note: this post is the unabridged version of a piece which was written for Bnet.co.uk of which I am a regular contributor
One of the interesting things happening after the Likeminds conference on 25 February in Exeter, was the Likeminds Summit which actually took place on the following day at Bovey Castle in Dartmoor. Obviously, there were a bunch of like-minded people around the table dealing with the issues of how to implement social media properly for businesses.
One of the recurring issues surrounding the implementation of social media was change management; a topicoften touched on but rarely explained properly. For the benefit of our readers, I have put together a list of the 10 ingredients which I think are of the utmost importance when you want to set up change in your company. This list is based on my experience of implementing change at various companies throughout the world in the past 20 years:
The serenity prayer: the first ingredient is to always know what you can change and what you cannot change, and to ensure that you always will be able to tell the difference,
Think big, start small: obviously if you are trying to implement change it is because you have great ideas; but try and be reasonable and start small and then move on to bigger changes one step at a time,
Choose the path of least resistance: avoid these people resisting change at all cost and try not to waste time convincing them. On the contrary, focus on these other people who are more favourable to your project and work with them all the way up (they are what one calls change agents),
Ask your boss to set an example: when you want to change things, management has to show the way and to prove others that things can be done not only by ordering them around but by actually doing things by themselves,
Don’t think top down: on the contrary, don’t believe that just because top management is going to send an e-mail to all, things are going to start changing by themselves. They simply won’t,
Seek a mandate once (some) results have been proven. Or, if you already have a mandate, don’t show it until we have implemented a few results either. This will show people that you care about their opinion,
Respect people: the human factor is one of the most important in change management. Don’t underestimate people and try and convince them humanly,
Expect the best, but prepare for the worst: as always in project management, Murphy’s Law applies. Be prepared for the worst so that you can avoid it,
Act swiftly: change is best implemented in my eyes in a 3 to 6 month period. If nothing has happened before then, chances are that nothing ever will,
In times of trouble, don’t stop and speed up the change process on the contrary: times of chaos can be perceived as periods of danger by most people; yet, to most change managers they will be used as periods at which anything is possible. It’s mostly when things are uncertain that change is implemented and accepted, not the contrary.
Lastly, adhering to these 10 simple rules might not guarantee success but overlooking them will certainly mean failure.
BNET: you successfully deployed social media initiatives on behalf of a worldwide high-tech company. Is social media only for geeks?
BP: No, social media is about having a conversation directly with your customers. It’s so important that companies take time to see the value in building a long-term relationship with their customers via social media. Many of the initial ideas may have started with “geeks”, who I certainly appreciate, but we live in a world today that has over 1.6 billion people online and more than 500,000 new people going online everyday for the first time in their lives. Social media is becoming mainstream for customers today and should start to become so for companies in the near future.
BNET: what are in your eyes and based on your experience the top three benefits which you, your previous employer and your clients derived from these social media initiatives?
BP: There are many benefits for companies, but gaining ideas, co-shaping your brand and unlocking the value of employees are certainly three important ones.
Social media provides an amazing window into how customers think and what they want. For example, why conduct a focus group with 10 people in a single location when you can build an idea community, ala Dell or Starbucks and receive thousands of ideas and listen to customers discuss them over months? For companies, it’s also important to co-shape your brand and reputation with your customers online. If you conduct strong analytics and you know where your products are being reviewed, you’ll find that a large brand may have as many as 5,000 conversations about itself every day. Ask yourself how many of those conversations you’re participating in or knowledgable of? If you’re not, you’re outsourcing your brand. Powerful thought.
I’ve also seen how social media inside a company enables employees to share their thinking and, quite frankly, let you know if they agree with the direction of the company via their comments or, in some cases, their silence.
BNET: what were the three main successful drivers behind your successful implementation of social media?
BP: I’ve heard people say “make the R small and the I big in ROI”. I like that advice. Social media does not have to cost a lot of money to try. What you need are some courage and a willingness to engage directly with your customers. I like asking people “how many customers do you actually speak with every day”? For too many people in companies, the answer is zero.
Here are three key drivers: #1 – know where conversations are occurring about your brand #2 – have clear rules of the road in how you will conduct social media, including an online policy and #3 – realize that customers want to hear from you, they do not want to hear from “the company”, so personalize your approach. The new formula is “Brand + Personality”.
BNET: how big and how successful is the Blog Council and what sort of a club is it?
BP: Social media is becoming a new discipline within companies that impacts all employees and all departments. As a result, it’s very important for leaders in social media to have a private place to share best practices and learn from each other in real time. There is no better person to learn from then a peer who is figuring out the same thing in a different industry.
The result is the formation of the Blog Council, which now has 60 of the world’s leading brands as members, such as Orange, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Intel, Microsoft and Coca Cola.
BNET: are all companies entitled to join the blog Council, or do they have to meet certain criteria?
BP: The Blog Council is for larger companies, generally over 5,000 employees. The key is that members are actively seeking to improve in social media. We want members who want to learn by asking their peers questions, share ideas and do it all in an “ego-less” environment.
BNET: what are your plans for the development of the Blog Council? Is there anything you’d like to share with our readers? A scoop maybe?
BP: Well, it’s fair to say that our name was ready for a change. In fact, we just changed our name to the Social Media Business Council and you can find us at www.socialmedia.org.
BNET: some of the “bloggers blogging about bloggers” to put it in the words of Andy Sernovitz are sometimes critical of the blog Council, what would you like to say to them?
BP: We welcome everyone’s opinion. We’re focused on building social media as a discipline and helping our members achieve success. It’s all about the conversation and we hope everyone will share how they think we can do better (as an organization and for our members).
BNET: there has been points made by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff and also Seth Godin (in his Meatball Sundae opus) that social media wasn’t for all big companies. What is your opinion about that?
BP: I respect the body of work of both Joshand Seth very much, but I could not disagree more with this particular comment. Social media is for every company that wants to improve how it interacts with its employees and its customers. Internally, a company has a major opportunity to unlock intellectual capital of its employees or gain their ideas more quickly to improve products. Externally, we are scratching the surface on how we can empower customers. Imagine opening up new B2B channels between major companies to communicate more effectively, for example.
I’ve worked inside three Fortune 500 companies and have met with many others, so I’m quite sure of the opportunity ahead of us for companies of all sizes.
BNET: Is the blog Council only about corporate blogging or does it cover a much broader spectrum?
BP: The Blog Council is about social media and how it is utilized to improve communications with employees and customers. Social media represents the most direct way to have a conversation and, in many respects, the most powerful way to learn, share and build relationships. The leading companies of the world are embracing social media and learning how to utilize it effectively. Not every company understands the significance of social media today, but that’s normal for any transformation. They will with time.
Thanks Bob for answering our questions very openly. Our Bnet readers interested in knowing more about the the Social Media Business Council can connect to http://socialmedia.org
(*) note: For the sake of disclosure, it needs to be pointed out that the author is also a member of the Social Media Business Council in which he is the Orange representative.
Catherine Hearn – a seasoned expert at Heidrick & Struggles, an exec search company, and a Bnet columnist, has this interesting story on Bnet about job seeking in the current downturn. And I think she has a very valid point. After all, if an executive search is saying that there are very interesting jobs to be had out there in the cold, she must be right.
At the same time, the virtually never ending gloom echoed by the press, namely in the UK and especially on the BBC, is somewhat weighing thick on the morale of not only job seekers but people in employment too.