Monday, June 15, 2009

Want to Succeed With Social Media? Change Your Culture First.


This photo is by the inimitable Geoff Livingston.

I spent last Friday with some smart folks at BlogPotomac - a DC-based event focused on helping communications and marketing professionals learn more about social media and put these tools to use at their own organizations. It was a refreshing day because rather than talk about the utility of Twitter vs. Facebook, we spent a lot of time talking about the role of organizational culture in making or breaking your social media strategy.

I was particularly impressed with Scott Monty - social media guru from Ford Motor Company. He talked about how Ford has used social media for crisis communications. He also talked about the importance of culture fit in making social media work.

I'm paraphrasing...

"Our goal is to humanize Ford. To put faces to the blue oval and to connect people with our employees. We believe in openness and bringing value to our customers in all of our interactions. But our social media success didn't come first. Culture change came first. When I arrived to lead our social media efforts last year I fully expected to have to educate folks on social media and to allay fears, but that wasn't necessary because our CEO had already set the course for change. Instead, people were like. Finally, you're hear. Let's go."
Monty also talked about how Ford plans to operationalize openness by "democratizing and distributing the use of social media across the enterprise."

Again, I'm paraphrasing...

"Our employees are a key audience that is interested in our future. And while the communications department is responsible for providing employees with a communications policy and giving them guidance on the use of the tools, we don't want to "own" social media. We want other people to provide value to our customers by using them. It doesn't matter which department is connecting with customers online - Product Development, IT, Human Resources or Customer Service. The goal is to provide value to people as a part of the interaction and social media are great at enabling this type of relationship building."
I really appreciated Monty's reminder of how importance culture fit is to the successful use of any technology but especially social media. For example, it's one thing to tell your employees to get on Twitter. It's a whole other ball of wax to tell them that you trust them to connect authentically with customers online or offline and to get going!

In order to succeed with social media you need to pay attention to and cultivate a culture of openness and honesty. You also have to get over yourself and be willing listen to and hear critique.

According to folks at the event many (most?) organizations aren't there yet. Here's what I heard.
"I like what you have to say Scott, but we don't have a culture of trust in my organization."

"I can't imagine my boss letting me start a blog."

"Is there ever a time you should just give up?"
I'm not an expert in change management but I do know that if your organization doesn't value dialogue and authenticity in the workplace you'll never succeed with social media. So work on changing your culture first. Then go Tweet.

Cheers!
Jocelyn

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