Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fear of 'What Could Happen'

One of the main reasons why organisations choose not to create an active social media presence stems from fears about what 'could' happen as a result. Concerns regarding potentially damaging customer backlash often deter the organisation from effectively engaging with them; which is unfortunate given that these fears are often unsubstantiated. Admittedly, allowing the customer to record their unfiltered thoughts on the organisation goes against traditional business practice, but then isn't that the point? As the state of the global economy continues to worsen, surely businesses realise the need to step back and to reevaluate the processes and practices that have led us to where we are today?

A Lesson from the Banks
The most obvious example of the need to reject these aging business models is provided by the banks. These institutions typically exemplify the outdated practices discussed above; hardly encouraging considering the number of banks in the UK, and indeed globally, requesting government aid in recent months. Whilst this business model has historically proven successful, recent consumer demands for transparency have slowly caused these practices to become obsolete. As consumer trust in organisations continues to drop, the importance of business transparency becomes increasingly obvious.

Transparency and Trust
Transparent practices are fast becoming integral to business success. As our society becomes increasingly comfortable with 'sharing' the details of our everyday lives, these expectations are transferred to the organisations with which we engage on a daily basis. For those organisations that fail to meet the expectations, suspicions are immediately aroused. Organisations that offer their customers only a limited capacity to question the business will invariably incur diminished levels of trust. Let's face it; for those organisations that have nothing to hide, allowing the customer to voice their thoughts on your policies and practices is unlikely to damage the brand.

What does your Business say about You?
At the end of the day, the opinions voiced are likely to reflect how you conduct your business. If your business discourages input, consumers are likely to question the reasons for this level of perceived secrecy. At the same time, negative comments concerning your business are still likely to appear elsewhere. Alternately, if your business chooses to act transparently, your customers are significantly more likely to respond positively. Who knows, you may even by benefit from the additional insight provided.

As society becomes increasingly open towards sharing, the importance of organisational transparency has become paramount. Don't worry about what 'could' happen by allowing customer feedback. Instead, make sure that you don't neglect your responsibility to your customer.

Show the Rogue some Stumble love

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pour your Heart into It

Last week I examined the dreaded social media checklist, noting that overreliance upon a set of supposedy universally applicable instruments can lead your organisation astray. Despite the obvious limitations of adopting a 'standardized' social media strategy, many organisations continue to fall into this trap; a pity considering that this display of interest alone demonstrates a clear commitment to engaging the customer. That is, it can represent commitment. Whilst a social media presence has gradually become somewhat of a minimal requirement for market entry, it is invariably the quality of the content that dictates the success thereof.

The Music of Social Media
It should be noted that alone, instruments count for very little; it is the passion behind these tools that will result in ultimate success or failure. To use a musical analogy, an instrument is only as good as the musician playing it; and in both music and social media, success is a product of time and devotion. The instrument itself certainly plays a role in the eventual outcome by facilitating our capacity to produce the content, however it is important that we do not develop a mentality in which the tool itself is perceived as the outcome. This is incredibly shortsighted and can result in attention being inappropriately directed at the platform level, rather than at the content production level.

'Passion' Packaged
An initial demonstration of commitment will prove fruitless should the organisation engage in subsequent 'passion packaging'. Content whose production is manufactured by an overabundance of rules, regulations and timeframes will be perceived as stale, and the attention received will as a result diminish. Whilst the presence of a handful of logical limitations will help to ensure maintained relevancy, bureaucratic attempts to control the message will often deter natural employee passion, which in turn is likely to detract customers from engaging. Stale undeveloped content which fails to achieve customer engagement offers little benefit to any of the parties involved. As such, the value offered by such a social media presence should be carefully scrutinized.

Passion Rediscovered
Passion is without doubt the most crucial components for success in any social media implementation strategy. It is imperative that the importance thereof is recognised above that of any individual platform. Passion facilitates the development of the organisational message, enhancing the organisation's ability to engage with the customer. It is precisely this passion that will help to depict the organisation as human, allowing for more developed connections to be made.

When developing your social media strategy, ensure that your focus is not inappropriately directed at the platform level; this is of secondary importance. Instead, focus your efforts on locating pockets of passion within the workforce. I guarantee that by empowering your most passionate employees to openly and honestly engage with the customer, the likelihood of conversations forming will increase exponentially. Remember, the social media is a conversation. Whilst the means of communicating will invariably differ, the value of the content therein is constant. Let your presence be driven by the passion contained within your organisation and success will be recognised, regardless of the platform.

Am I right or wrong? Is the message more important than the way in which it is conveyed? Should organisations decide on the most appropriate social platforms, and then look for the most employees most suited to engaging them? As always, would love to get your opinion.

Show the Rogue some Stumble love