Do We Sell or Tell To Get Action?

take.action.tour_Social is here but is it driving people to action? We have spent decades researching and discovering how to communicate, motivate and collaborate with people. We’ve studied generational and cultural differences; methods and techniques; channel and venues. We pour over statistics to make informed decisions. But, is any of this helping us get people to read or listen? I know there are many of you who would have statistics to tell me “yes”!

I learned a long time ago that people pay attention to communications from the top. As flat as we’d like to be, if my manager or anyone in my chain sends me an email, text, IM or blog, I will read it. But, now we have social experts telling us that peer review and peer opinion drive eye-catching interest and translate into action. That we listen to and trust our peers more than our “superiors”. I feel that is true but maybe in a different context.

I personally believe that to motivate different behavior, a message from my manager will motivate me to change but so will a message from a trusted colleague IFthat message has a story I can relate to and a result that is impactful enough. From the top, it’s enough to TELL me what is expected. From my peers, it’s all about SELLing me to get me to change.

Imagine if the tell and sell could be combined in a communication strategy – managers AND peers? I think that would double your success for changing behavior, which is the intended result of most communication strategies.

Is Twitter for Sharing or for Prospecting?

Twitter-BirdsI was out watching the UFC fight with my significant other a few Saturdays ago when the loser of the title fight stated he was going to continue his rant on Twitter. That struck me so funny that I tweeted about it. Right then and there at 11 pm central time on a Saturday: “Even UFC is getting in the game when the loser continues trash-talking on Twitter.”

Just by me typing the word “UFC” on my tweet, oodles of people DMed (Direct Messaged) me about free MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) training classes, tickets to future UFC fights and upcoming pay-per-view events. I know the power of social media and use it myself for my own personal, and sometimes professional, purposes. But, I wonder if it’s too powerful?

Started as a way to connect to friends, this has become a marketer’s dream realized, which I believe was the master plan all along. Programs running constantly to monitor the Twittersphere…”UFC” = potential prospect. Is this too intrusive? I was sharing a funny quip about social media on a social media tool and now I am the target of everyone and anyone in this space. Is that fair?

I am a huge fan of the grand social experiment we are conducting and am an active participant but I feel we need to set boundaries for ourselves when using these tools. The line between sharing and becoming a marketing target is getting fuzzier. Sometimes you want to be DMed if you need help or have a legitimate question but sometimes you don’t. In my UFC example, I was sharing but didn’t want to be marketed to. I’m not a huge fan of UFC; I was just out enjoying the evening with my significant other.

I think social media needs to be crossed with intelligent agents to help decipher when someone wants to be contacted and when they don’t. I know this technology is already here and just needs to mature as a concept. I think that will be the ultimate power for individuals using the technology. Are we going to have a “DO NOT TWEET” option just like “DO NOT CALL”? Maybe.

In the meantime, I guess I need to either filter myself or be prepared for marketing message blitzes. How does Ashton do it? 🙂

Should We Be “Social” at Work?

Companies are aware of and understand they must embrace social media externally with their clients but also internally to engage their employees and inspire collaboration. However, some leaders are still wary of social media as a time-waster, and, despite the numerous companies we hear about everyday using social media, many companies have still not adopted it for legal and productivity reasons. They think their staff members will constantly be updating their Facebook status or tweeting and re-tweeting items all day long. But, what about using these tools or like tools behind the firewall for business purposes?

The fact is people want to communicate this way, and it’s not just for the younger generations. Seniors are the fastest growing population on Facebook. Whether you allow access to “Facebook” or you implement a Facebook-like application behind your firewall, this is an efficient, easy-to-use and engaging way to get people to share what they are working on, report on their availability for other projects and connect and build relationships with people inside the company. We used to encourage connecting with people at a training class or through the company softball team. This is no different; it just involves a computer or Blackberry to do the connecting.

Here are five steps to ensure “social” isn’t viewed as non-productive “socializing”:

  1. Don’t call your internal People Profiles tool “Facebook”; call it “PeopleFinder”, “Connections”, “BluePages” (if you’re IBM). These may sounds similar but don’t conjure the “Facebook” image necessarily. Or, if you implement NewsGator Social Sites, call them “communities” instead. Brand it something that doesn’t imply these tools are a time-waster.
  2. Don’t necessarily call these tools “social media” when pitching them to senior leadership. Call them “collaboration tools”, “team builders”, or, better yet, “efficiency enablers”.
  3. Establish business purposes for why tools like this are needed. A common one I’ve heard is: “The younger generations expect it, and if we want to attract talent we need to have these tools.” While this might be true, I have found that this isn’t always compelling enough as leaders often ask: “What about the 75% of our population that isn’t 23 years old?” Good reasons include: Understanding a person’s area of expertise and experience leads to better staffing of projects; being able to tell when someone is or isn’t available instantly saves time in making decisions or getting answers; connecting people to people speeds up problem solving and helps new people establish relationships faster thus decreasing their ramp-up time.
  4. Try to get one leader on your side. Determine who would be the most willing to not only approve and champion the effort but be one of the first people with a profile.
  5. To help with legal and leadership hesitations, create a decent policy around using these tools and ensure there will be a dedicated activity monitor. A Good Policy Example: IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines

Top Ten Myths about Social Media (the last Five)

#6 People will never adopt these tools; they like email too much. People still love their email. As much as people complain about it; they can’t live without it. Adoption of social tools is not automatic, which is why you need a purpose, a plan and some marketing and communication behind them. But, the benefits of instantaneous, not having to remember or create emails groups is very appealing. Even employees without computers are getting in the game. Truckers now use their mobile devices to update their status and respond to questions from fellow truckers. You couldn’t take that away from them if your tried!

#7 People don’t need any training; everyone knows how this stuff works by now! Despite all the hype, some people really don’t know how to navigate the tools or are afraid to try. Holding a virtual lunch n’ learn is not a waste of time to remove any barriers and get people started.

#8 Social media adds too many channels to an already complicated communication picture. Yes…social media do add more tools to what might be a heavy toolbox. The question should be: what can social media tools enable you to do that others can’t? Can you replace some of your existing tools with social media? Are you using a custom-built executive blog that a different technology could remove some of the manual work and enable others to join the blogging experience. Could a wiki decrease confusion that a project folder on a shared drive causes today?

#9 Every company HAS to have social media no matter what their challenges; it is the wave of the future. While I sort of believe this viewpoint for many reasons, I do think defining your needs and deciding whether or not social media meets those needs is the proper methodology. If shared drives or SharePoint sites really meet your needs, then maybe you don’t have a good business reason for starting wikis, and that’s okay. It’s about solving business problems, not just implementing the latest craze. However, if a company’s need is around collaboration, social tools are a perfect solution.

#10 Social media is a time waster.Even though social media is pervasive, a lot of leaders still feel it can be a time-waster and, therefore, block access to consumer sites and discourage the use of blogs internally except for managed leadership ones. Your employees are engaging with these tools anyway, and forcing them to do it on their mobile devices on lunch doesn’t help. Why not empower people to jump in on conversations on behalf of your company? And, using these tools behind the firewall won’t waste time…just the opposite. With its easy interface and instantaneous delivery, these tools SAVE time.

Final Note: When economic times change, people will have more employment options, and I think access to these type of tools and resources will matter to those seeking opportunity.

Top 10 Myths About Social Media (the First Five)

#1 You can just launch it and forget it. Yes. The purpose of social tools is to inspire collaboration and transparency, and its content should grow organically. However, you need a plan to monitor postings to ease your attorneys’ apprehensions and track usage for proof of success. 

#2 People will stumble upon it own their own. Despite all of the buzz around social media, not everyone will adopt it right away. Jump-starting posts and driving traffic to these tools is critical for success. 

#3 Leaders should be involved in every conversation to show support. Be careful here. Leaders should lead by example but they should start the conversation and then stand back and let the conversation happen between employees. Chime in from time to time but too much interference will be a barrier to some.

#4 Social media doesn’t need governance. Along with monitoring and measuring usage, determining who can post, reply, manage its content, report on content are very important parts of the requirements definition process. Can anyone start a blog? Maybe yes; maybe no. It depends on your needs and your organization’s culture. What content gets captured in a wiki vs. a SharePoint site? These questions also need to be answered ahead of time in your governance model to ensure people don’t get confused as to where to store information.

#5 People don’t really listen to what others’ have to say.  Au contraire! In a Universal McCann study, 72% of respondents used social media to research a company’s reputation for customer care before making a purchase. In a health study by Christakis and Fowler, social networks influence behaviors and even affect people’s happiness. People are reading and acting on what others have to say.