Tag Archives: culture

To Innovate with Social Networks and Media, Bring it Closer to Home

19 Mar

I was recently introduced by a long-time friend to a CEO of a local company, a man at the helm of the family corporation established by his father. One thing that struck me during our  conversation–and as an observation during my stay at the corporate premises–was that this man recognizes family strength and deeply believes in the benefits of innovation derived from learning and in adopting advancing technologies in the industry they vie in.

Family Working at Home, November 1912 (New York City)

Jewish family working on garters in kitchen in tenement home, November 1912 (New York City). TRiver | Flickr | U.S. Library of Congress

From Offline to Online

I can sense that the business is something the CEO would defend at all cost from competitors’ slaying tactics and strategies. The business is his life. It would likely be so for his children and his family’s next generations. The corporation’s C-suite is composed of siblings or close family relatives. And the rest of the company–its employees–are treated as family members.

The company inculcates in its employees the values of the family–the company’s aspirations to continuously grow and progressively succeed.

The company is home-grown and regarded as among the leaders in its industry. It competes toe-to-toe with a multinational corporation, which is the acknowledged leader in the local market. And it is about to launch a wave of new offerings with an upgrade of equipment that are cutting-edge in the industry. For the CEO, that also means adopting the soft component of technologies to extend reach and engage with its b2b market–bringing the business through its bricks-and-mortar network online through social media.

The pathways to the decision to adopt social media wasn’t easy. In an initial round of conversations among company staff members, the dilemma was in identifying who should run the company’s online presence.

As most companies would do in starting to conduct business and engage customers online, the obvious choice is to tap function units in the organization with key employees who speak  the language of the trade at marketing and technical levels and are themselves, in their personal capacities, already online with their social or professional networks.

There are but two key staff members who they think are eligible.

I asked what the universe of the company’s networks are. At least 4,000 individuals and entities. Even with an ideal engagement ratio of 1:50–or 1:400 ratio in their case, with two key company staff members–that is going to be trying. But perhaps not for long if the company frames the fit for it to go social online.

The Prerequisites

One thing going for this company is that it listens. Listening is among the first steps toward adopting and innovating use of social media. The next and greater aspect to listening is being open and willing to experiment. And the third and greatest is an incessant drive to set standards no one else has–not even customers. This is a standard it sets onto itself.

In the course of the conversation, the CEO raised his concern about a 2% quality failure at their labs. He wanted to get the figure down. As an experiment, he “challenged” the production line staff to take on a wager that for a below 2% rejection rate sustained daily, he would put a part of his monthly salary to a pool of incentives that the staff can partake. This brings to fore the second point about listening: opening up opportunities and motivating people to innovate at shop-floor level.

But the 2% figure has remained to be so even after the challenge. So our CEO is moving on to a next experiment with a question:  What if we can go below 1%? This is now finding innovations in the company that would approximate zero-defect in his production labs. Compared to the closest multinational competitor’s quality failure of 10%, this is setting a gold quality standard in the industry.

Having listened well, having been open to learning and willing to experiment and seeking to establish a gold quality standard, our CEO and his company then deliver the incomparable advantage the competition will not and cannot ever provide the market, i.e., offering customers a replacement of damaged merchandise from its production lab errors. Competition, on the other hand, asks customers to sign a waiver of claims from damages.

Online to One’s Roots

Just how long would it be trying for this company to take on being social with its networks online? The answer lies in its ability to find the natural fit of its corporate values to use social media in any of its business processes–inside the company and outward toward its customers, whether in marketing or in the entire value chain of the business.

The foundation to succeed, to sustain success, and to be able to simultaneously innovate with adoption of social media is to practice it along deep company values and teach others in the company to do it in contexts that fit the corporate culture. A culture that then ripples out to its business networks–on- or offline.

In dealing with the social markets, a shared positive culture that reflects the company and one that goes beyond the walls of its offices have great potential for rewards.


Related readings:
Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business | Josh Bernoof & Ted Schadler
Control in an Age of Empowerment | Robert Simons
Sharing Leadership to Maximize Talent | Marshall Goldsmith
Why You Should Have a Hyperlocal Facebook Strategy | Jan Rezab
The Obvious But Uncomfortable Way Your Company Culture is Judged | Amber Naslund
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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.

Social Media [Must] Leave No One Behind

4 Feb

In my daily amassing, digesting, making sense, and finding practical everyday uses of  information and communication technologies, I stumbled upon a graph called “Technology Adoption Life Cycle”.

The graph merely shows how many of us acquire the habit of using a new tool. Any new tool is not all the time useful and there will always be groups of people who will entirely miss–as a choice–using it until the next wave of tools arrive.

But what if the tool is useful and pervasive? What if the tool fulfills us and helps us do things better and subsequently help us to help others?

The Web with Social Media is one such tool. Its use is as basic as everyday human interaction. But the dizzying array of platforms makes the decision-making paths to just start using the tool sound like preparing for a thesis. When a tool has a barrier to adoption, most would say, “Don’t bother!”

But what is communication?  Communicating is an intrinsic right. It is expression. It is as human as human we can be.

The Social Media [remember, the use of it as tool to communicate] has been phenomenally growing in importance and steadily breaking down barriers to communication, allowing people to connect, engage and share in a more informal way. Individuals can now leverage the power and popularity of social media to be their own [Me]dia.

For the “early majority”, “late majority”, and “laggards” (not flattering labels!) to adopt technologies, communication technologies especially, the only question to ask to find out why adoption is slow with the “other half”  is to know what could motivate or make such groups embrace use of social media as staple as food.

Gutenberg’s press, which started the literacy revolution, wasn’t picked up by the mass of citizens of the world during the renaissance centuries. It took still another hundred years that books were available even for those who cannot afford to have one.

What took hundreds of years to mature adoption of books and be pervasive was a mere decade and a half for the next stages of today’s revolution–information and communication.

It is not too late.

Why you should (and not) consider Social Media, in a next post. Stay tuned!


Commensality: a social bond

1 Feb

Sauce in food is like candy wrappers. Food is what brings people together–off- or on-line.

Food is culture. Food is social. Food makes us human. And food is our social bond.

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