Crossing the social media threshold

My ongoing conversation with Michael Cook continues (Organizational Development Talks: OrgDevTalk), with these thoughts:

Harold: With the delays that seem to be following each of your recent responses to me you may be thinking I have fallen through the web someplace and cannot find my way back. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth, although I have been on a journey thanks to everything you have provided me to think about. From when we started by talking on the phone to where we are now has for me been a very long journey. I am reminded of one of those scenes from the Lord of the Rings films where one or the other of the wizards was looking into either a crystal ball or a boiling pot and could see something going on very far, far away. Maybe that time difference between where you are in New Brunswick and where I am in Washington is actually much greater than the four hours that show on the clock!

Perhaps you saw me after that last exchange wandering lost among the hyperlinks you provided. I wasn’t lost, that’s just the look on my face most of the time, especially when I am considering connectivity. Maybe its just my natural tendency to go inward to address a big question.

After spending a good deal of time with the various references you provided I found my mind wandering back to current client relationships. I have one in particular that years ago began by addressing a problem and providing a service that handles a complicated issue for clients. Over the years they added in a couple more twists to further reduce the complicated issue. Then, maybe 10 years ago they ventured outside the simply complicated and began to address areas of complexity, I say without recognition of the looking glass they had passed through. Since that time they have continued along the path of complexity and had increasing problems with their margins.

How might I begin a conversation with this client’s leadership to have them begin to consider that they have evolved into an entirely different type of animal than they were at the beginning? In the context of our conversation thus far around the use of social media inside business this would seem like a fairly fundamental threshold to cross before a management group might begin to consider the use of these technologies.

How do you tell people that the world is different? This is especially difficult for those in postions of authority who owe their position to the past. Why change what still works?

You could start with a list of events to describe how the world is significantly different, like when a singer from Halifax, Nova Scotia can publish a music video seen by millions of viewers and it affects the stock price of a major corporation: United Breaks Guitars or a group of distributed computer hackers shatter the diplomatic world as they join forces with traditional media outlets: Wikileaks. There are many other examples, such as regional protests coordinated through Facebook or some other social medium.

But you also have to show that the organization itself has changed.

If you have someone coming over for the first time, do you Google them? You can be pretty sure that if they’re under 30, they’ve already checked you out online. If you don’t have a profile on the Web they may even have decided not to show. For many people, if you’re not the Web, you don’t exist. Now that’s a change from a decade ago. Find out if the HR department uses LinkedIn to recruit. Maybe they don’t even know what it is.

Social media for marketing is the tip of the iceberg. The real power of social media is for getting things done. They facilitate learning and working; which are now joined at hip in the creative, complex workplace that’s 24/7 in multiple time zones and always-on.

If the organization doesn’t embrace the values of the external network, it will move at a snail’s pace while the rest of the world spins around it. Does this reflect the inside?

Open & transparent
Need to share
Continuous learning
Conversation is valued
Time for reflection
Perpetual Beta
Business metrics are understood

It’s what’s happening outside.

Finally, you can throw some return on investment figures at them. Simply put, social media give you more time to get things done. There are many other reasons, some of which the folks at Socialcast have neatly put out as an infographic:

Not sure if this addresses your questions, Mike, but we have much more time and all the digital space we need.

2 Responses to “Crossing the social media threshold”

  1. Euan

    Great post Harold.

    I like to turn the inevitable ROI question on its head. When people ask me to justify the ROI of the social web I say “It is happening anyway, it makes people more productive, so you justify to me the ROI of stopping it”


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