The Social Media On-Ramp

originally posted on Concept Hub

I really enjoyed George Dearing’s post  that asks “Will 2010 Be The Year Social Media Stops Being A Shiny Object?

He highlights Ogilvy’s latest report and how important it is that organizations stop looking for a department to “own” social media;
That in fact, social media is part of every department.

However, I can understand why organizations are trying to identify one department to start rolling out their social media efforts. It is about focus and about goals. On the surface, it seems like identifying a social media champion or a department to own the organization’s social media strategy is the right thing to do.

The problem is that while budgets, resources, and focus are being directed toward sanctioned social media efforts, other rogue social media efforts are happening where there may be missed opportunities or unforeseen threats.

Because social media is free, available to everyone, and impacts everything, it is not “a program” that can be rolled-out in the traditional way that organizations have rolled out technology capabilities or programs in the past.

This begs the question, where to begin? How can a business leader begin to wrap their arms around what seems to be an ADHD, dancing elephant?


Step one: Identify and restate the responsibilities of each department. One of the downfalls from organizations trying to squeeze social media into one department is that because social media impacts all areas of business, whichever department that has been tasked with social media has now taken on additional responsibilities that they may either not be trained to handle or simply have no interest in handling. How many marketing and PR people really would like to pick up a bag and hit the road as a salesperson? When you ask them to take on social media on their own, you are asking them to do just that.

The next step is creating a culture that enables your organization to take advantage of opportunities and minimize threats in this world of transparency and open dialog. The traditional approach to do this is to establish some sort of organizational guidelines. Throughout 2009 there was a lot of discussion throughout the web about guidelines.

“Social Networking guidelines are 50% established by social norms and 50% based on personal decisions. ”

What this means is that guidelines may help discourage certain types of behavior, but they will not help to encourage the beneficial behavior. Your team may not be prepared to bring to light threats or opportunities they see on the web because such behavior is not encouraged through guidelines but through the organization’s social norms. The same is true for peer to peer training and the sharing of information about new sites and new trends.

Guidelines also do not inspire people to get the most out of social media sites they are already leveraging. Recently I was preparing to lead a workshop on Linkedin. Some of the questions I prepared to present to the group include:

  1. What do you think you should get out of Linkedin?
  1. How do you think the people you want to connect with are using Linkedin?
  1. Why is having your profile complete important?
  1. What are the most important elements of a complete profile?
  1. What would be an effective headline?
  1. What privacy settings are important to you?
  1. Who should you connect with?
  1. How would you use the various Linkedin applications?
  1. How do you think these new tools and capabilities have changed the dynamics of your industry?
  1. What areas of your communications can you evolve to integrate social media activities in such a way that you are being more effective and efficient?

I suspect if you put 30 team members in a room and ask the above questions, you would get 30 different answers for each question. This is an example of when certain activities within social media sites become personal decision, but those decisions will impact the organization’s brand.

The final step on the social media on-ramp is to ensure that your customers can find you on the sites that they are active in. This could be as simple as setting up a company profile in Linkedin or advertising on Facebook, or a little more complex such as blogging, tweeting, or participating in various conversations throughout the web.

Once you have made it up the social media on-ramp, the next step will be to keep up with traffic. This will require having a well-oiled machine and a clear view of what is ahead.

Next week we will discuss how to achieve those crucial next steps.