Social media in the enterprise is still in its infancy. As with any significant change in the way business is done, it’s filled with brilliance, innovation, exploration and “next practices.” But it’s also filled with red herrings, misunderstood causes and correlations, and snake oil salesmen. In this series, I’m taking a look at a series of social media “truisms” – the conventional wisdom of the day – and asking some questions about how universally true they really are.
Thanks for joining us last time as we explored truism number one: The Champion. Today we’ll look at truism number two: “The Strategy”
“You’d better not try anything in social media unless you have a clearly defined strategy.”
Strategies are good. Businesses ought to have them. They’re nearly as important as the ability to execute them. But strategy and innovation have a strange and not-necessarily-intuitive relationship. Some of this derives from a difference of opinion about what a business strategy really is. So that we’re all on the same page on that count, let’s agree on this definition fromwikipedia.
“[Business strategy] is the process of specifying the organization’s mission, vision and objectives, developing policies and plans, often in terms of projects and programs, which are designed to achieve these objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the policies and plans, projects and programs.” [Emphasis mine – GM]
When strategy gets to the point of being defined by policies, plans, projects and programs, it can most easily be implemented. But it can also turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy by closing off possibilities other than those anticipated. I started this post with the statement that social media is in its infancy – and I believe that. I also beleive that new methods and tools supporting community and collaboration represent much more than just another communication channel for your marketing department. I believe that new products, services and business models are being innovated right now based on the idea that there is such a thing as a “collaborative economy” and that it is on our doorstep.
One of the things that makes social media different is that it’s based on user-generated content, a creation of the whole rather than “a product” created by “a corporation.” YouTube isn’t just a technology platform; it is what it is because of the hundreds of millions of videos that live on it, and the billions of hours that people spend watching them. What that means to companies is that when you create something and give it to the world, you don’t necessarily know what they’re going to do with it. It may wind up looking completely different than what you intended – and that’s a good thing. If your users (whether they are your customers, or suppliers, or partners, or employees) are using your product (or service, or community) you want to embrace that – even if they’re not using it in the way that you thought they would! As they’re using it, they’re also co-creating it – and that makes it more likely that they will keep using it.
The point is that when you’re just getting started with anything – especially social media – I think that it’s fine to have goals. Of course you should have some reason for being there. But I don’t encourage people to be too specific about what that reason is at first. Give your audience some time and space to experience what you’ve given them – and see where they’ll take it – before you gavel down on a strategy. Think about your business goals, and how you might use social media to achieve them – just don’t rule out the possibility that some greater goal than you imagined is being created before your eyes.
Has this worked for you? Has it failed? Do you have questions about how to make it work in reality? The comments belong to you – I’d love to hear from you.
And don’t forget to tune in next time for Trusim #3: The “Me Too” Strategy
To learn more about the inspiration for this series, check out the case study on Humana’s successful social media model, “The Town Square ” or this webinar from the RacePoint Group on Organizing for Social Media – where I was honored to present alongside Larry Weber and Steven Goldbach of the Monitor Group.