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Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn … Somebody Stop the Music!

by Mar 25, 2010, 5:03 am ET

No, I am not a hypocrite. I, like millions of people, participate regularly in social networking. I am a proponent of social networking and appreciate the implication of its value. However, what prompted me to write this article was a little bell going off in my head. That bell rings out: “So you come into work two hours early every day to get your social networking elbow greased up for tweeting, re-tweeting, updating, Inmailing, posting, tagging, poking”… well you get the idea. So what is it about these virtual coffee shops that draw me to them like a moth to the flame?

The intriguing part of this is that I actually look forward to it. I enjoy connecting with people. Some I know very well, a few I know somewhat, and fewer still, I barely know at all. I feel like a tourist visiting people in countries I have not toured and, in reality, may never. It’s fun and certainly interesting. I guess that’s why I have many followers on Twitter from Great Britain and Australia. At first blush, I can’t help but be a little amazed thinking about why they would want to be connected to me and what value they get from my updates. I am flattered and amazed.

For me, the stream of consciousness soon takes over and my mind wanders to the bigger picture where I think about the myriad of companies that are befuddled and tentative about these social behemoths, and understandably so. Just because the social network thought leaders espouse that we all need to be “there” and comfortable with the social concept does not automatically assuage the apprehension these companies are experiencing. I see that it will take more than the “be there or be square” admonishments.

So how do companies get ready to take the plunge? It will take 1) time; 2) understanding; 3) preparation; 4) a willingness to stand up in front of the classroom for Show and Tell and last, but never least; 5) evaluating the effects of the decisions made. I liken this entire process to being on a diet. Even though you know you need one, no one can make you adopt change if you’re not ready.

Here is what I’ve seen companies do to manage these five stages:

  • Time = Observation. This is what companies bide. Companies want to see what other organizations experience in the social network arena and decide if they are ready to handle the publicity, whether it’s good or bad. This supports the efficacy of case studies and why inside knowledge matters. We all want to know what someone else has experienced and how they reacted to the outcome.
  • Understanding = Knowledge. We all know knowledge is power that comes from learning and experience. We don’t expect students to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in fewer than four years, so why would we expect companies to upheave their cultural beliefs in a day? Company culture is an evolutionary process that thoughtful organizations create over time, not overnight.
  • Preparation = Teamwork. In this instance, the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” certainly applies here. All knowledge is gathered and stakeholder recommendations weighed for expert and uniform opinion. This is where the company narrative has been mindfully crafted with buy-in from the top.
  • Show and Tell = Transparency. This is the exposure stage in the process, with the company story public for all to see and know. This is when a company holds its collective breath and prays. It’s scary and exciting all at once.
  • Evaluation = Results. This is the last and hopefully first stage in the process. Evaluated results will be the culmination of the experience and guide an organization to better understand both where it falls and how it is perceived within the social network continuum. Being armed with this knowledge can only make a company stronger and more in control of the story it tells. Smart companies will use this information to retool their story and come out swinging in subsequent forays in a more focused way than during their initial entre.

I tend to disagree with the pundits who claim “companies just don’t get how to be social.” I think they do. They just need to work through the mysticism of it all in their own way. My greatest wish is that this will be sooner rather than later.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Philip Newman

    Cynthia, your points are well said. It’s the battleship effect though. We can’t expect these companies to be able to make a 90 degree turn overnight. What’s even scarier is that I believe in order to have believability and ROI in social media/social marketing, etc. that you have to be creating ideas that are generationally relevant. What Fortune 500 is going to feel comfortable handing those reigns to someone younger? Especially for something that could become the main source for that company’s revenue within the next decade? It’s all a very scary reality…

    Philip Newman

  • Jari King

    As a person who recently started a blog and who is slowly, but surely learning my way around the vast and consuming world of social networking (from a business perspective) I’d like to suggest to everyone that they pick up a copy of “Inbound Marketing” by Halligan and Shah. I found their very detialed guidance invaluable.

  • Steve Lewis

    Great article, Cynthia. It is scarey, but what fun. I agree that the key to getting your company to buy in and continue to support a social networking strategy, we will need to get better at your 5th point – measuring results. Great summary!

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