The Top Myths to Avoid Change in Social Media & the Role of “Antibodies” in Today’s Corporation

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on August 8, 2009

It is easy to embrace the idea of change, but very hard, in practice, to make it happen. You know that. In your company today, you are probably filled with ideas and simultaneously struggling with how to get the larger team to understand the need to change now….not next year…now.

I’ve heard most of the myths that have been created to avoid change. And I’m not surprised. When you work in a field that is innovative and transformative, like social media, it’s life. Myths have been part of human nature since the time we started telling stories a few millennia ago. We perpetuate myths as a way to establish or reinforce a certain type of behavior, regardless of whether or not it is accurate. Truth rarely gets in the way of a good myth.

In this post, I’ve listed my favorite myths by area along with a dose of reality.

Inside a Company

#1 – The Technology Myth – Since many folks don’t understand the details of how technology works inside their own company, they are susceptible to mythmakers who throw out technical obstacles, such as “we would provide full web access, but we don’t have enough bandwidth ”. I haven’t found a situation yet where this was actually true.

Reality Check: Mythmakers judge bandwidth on old models, such as holding a global webcast where everyone tunes in at the exact same time and all employees obediently listen to every word. The only problem with this model is that no one does this anymore. The reality is that in today’s world, employees can watch vlogs (not webcasts) at their convenience based on their location and time zone. End of issue.

#2 – The Productivity Myth – I hear that “full web access will distract our employees…..our employees will stop working if we provide them access to the web”. Really? Let’s see. We can distract ourselves by talking too much in the hallways, checking our cell phone, chatting on the phone with friends, taking longer breaks and lunches, leaving early and on and on. For those who get distracted, they have already figured out how to do it well.

Reality Check: The world’s best operating system in the world is the web. You can provide the best content available to your employees by enabling them to access it at work. It can become a competitive advantage. In addition, regarding the distraction point, my view is that managers should manage their people just like you always have. Don’t make the web or any other item an excuse.

#3 – The Employees Don’t Know Much Myth – I hear “if we ask employees for ideas, who knows what we’ll get” – After all, mythmakers know most of the answers, so you don’t really need to ask employees how to improve the company. They just work there, right?

Reality Check: Wrong. When I was at Dell, we asked employees for ideas via “EmployeeStorm”. We had over 4500 ideas and implemented over 165 of them. And it turns out that employees are pretty smart….they know how to improve products and services….and they care about their company. Ask away.

The Marketplace

#4 — The ROI Myth – “We can’t determine the ROI of social media yet” is one of my favorites. Traditional marketing is famous for the quote “I know that half of my marketing budget is effective, I just don’t know which half”. Yet, when new ways to reach customers emerge, the “mythmakers”…I often call them antibodies (more later)….decide that new, higher standards must be met before investment occurs.

Reality Check: Social media is very quantitative. It is easy to generate data. It is easy to correlate to actual purchase with single sign on capabilities. The art of the science will be in determining what the data is telling us about our customers and how we need to modify or change our approach, as a result. The best marketers intuitively grasp this and move forward, since they can build an advantage by learning how to improve ROI via social media.

#5 – The B2B Myth – “We are B2B, so this is not as important for us”. Companies that are B2B often believe that they don’t really need to interact in a public manner to reach their customer base, since they reach their customers one at a time via an account leader, for example.

Reality Check: You can build a deeper relationship with your customers via social media. Private B2B communities can be built. The account leader can gain access to knowledge never heard before. My personal view is that B2B may actually be the highest value utilization of social media in the future. Plus, you can reach all of your partners via social media. Your news and actions are being absorbed by your B2B partners everyday via online readers, news feeds and more. By not engaging via social media, you are outsourcing your reputation to those who comment on you publicly.

#6 – The Social Media is for Others Myth – these are the folks who like to say “Facebook is really for younger people” or “Twitter isn’t mainstream” or “YouTube is just a bunch of kids playing silly videos” or “LinkedIn is just a place for your resume”. Humans love to grab a piece of data, lock it into their brains and be done with it. Mythmakers are working overtime in this area.

Reality Check: The world is changing so fast that yesterday’s facts are incredibly outdated. Facebook, which has over 250 million members, is tracking older, in fact there was a 500% increase in people 55 years or older in their latest data. Twitter has over 35 million people on it and far more impact via its natural search results. YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine on the planet…..the planet earth……and LinkedIn is becoming a place for groups to form and for research to be conducted.

#7 – The Antibodies – This isn’t a myth, it is actually a type of response that is deadly to innovation. It is the folks who say “I would love to do more in social media, but….”. I like to call them “antibodies”, since antibodies are basically a good part of our immune system that has a goal to neutralize foreign invaders, such as bacteria. The people in companies who are antibodies are generally great people who don’t realize that they are viewing new ideas as foreign invaders and their “immune system” automatically triggers phrases to avoid change, such as “why don’t we consider doing this next year” or “if we had budget, we could do this” or “figure out what the ROI is and then we’ll consider” or “who else is doing this, let’s find that out first” and so on. They all sound polite and sometimes even constructive, but the result is the same….the foreign “idea” is repelled.

Reality Check: Every company is filled with antibodies and, if we are honest, we all do this from time to time. Make it fun to call out folks for being antibodies and talk through how you get to a constructive next step. The key is to recognize it is happening and not allow it to prevent change.

So those are my top myths along with a dose of reality. What myths are you dealing with that we should explore? Let me know.

All the best, Bob

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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One Response

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  1. Enjoyable read. 🙂
    Regarding antibodies. Actually, like your immune system, it is a healthy reaction. Because the fact is that you can only allow a certain amount of change in, otherwise you’re wasting all your time discussing or adapting to the fad of the day like a hyped up fool. So the challenge is recognising when to turn it off. Well, that’s my opinion. 🙂
    My favourite social media myth is the “if we open up, we lose control and thus lose everything”. Reality check: opening up opens the world to you. And forces you to stay honest. Is that really a bad thing?

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