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Making Sense Of Social Media Chaos

Originally published
Originally published: 10/1/2011

Commercial contracting businesses need to focus on people, process, and technology.

Many commercial HVACR businesses spend a lot of time, money, and other resources trying to understand social media in order to engage customers and prospects. They are investing in Facebook applications, branded communities, and blogs; and many are using online monitoring solutions to track what people say about their companies. From this perspective, commercial contractors are doing a decent job.

But many of these companies — which tend to be larger and more departmentalized than residential contractors — are failing at social media internally, and their leaders don’t know it. When you are so focused on customer engagement as an end goal, it can be difficult to recognize and understand the challenges that social media can create for larger, multi-department companies: conflict, confusion of roles and responsibilities, lack of communication and collaboration; and silo thinking (putting departmental goals/ needs above company goals/needs).

These challenges make the process of becoming an effective social-media company more difficult and less effective. To be successful, companies need to combine the quest to become a “social brand” with becoming a “social business.”

A social-media-minded business is built upon three pillars — people, process, and technology. All three need to work independently but also be integrated completely into the DNA of organizational culture.

People: Lead By Example

All the technology, collaboration software, and community applications deployed behind the firewall will not be effective unless there is a fundamental shift in the way employees think, interact, and communicate. These change-management initiatives have to be driven by organizational leadership and practiced at every level in the organization from senior leadership all the way down to a customer-support agent. Otherwise, change will not occur.

Basically, a company’s culture needs to mimic the open and collaborative forum of social media itself — inviting input, sharing knowledge, trusting those around you, and holding community gain higher than individual gain. 

This doesn’t mean becoming an indecisive leader, lowering performance standards, or tolerating destructive and negative “feedback” as we often see online. Rather it means being open about the company’s social-media goals, creating processes that provide opportunities for positive input and ideas, and being available to answer questions and provide guidance. Above all, be visible in support of social media — make your blog deadlines, respond to questions posted in Facebook pages, check in daily on online properties, etc.

Finally, creating a budget for socialmedia activities and investing in appropriate tools and, if appropriate, new job positions is a must. Don’t expect current employees to pick up all of the new work in addition to their current jobs. They will become angry and frustrated, and these feelings will come through in their social-media work.

Process: Manage Content Creation, Online Activity

Create defined processes for how content will be created and distributed. For example, when a new employee joins a company and wants to start blogging or Tweeting on behalf of the company, a process should be in place that governs training, certification, and social-media policies — as well as whether the effort fits into the larger social-media strategy.

Processes should help facilitate the chaos that exists from behind the firewall — i.e., employees sharing sensitive material externally, social media ownership, crisis management, and product-feedback workflows; and ensure that there is one measurement method that the entire organization is using for reporting.

Technology: Have a Strong Understanding

A social business needs technology in order to facilitate change and collaboration.

Organizations need to be smart and think long term before investing in technology applications that facilitate internal collaboration (Jive, Lithium, Yammer), social listening (Radian6, Meltwater), measurement (Rowfeeder, Argyle), social relationship management (Sprinklr, Syncapse Platform) and social CRM (Nimble, JitterJam, Pivotal).

Companies need to first understand what it is they are trying to achieve before thinking about which technology vendor to use. Are you trying to streamline communication between business units or geographies? Are you looking to roll out a collaboration application that will eventually replace an intranet? Or, are you planning to use social CRM and weave it into sales and marketing initiatives?

Whatever the case, it’s important to understand the culture of the organization and its leadership. Technology will not change an organization’s culture. However, having a strong understanding of it will have a huge impact on the technical requirements, choice of technology, and how to implement and configure it.

The foundation for social business transformation is culture and leadership. Technology and process documents are useless if organizational behaviors aren’t changed. Change starts from the top, and business leaders are the ones responsible for facilitating this change.

Michael Brito is Senior Vice President of Social Business Planning at Edelman Digital. He is a speaker, adviser, and community activist. Brito’s new book, Smart Business, Social Business, is available for purchase at 

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