This month’s Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column: Don’t let internal skeptics derail your social media strategy

My April Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column was inspired by actual events. If this happens to your organization, be sure to listen to your internal audience, but don’t let unfounded skepticism stand in the way of doing what’s right for your customers.

Don’t let internal skeptics derail your social media strategy

In a perfect world, your organization’s social media strategy would be embraced by both the audience it’s designed to engage — for most, that’s your existing and prospective customers — and your internal audience, your employees. Both are crucial to your success, and both would ideally be part of the conversations your social media efforts engender.

If you encounter resistance from your internal audience, however, and it’s preventing you from executing your strategy, you may just have to move forward without them. Why? It’s simply a matter of putting your external audience first. After all, your external audience will vote with their feet; if your strategy is sound, the results will come.

Your internal audience’s response, conversely, is much more subjective. While there’s a chance their concerns might be well founded, they’re even more likely the result of one or more of these factors:

They think social media is a fad. They’re wrong, of course. But you shouldn’t waste time trying to persuade them that social media’s for real. Shame on them if they put their heads in the sand; shame on you if you’re held back trying to pull them out.

They want to be involved, but they’re not. I’m a huge believer in liberal employee use policies, especially when they get those closest to the customer involved in the organization’s social media efforts. However, that’s not the right approach for every organization; some are better off having their strategy deployed by a small group. When that happens, others who want to participate may criticize the strategy when what they really don’t like is the fact that they’re excluded.

Today, social media is still seen as the toy department, and some people would rather get paid to “play on Facebook,” as they perceive it, than do the job they were hired to do. The truth is, of course, that it’s not play and it’s not more fun than other work (just ask anyone who’s been through a social media communication crisis). The only way to find that out is to be involved in a serious strategic effort. When you’re not, and you’d like to be, envy can lead you to undercut other’s efforts.

You’ve changed something. A lack of buy-in from the internal audience is most likely to occur when you change long-standing tactics, regardless of whether those tactics were driving real results. The problem isn’t what you’ve changed, it’s the fact you changed something.

Resistance to change is woven into our DNA, so your internal audience isn’t likely to embrace new approaches even when they’re better aligned with your organization’s mission, goals or resources.

They are basing their judgment on personal preference. This isn’t unique to social media. People who watch “American Idol” overstate the number of people who watch “American Idol.” People who listen to NPR overstate the number of people who listen to NPR. And, yes, people who tweet usually overstate the number of people who tweet.

Your strategy shouldn’t be guided by anyone’s preference other than that of the external audience, just as your advertising expenditures shouldn’t be guided by anything other than what’s most effective to reach your customers and prospects. Social media tools like discussion boards and niche networks may very well be better choices than tools more popular with your internal audience like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

They don’t understand social media strategy. Social media strategy isn’t rocket science, but it still requires specialized knowledge. To put it more bluntly, having a Facebook page does not make someone a social media expert.

The challenge with a social media strategy, unlike other strategies that guide your organization’s decisions, is that it should be shared with your employees and, if appropriate, they should be encouraged to participate. That means your social media strategy will receive an unusual amount of scrutiny–and, as a result, criticism.

It’s vital that your organization make distinctions between criticism that’s constructive and criticism that’s uninformed or misguided. The former is vital to getting buy-in from the internal audience and making sure you’re not missing great ideas, but the latter can lead to bad decisions or even worse, indecision.

There are bigger issues. It’s possible that resistance to your social media strategy is a symptom, not the disease. If there’s a lack of trust for those at the top of the organization, a lack of buy-in for your mission or other reasons for organizational discord, your employees aren’t likely to buy into your social media strategy, no matter how good it is.

If your organization believes its strategy is sound but it’s fighting internal dissent, have the courage to stay the course and give the strategy a fair chance. The only way to silence the detractors, after all, is with results, and the only way to get results is to craft a sound strategy and give it time to work.

Don’t be bullheaded, and don’t ignore good advice from your employees. But most importantly, don’t let a skeptical internal audience prevent you from doing what’s right for your customers. Don’t let the naysayers hold you back when it’s time to move forward.

Don’t let internal skeptics derail your social media strategy PDF Print E-mail
ANTHONY JULIANO
Friday, 01 April 2011 00:00
In a perfect world, your organization’s social media strategy would be embraced by both the audience it’s designed to engage — for most, that’s your existing and prospective customers — and your internal audience, your employees. Both are crucial to your success, and both would ideally be part of the conversations your social media efforts engender. 

If you encounter resistance from your internal audience, however, and it’s preventing you from executing your strategy, you may just have to move forward without them. Why? It’s simply a matter of putting your external audience first. After all, your external audience will vote with their feet; if your strategy is sound, the results will come.

Your internal audience’s response, conversely, is much more subjective. While there’s a chance their concerns might be well founded, they’re even more likely the result of one or more of these factors:

They think social media is a fad. They’re wrong, of course. But you shouldn’t waste time trying to persuade them that social media’s for real. Shame on them if they put their heads in the sand; shame on you if you’re held back trying to pull them out.

They want to be involved, but they’re not. I’m a huge believer in liberal employee use policies, especially when they get those closest to the customer involved in the organization’s social media efforts. However, that’s not the right approach for every organization; some are better off having their strategy deployed by a small group. When that happens, others who want to participate may criticize the strategy when what they really don’t like is the fact that they’re excluded.

Today, social media is still seen as the toy department, and some people would rather get paid to “play on Facebook,” as they perceive it, than do the job they were hired to do. The truth is, of course, that it’s not play and it’s not more fun than other work (just ask anyone who’s been through a social media communication crisis). The only way to find that out is to be involved in a serious strategic effort. When you’re not, and you’d like to be, envy can lead you to undercut other’s efforts.

You’ve changed something. A lack of buy-in from the internal audience is most likely to occur when you change long-standing tactics, regardless of whether those tactics were driving real results. The problem isn’t what you’ve changed, it’s the fact you changed something.

Resistance to change is woven into our DNA, so your internal audience isn’t likely to embrace new approaches even when they’re better aligned with your organization’s mission, goals or resources.

They are basing their judgment on personal preference. This isn’t unique to social media. People who watch “American Idol” overstate the number of people who watch “American Idol.” People who listen to NPR overstate the number of people who listen to NPR. And, yes, people who tweet usually overstate the number of people who tweet.

Your strategy shouldn’t be guided by anyone’s preference other than that of the external audience, just as your advertising expenditures shouldn’t be guided by anything other than what’s most effective to reach your customers and prospects. Social media tools like discussion boards and niche networks may very well be better choices than tools more popular with your internal audience like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

They don’t understand social media strategy. Social media strategy isn’t rocket science, but it still requires specialized knowledge. To put it more bluntly, having a Facebook page does not make someone a social media expert.

The challenge with a social media strategy, unlike other strategies that guide your organization’s decisions, is that it should be shared with your employees and, if appropriate, they should be encouraged to participate. That means your social media strategy will receive an unusual amount of scrutiny and, as a result, criticism.

It’s vital that your organization make distinctions between criticism that’s constructive and criticism that’s uninformed or misguided. The former is vital to getting buy-in from the internal audience and making sure you’re not missing great ideas, but the latter can lead to bad decisions or even worse, indecision.

There are bigger issues. It’s possible that resistance to your social media strategy is a symptom, not the disease. If there’s a lack of trust for those at the top of the organization, a lack of buy-in for your mission or other reasons for organizational discord, your employees aren’t likely to buy into your social media strategy, no matter how good it is.

If your organization believes its strategy is sound but it’s fighting internal dissent, have the courage to stay the course and give the strategy a fair chance. The only way to silence the detractors after all is with results, and the only way to get results is to craft a sound strategy and give it time to work.

Don’t be bullheaded, and don’t ignore good advice from your employees. But most importantly, don’t let a skeptical internal audience prevent you from doing what’s right for your customers. Don’t let the naysayers hold you back when it’s time to move forward.

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