[My new Blog] Why You Need A Strategy That Is Social and not a Social Media Strategy #Socialmedia

Why You Need A Strategy That Is Social and not a Social Media Strategy

Brands, big businesses, small businesses that are planning to move into the social media space have one big problem – they are already there! Customers, arbitrators, critics, detractors and others talk about brands, products, services and their experiences – the way they see it.

Companies (not people) that suddenly step into this environment look out of place and out of pace – think about content, its frequency, context, intent, outcome, is it in line with that of the social media group members? No.

Jack Welch, the former long-time chairman and CEO of General Electric once said, ‘When the rate of change outside your organisation outpaces the rate of change inside your organisation, the end is near’.

Out of pace has a new cousin in social media now – out of place. In today’s setting when companies are consistently out of place, the end is near.

Why You Need A Strategy That Is Social not a Social Media StrategyIn a social media set-up when people are interacting with people, you suddenly have a situation of a brand (which is not a person) interacting with people. Again in a social media ecosystem where people and communities share, co-create, exchange ideas and modify user-generated content, brands tend to insert their own content, it looks out of place and out of pace.

If we go back in time to when the web was born, companies had to put their web-pages of products, services – content was still in their control and with a bit of initial struggle they managed to draw upon the lessons learnt in other mediums and execute their web strategy. With social media, brands do not and will not have complete control on content, so old rules of control or lessons learnt from other mediums (web, TV, radio) are not going to be relevant.

To address issues around being out-of-place, out-of-pace and brand to person interactions, here are 3 steps that brands, big businesses, small businesses could consider

Create an ecosystem of local brand ambassadors:

From the rise of brand managers in the mid 1950s to the rise of brand ambassadors in the 1990s, there has been a gradual movement (Inside-Out) towards the market. Building an ecosystem of local brand ambassadors in the social media age will only increase the ‘net’ positive engagement and branding. Of course sometimes there will have PR issues when there are personal, professional problems with the local brand ambassadors but the ecosystem will evolve.

Companies being passive will not stop self-appointed local brand ambassadors from taking the role, they will take it anyways, but being active will help enable them move in the right direction in a balanced way. Imagine something similar to the impact of Nike + (from 2 min onwards in the video) local brand ambassadors in their respective social communities.

Encourage employees to be the eyes, ears, voice:

In the age of pace and relevance, building an enterprise-wide culture of ‘Self-awareness’ is crucial. Customer engagement is not a front line issue alone; it should be an enterprise wide philosophy. Lead users can have corporate social media accounts/pages embedded with their personal identity to build a corporate/person fusion to make it more acceptable whereas other employees can use their personal id’s to interact.

Insights from lead users and other employees can then be shared within the organisation using collaboration tools such as yammer, chatter. Such insights gained makes change management easier when the company adopts a new strategy – else change resistance puts the hand brakes on.

Create a platform for crowd-sourcing:

We now have social shopping companies such as mylovebasket.com, enabling companies such as Kiosked, where users can tag products/price details to their photographs, share them on social media and get a commission when their followers make a purchase from the shared content. Similarly imagine the millennials and others with a particular fashion, product, service inclination creating and sharing photos and videos about their favourite brands.

From the days of 2007 Super Bowl where Doritos aired fan-made NFL ads, they’ve come a long way in creating a solid model – See 5 finalists for Doritos’ Crowsourced super bowl ads, other companies are embracing it.  Companies like American Express has Open Forum – to build user generated content, its more authentic, relevant and most importantly ‘social’. If brands don’t enable it, people will do it anyways, just like blogs.

Social media is not one more new medium like web, radio etc, it’s a way of life similar to one’s local community – parachuting-in with the only intention of business progress won’t work. Businesses cannot benefit from a social media strategy; it’s not an isolated path, businesses need a strategy that is social – driven by the social members and enabled by the business.

Keen to hear your views. You can reach me at Twitter @Ramesh_Ramki

Also published at Business Innovation from SAP,

Social networking could have saved Kodak?

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The recent past has witnessed a level of hyper-communication in most of the fields with different ideas flowing through, thanks to social networking. We know that there are benefits of two way or multi-way communications where an idea, strategy, thought could be looked from various angles to either build it or sometimes bury it! Whilst crowd-sourcing is a step in the right direction, is it enough? Let’s step back in time – 1970’s and look at a particular company and the importance of culture in addition to communication.

Let’s look at what happened to Kodak or more importantly what did not happen inside Kodak. When Steve Sasson, the Kodak engineer who invented the first digital camera in 1975 and shared his idea with Kodak management, their response to his invention was

‘But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, that’s cute—but don’t tell anyone about it’.

So did the management fail to see the new trend or the thought of cannibalizing their revenue streams blinded them – perhaps both.

For the next 3 decades, the management were in denial about the emergence of this digital trend. While the founder of Kodak, George Foreman managed to embrace a new trend in the right time twice (once when he turned down profitable dry-plate business to move to film and then when he invested in color film even when their black and white business was doing well), the successive CEO’s managed to stay on the same old trend and failed consistently. The next failure, in 1996, was its $500Mn project Advantix Preview film and camera system (this was 10 years after developing its first mega pixel camera). The Advantix preview would allow the users to preview their shots and select the number of picture prints required and this was possible because it was a digital camera. The major cause for failure was the introduction of films into a digital camera just because Kodak was in that business!! Would you really buy a digital camera and still pay for film and prints? So what’s the root cause – Management stopped ‘listening’ thereby didn’t see the impact of the chinks in their armor then went on to refuse embracing the new trend, even worse,  they spent millions of dollars on research to force fit an old trend (films) onto a new trend (digital) using Advantix preview. If Kodak had a two or multi-way communication mechanism ( like social networking today)set-up in 1970’s, 1980’s and marketing-employee relations and other stakeholders picked up on the pro and anti ‘digital trend’ views, and made a futurist decision perhaps Kodak would be bustling with growth today

To look at the issue, let’s draw an analogy between a company and a person. Companies tend to behave like people; in addition to other qualities successful companies and people tend to have a right balance between conviction and self-awareness. For an organisation to start a journey of creating this balance, the following 3 aspects are critical

1/ Multi- way communication (social networking is just one platform) with all stakeholders (customers, employees, prospects, analysts, investors.) can be very helpful provided companies actively listen more and say less.

2/ Marketing/Employee relations to work 2 in a box to understand employees’ views on company’s products, services, new trends, challenges in addition to traditional employee relations work.

3/ Management/Leadership culture that is keen to listen to the findings of Marketing and other departments (after carrying out point 1 & 2).  Conviction and Self-awareness need to go hand-in hand. Management with too much conviction and very little self-awareness will lead to a Kodak moment, too much self-awareness and very little conviction is a non-starter.

Back to the question, social networking could have saved Kodak?  Maybe, it would have atleast created more awareness or noise around embracing the new digital trend which would have received some more attention and over time the management culture could have become a bit more self-aware. Social networking can help with awareness; adoption has to come from within where culture also plays a role. More so now than ever, for a company with competency and resources to be successful, management needs to get their employees behind their strategy and drive the company forward. This does not mean building a strategy in isolation and hard selling to the employees and customers to get their support or this does not mean trying to find a democratic strategy – this means running programs to socialize ideas and to  listen to the views, solutions that emerge and/or to listen and pick up new ideas and monetize them.

Would be keen to listen to your views and experience on this topic!

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