Dec 12, 2009

You Cannot do Social Without the Support of the Organization

In other words, if you just hired a junior person or team to get you on Facebook and give you a helping of Twitter - good luck to you. This is the reality of business, and these days of the marketing side of business, that it wants to shave costs as much as possible. In fact, it trades growth for a predictable (if lucky) future.
Of course, you know that you can indeed have a few people on social media, even on behalf of the organization, without the organization being fully vested in its own success with social. It's an experiment, something we'll see if it works, for a limited time only. Maybe.
The experience part
As we discussed last night at the Mediabistro panel on community management, the emerging role of community manager deserves attention. The chart by Dion Hinchcliffe shows a very interesting portfolio of skills and experience suggested for the role.
A role for the depth of insight and execution Amber Naslund brings to Radian6, the knowledge of the editorial process and work Shirley Brady brought toBusinessWeek, the many case studies of successful examples Saul Coltcontributed to making customers sit up, notice and spread information about a company (word of mouth).
Beth Harte shared her experience succinctly recently - I am a marketing professional who gets PR and social media. I have 15 years of integrated marketing experience. She is now community manager for MarketingProfs and doing a fine job of it, because of her deep passion for the profession and the years of experience as a practitioner.
Like Beth, I have years of integrated marketing experience under my belt and have augmented my knowledge by volunteering my spare time to understanding how you build community, along with the dimensions that need to be a consideration if the organization is to truly leverage social.
For more experienced community builders and community evangelists, check out the Twitter lists I created. What you will find is experience in the field the role supports. The position needs to be internal and the person needs to have a very good understanding of the business model, purpose, and path to growth - in layman terms, how the business makes money.
Hiring an experienced professional or team of professionals and allocating resources to them is step one in providing support for social. To make social truly operational, you need to take the red pill and step up your social media efforts.
The execution part
Integrated is the operative word here. This is necessary in order for you to integrate social in the organization, to do it so that it not just barely scratches the surface, but has real impact beyond positive sentiment and better reputation and awareness. Here I'm talking about money.
For that to take place, you need the support of the organization. The community manager role goes across departments and silos, it's not a marketing role, it's greater than that. That's why Dell created the communities and conversations group.
And it is Dell that once again provides us with an example of what's next. They got an early start, 3 years and going strong with Direct2Dell, @DellOutlet, IdeaStorm,, and many other outposts on Flickr, YouTube, Facebook.
Lionel Menchaca outlines the details of the company's presence in a post that indicates our destination for this conversation - and yes, Dell's Twitter outposts have netted the company $6.5MM, perhaps a drop in the bucket to you, not chump change in terms of experience with their customer base. Dell now touches a community the size of the city of Chicago - 3.5MM people. That is the important number.
In Lionel's words (emphasis mine):
Twitter numbers and growth in Dell’s presence in other social networks is one thing, but what does this mean to our customers and for Dell’s social media strategy overall moving forward? In my mind, it boils down to a few key strategies:
  • Streamline our presence in social media networks, create meaningful content for customers and continue to increase our connections with them in those places
  • Focus on building a tighter integration between,, our Dell Community sites with our presence in social networks
  • Continue our focus on scaling support of social media initiatives into the Dell business units
For Dell (or any company for that matter), isolated social media efforts won’t lead to long-term success in this space. Our long-term success depends on how well we execute on the key strategy points I outlined earlier in this post. My belief in the promise that social media brings combined with Dell’s commitment to our long-term social media strategy is why I continue to do this job.
This is why you need an experienced community manager. Lionel brings years of technical experience and customer service to his job. You may see him as a blogger, I know him as a very well rounded and skilled professional.
Thanks to him and the emerging role of community management, social is evolving from strategies to increase sales, improve reputation, and create better relationships with customers and partners into creating a better business.
This is a lot to digest in one sitting. Many organizations are still grappling with the question of how they get on Facebook. I suggest you pause and think about your long term strategy. It's the only way this social stuff will truly be an investment in your business.
What's next for you?
Now that you know this, you probably still have questions about selling social media to your boss, or teaching your team about crowdsourcing and online collaboration. What I'd like to do is for you to outline your challenges or questions in the comments, and we can take those one post at the time. Sounds good? Fire away.
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