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A Golden Rule Going Social with Social Media

6 Mar

When asked what the business rules about Social Media are, I am stupefied. I tried high and low to search what there is about such “rules” and even attempted to define what such rules are by labeling them “always-never” business rules.

I realized I cannot know what the Social Media business rules are.

There are numerous guides, experiences, recommendations, and great stories about successful ventures using Social Media. But it seems to me, after searching, there are no rules. What there is are practices that have worked in particular fields of industries that have advanced faster in the use of it.

One such field is media marketing, akin to advertising which is in essence marketing communication.

However, Social Media do not comprise all of the Social Web and its technologies alone.  It denotes three general areas of the social sphere of the Web: relevancy (by strict definition, usefulness); networks (people); and last, the media as the communication vehicle of people to exchange or share objects that are meaningful among people–at a certain space of time at a certain location.

Digital strategist Mark Smiciklas of Intersection Consulting depicts the social media as the tactic and mere tip of the Social Media Iceberg. He has combined the aspects of business, people, and efficacy of social media into a strategy framework–a balanced scorecard that stacks up a range of activities in the entire social media value chain.

Social Media Iceberg presented by Mark Smiciklas | Intersection Consulting

Social media tactics are merely the tip of the iceberg | Mark Smiciklas | Intersection Consulting

What lies underneath the use of  social media are strategic components to make the media work: how it really can work with people and how people must work it up.

Organizations that adopt social media may employ the best and brightest people. A lot has done it. And many businesses have deployed good social media marketing efforts.  But in many other organizations, people and strategy may be hamstrung by their own organizational inertia, multilayered hierarchies, cumbersome decision processes, lack of focus, setting off-tangent or mis-aligned goals, or simply having little perspective to tackle the complexities to take on a culture that promotes successful use of Social Media: being open or cutting across function silos.

Social media marketing efforts succeed because they are driven by marketers. That has always been the way advertising works. At a future state of maturity of Social Media in business,  however, gatekeepers of product or brand management may become at a certain point the bottleneck in catapulting the true potential of Social Media.

Book author David Vinjamuri, president of  ThirdWay Brandtrainers, states in his article “Want to Open a Dialogue with Consumers? Start from Within” that the challenge for many organizations is that in the last decade, digital and interactive media [social media in today’s guise], was often “greenhoused”–assigned to a small group with an independent budget.

Acting like media networks, with marketing akin to it, groups within companies who “own the media networks” come flat without real great block-timer shows to put up. There are always the social media actuators but with few social media actors.

Following the traditional media network mind set: while there might be producers of  ” shows” on social media, the shows must have a good concept, a compelling script, a campaign-able story line, and the most important component of all to have great actors who will portray the heart and soul of the story.

An audience to such great shows attach themselves to the actors–seldom with the backstage or production people–even with the show’s directors or producers.

The big difference though between media network shows and a social media “show” is in social media story, producer, writer, director and actor can be one and the same–whether they be people within an organization, or corporations, or individuals like you and me.

In his book Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands, David Vinjamuri underscores the singularity of  brands’ stories as told by its creators. Such moving stories create new meanings as stories are passed from one audience to another. Audience becomes storyteller themselves. And on and on can stories ripple out to people who will build upon these brands’ new contexts and relevance.

In all so far that I have observed, nameless people are the true actors, our storytellers and audience at the same time, on Social Media–in their own contexts of space, time, and with their own things or stories to share.

There is not one shoe that fits. People are the Golden Rule of Social Media.

My appreciation to Mark Smiciklas for allowing me to use his Social Media Iceberg. And to David Vinjamuri who has inspired  me via his book and insights about Social Media in marketing.

Organizations, the Social Web Begs. Break the Silos.

4 Mar

In an ActionLab® on Web content modelling, I asked the participants to form themselves into groups following their organizational chart. It was easy for the participants to come together structured as function units in the organization.

Once each participant was settled into his/her respective group, I posed a question: If we are to engage our Web users or customers in one topic that the organization holds dear and that which captivates our users’ or customers’ minds, who among you then are in for the engagement?

A third of the participants stood up and I asked them to step forward.

After being asked what they would bring into the engagement, in this case relevant information they can share that builds on the topic, five scenarios had emerged from this group:

  • 70% claimed they have information to share;
  • 10% pointed to those who remained seated as the source of the information they need to have to engage customers and users,
  • 2% cannot promptly say what they could share or where the source of information they need to share would have to come from,
  • 18% gave no reply, and;
  • 100% said nothing about any person in the group being a source of relevant information to bring into the topic.

Such is the framing in organizations, the way most of them are, now. Structured into compartments according to function, people’s interactions are silo-bound. And they ascribe their sources of  information as emanating from within their function silos. The interactions are vertical, up-down, not at all times horizontal across functions.

Org-chart2-mikecolibraro-thinkbrownstonesinc
Lost in Organization*: no truer can be seen in how organizations are graplling with the Social Web.

The function of a unit reflected in a chart becomes the  framework for the way people engage people–in and out of the organization.In adopting the Social Web, have dialogs within the organization first. Breaking down  silos would be the first step toward the rewards of social-led innovations in the organization.

* Much thanks to Mike Colibraro of Think Brownstone Inc. for the image in Phil Charron’s think blog post “Why Don’t You Publish Your Org Charts?”

The Medium Has No Message

2 Mar

“The medium is the message”. I could never forget McLuhan and his famous last words from my undegrad days. He was archetypical of media and communication to us then. Although I must admit that I do not always understand what he’s saying, I had often thought that someday I might be able to quote him and sound interesting. Well, today’s the day.

My weekly trip to the mall has now been shaken by those disturbing signs that purport to promote some shops and products via social media. In as much as I am thrilled by the adoption of the new social life, I caution those who see it as a mere fad to look updated without actually providing relevant or interesting content lest it just hastens their downfall rather than redemption. Social Media requires a more than cursory understanding of your desired community. You have to engage and absorb, give in order to receive. Offer something more substantial than a simple link. Do you have something compelling for me to consider following you? Otherwise the “f” logo and the Tweety bird will just be like the Push/Pull sign on the store’s door that nobody seems to notice.

To paraphrase my friend and fellow Social Media explorer, Albert Borrero, Listen after you look, Listen before you speak.

Peace.

“Always-Never” Business Rules of Social Media [Marketing]

19 Feb

taxi-drivers-wanted-morten-gade-flickr (19Feb2011)

We need more taxi drivers for social media | Flickr | Morten Gade

Using social media is like running a taxi company. Far an analogy it may seem, understanding how bus companies operate will define why businesses and organizations today may not be getting the desired return on the investments they made or about to make with social media marketing.

Stephan H. Haeckel’s book, Adaptive Enterprise, outlines how bus companies are make-and-sell businesses. Based on commuter volume, buses run day after day along the same thoroughfares and pick up passengers on the same stops. Company dispatchers decide what routes the buses will take, instruct drivers where to stop, how long a stop will take, and schedule the bus runs for the day.

Bus drivers do not even need to know where their passengers are going. In fact, they do not need passengers at all to do their jobs well. They merely have to drive the bus on time safely along the same route every day.

An efficient taxi company shares the characteristics of a business that uses social media. Taxi drivers go where they can pick up passengers, bring them to their destinations, and likely take the fastest route skirting traffic to get to where he is instructed by the passenger to go.

A taxi company dispatches its drivers to customer-moving capabilities. The drivers then respond to customer requests thus they are empowered to fulfill those requests.

Unlike bus drivers, taxi drivers need to know information about what the passenger need—the “I need to be at the central business district in half an hour for a meeting”—then only will the driver put his knowledge about the fastest route to take and practice his driving skills to be able to meet the customer’s need.

Possibly during the 30-minute ride, passenger and driver may even strike a conversation about what matters to both of them. The taxi driver and his taxi company then operate as a sense-and-respond entity—not only meeting the particular customer need but also starting a relationship with the passenger.

Day after tomorrow the same passenger might likely call on the same taxi company, even request for the same taxi driver.

Where do the bus and taxi companies and their drivers point us to?

Business paradigms and processes need to shift with use of social media.

In the early days of the Web, it was—as it still is now with some organizations—seen as a medium where once printed materials such as books were digitized, they were good to deliver online to an audience who would read the materials in a browser. It was literally transposing leafing through book pages with a hyperlink. Or uploading a digital copy of a book to an online  retail bookstore, placed on a shelf where the book will wait to be viewed and checked out by a customer.

Publishers, writers, editors, book designers, art and print production people, and all the way to the entire value chain of distribution and marketing still practice the same analog workflow and do not adopt business processes that will offer them improvements and desired outcomes going digital and online and social.

The same is true with television as a broadcast medium. When the first regularly scheduled television service in the U.S. began in 1928, there was but one channel. Several TV broadcast experiments were simultaneously being done toward the end of that decade. Most of these programs were voice-oriented radio broadcasts or showing of motion picture films that mimicked theater plays.

No more can be gleaned from how we are using social media in its infantile stages today. In a previous post RVBello postulated that media marketing dominates the channels of communication and forgets about all that matters about using social technologies.

The Social Media Business Rules

What then should we always and never repeat from our history of using communication and information technologies?

“Always-Never” Business Rule #1: Social media is a marketer’s activity. Findings from the 2011 Digital Marketing Outlook Survey conducted in late 2010 by the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) and AnswerLab show that we are at first instance enamored with tools, outlets, and platforms to use. None, if not few of the respondents, placed a premium on any other aspect of business but marketing communication and technology.

Digital Media Marketing Outlook Survey Responses about use of social media tools

In this one survey question about use of social media tools, the most important aspect of going social–investments in people, our taxi drivers, and business processes with aid of technologies, our taxi units–were not on the radar screens of brand marketers, agencies, and technologists.

People within business companies or organizations are the key driving force in employing social media.

What gives? Are we to see a pathway for social media where while we talk social, we factor less our taxi drivers?

The next “always-never” business rules in succeeding posts.

Eavesdropping on Social Media and Following Conversations

12 Feb

Angelo Reyes Twitter Tweets Travel - socialcollider.netThe trail of news around Angelo Reyes’ story on the Social Media between Feb 8 and Feb 12. People’s attention span to the topic is shown in red trail.

While the world’s attention has been on Egypt since weeks ago, in the Philippines the attention has been on Angelo Reyes for a few days.

Angelo Reyes was a long-serving government official. In the last decade he was chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and subsequently held four cabinet posts. On 8 February 2011, he apparently committed suicide in a memorial park in front of his mother’s grave.

Whatever Angelo Reyes’ standing was in Philippine society was partly created by media. What brought him to where he was on 8 February, with a tombstone as witness, was probably driven by what he thought he was in the minds of people.

For a decade now, I have never read nor watched Philippine news. Not that our nation’s affairs do not matter but because I have grown tired of reading and hearing news as filtered by news networks. Almost indifferent, there’s no news that would promptly grab my attention. Those that matter to me–in a particular space, time, in a context that I hold dearly–are what I value and stand for, do, and dream about.

Angelo Reyes grabbed my attention at the break of the suicide story. But I didn’t rely much on any print and broadcast media to gather what I need to better understand the event–I also looked into what the crowd had been saying on the Social Media.

Without the obtrusions of media middlemen, we can form our own view of events or decide to go deeper into every facet of news. I sampled an online news source from Al Tech News and it yielded a phrase net visualization of circumstances around Angelo Reyes.

Phrase net of a news article about Angelo Reyes' death

The true spirit of the Social Media is not just transposing print and broadcast media into being social. Neither is it, as what is happening in Egypt and what has happened to Angelo Reyes, a rumor mill to form a cast of opinion or hasty judgment. Marshall McLuhan, a communication theorist, argued the idea that technology per se [in this case Social Media and the Internet at large] has no moral bent—it is a tool that profoundly shapes an individual’s and, by extension, a society’s self-conception and realization.

Social Media starts with an individual and how one uses this tool to make a difference in one’s life and eventually in society. We have less need for middlemen now for we have the tools to directly interact with other people. We must use it well for good.

I have mixed emotions regarding Egypt’s state now as well as with the story of Angelo Reyes. And I am not thinking nor acting based on a public’s attention span that lasts that of a hummingbird’s. People power pushed these two events–the latter with the aid of the Social Media, the former with what is formed from it in people’s minds.

“The Transformative Power of Social Media”

11 Feb

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden tells it exactly, when he talked about ” the transformative power of social media” in an address to university students, about an hour after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down to give way to a new government.

It was about the pivotal role that facebook, twitter and all of social media played in helping spark and sustain the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. There are simply no words to express what great power, people speaking with one voice,  amplified through the internet , can achieve save perhaps to see these images and sounds from Tahrir Square.

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