet points that any business or organization should understand. oh, i see, that’s the problem – the lack of understanding. that’s why savvy orgs use p.r. pros like Jen and John Thomas.

  2. John. Thank you so much for setting out this spread of delicious wisdom. It’s really very nutritious, not just donuts and coffee.

    Especially useful to me as I carry out the task of engaging my employer in social media: It’s not about you; Friend of a friend; and Stand and engage. Really, really good stuff. Thank you.

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