Before my brother, Fat, (don’t ask) lost his job, he didn’t know what Linkedin was. Fat is 53 with a stay-at-home wife, a four year old son, and a nine month old daughter. He got married for the first time at age 49 and quickly made up for lost time! He received word two weeks before Christmas that he would soon be “on the street.” It’s an understatement to say, he was motivated to find a new gig.
His soon-to-be former employer gave him a reasonable package, including a stint with an outplacement firm. At first, Fat thought all the seminars and meetings would detract from his job search. But, he attended and found it time well spent. One day, he asked, “Kathy, have you ever heard of something called Linkedin?” To which I replied, “Yes, of course; why do ask?” He responded, “The outplacement firm wants me to use it to find a job! Seems weird to me.”
He gave it a whirl. Today, my brother is a Linkedin master. With handouts from two “Using Linkedin in your job search” seminars as his bible, he tackled a social world previously unknown to him. While he only added a total of 15 connections, he used his targeted network surgically and effectively. He:
He took to Linkedin like a snowstorm in ski country, which should not have surprised me. You can walk down the street with my brother in almost any neighborhood or city and three people will stop to slap him on the back and say “hey.” This happens in the neighborhood where we grew up and on the streets of Paris. Fat is a natural networker. He’s smart, charming and self-effacing. To him, Linkedin was a tool that let him be him to the nth degree. It was efficient and effective.
And, yes, the story has a happy ending.My brother starts a new job in a week that’s a perfect fit! Now, he is a Linkedin evangelist. Unemployment hit my extended family particularly hard. I have three nephews who have been out of work for 15 months, a sister who got laid off late last year and another one who lost her job about eight months ago. Stephen is paying it forward by sharing his knowledge and helping anyone who wants it. Another microcosm of the power of both networks and community. Oh, and family, too!
Recently, Marketing Sherpa published a report that highlights social media’s effectiveness on program outcomes. Ok, first of all, for the fifty-fifth time, Social Media is a tactic, not a strategy but I digress.
Marketing Sherpa’s report included the below graphic which showcases the impact of Social.
In looking at this graph, what comes to mind first?
Breadth of potential impact?
Clearly it must be widespread adoption, right?
That’s not what caught my eye. The first thing I noticed was that Social, in every single category, was doing a mediocre job at delivering results. Sure, some of this is because it is a new discipline and people are learning. That’s fair. However, I think a bigger reason is because Social is siloed inside organizations. For most brand experiences, social provides no unified and meaningful experience for the customer…yet. Why is this?
Teams inside organizations are not working together, not sharing information and not collaborating on a single end result. That’s why social is currently a mediocre performer.
To illustrate my point take a look at the two below pictures. Imagine that both teams are racing in the same motor car race. Who is likely to win the race?
I’d put my money on Team 2. Why? Obviously, they are more serious about racing than Team 1. Sure, both team’s have made an investment to be there, as they both have race cars but Team 2 is working with a single and planned purpose and they are working as a focused team with a sense of urgency. They’ve made the right investments in effort, infrastructure and people needed to win.
For most brands, winning the social race means getting tactics and tools online. Have a Facebook presence? Check. Have somebody manning Twitter? Check. Have a community tab? Check. Have a 20-something you’ve hired to be the social media guru? Check. This approach is the same as fielding a five year old car and having your buddies play pit crew.
None of the above activities will have any significant impact on your brand value, your customer lifetime value, customer retention or your contribution to net margin or net profit….all of which are the key metrics you should be in large part concerned with.
Just like Team 1, taking this approach, you may finish the race, but is that the goal? You won’t win. Team 2 will always beat you. Team 2 is the brand whose departments and teams all have the eye on a single, well defined prize. They know their roles and are willing to work as a seamless team…just like Team 2.
“Well”, you may be saying to yourself “This isn’t a race. I don’t buy the analogy.”
That’s fine. You don’t have to. However, you are in a race. Your race is to win and keep the hearts, minds and wallets of your consumers. To win more while you keep more. You have to be relevant, you have to be genuine and believable and you have to deliver value to survive. Don’t believe me? Ask Barry Judge, the CMO of Best Buy his thoughts on it. He’s on Team 2. Or, you can ask Circuit City’s former CMO Peter Weedfald. He was on Team One.
All of this said, here is your race checklist. This’ll get you Team One level sponsorship…and results.
Team Two Checklist
So back to Marketing Sherpa’s graph I presented at the outset of this post. Why is social providing such mediocre results? It’s because brands have chosen or slipped into performing as Team 1. Winning at Social requires brands to take control over your own brand’s ability to win, like Team 2.
Giving the customer control only is effective once you have done your race prep.
One of the first things that Sam Palmisano did after becoming CEO of IBM was to do a values gut check. Palmisano felt strongly that a refreshed values system would provide a roadmap for operating differently in a rapidly changing market environment and ultimately complete the transformation process.
The biggest challenge? Despite the fact that IBM was emerging from a long, painful decline and was newly prosperous, people were cautious and suspicious of a new vision. The company needed a way to galvanize people around hope and aspiration as opposed to fear of failure. The company also has a massive, global employee base with widely divergent views.
The answer was a highly innovative process that IBM called Jam Sessions. In a nut shell, the first one started with senior management creating a set of values that were vetted and refined through focus groups and surveys. Then, the entire employee population was invited to weigh in on the list. IBM used social media tools to gather input and analyze trends across the input. Each “value” was the topic of a single forum that was moderated by a member of the senior management team, including the CEO. Employees comments reflected the “good, the bad and the ugly.” Instead of running from the bad and the ugly, Palmisano viewed negative input as a mandate for change. Tags helped sort input, which informed the creation of a new mission and values statement. The company eventually held adjunct Jam Sessions to identify operational roadblocks to adoption of the new IBM way.
If President Obama and the United States Congress could outsource the healthcare debate, IBM would be the perfect partner. Imagine if we “jammed’ the healthcare bill. Each major tenet could be debated over a 2-3 week period and include anyone in the country who wanted to learn and participate. For example, one week, the focus could be “cost reduction”. This umbrella topic could be broken down into several sub topics such as “tort reform”, buying insurance over state lines”, “public option” , “pools”, etc. Before jumping into the jam session, the participant could view content that provides context for each topic. A few experts could debate the pros and cons of each topic and then citizens could jump into the session and comment. Following the “open jam” period, comments could be analyzed and used to create a “mission” for each topic. This mission then would be sent back out and people could give a thumbs up or down for each sub topic. Sort of a mash-up between Yelp, Ideastorm and IBM’s jam sessions.
Congress could augment this online debate with town hall meetings held simultaneously around the country in movie theaters. This approach was used by Buisness Week several years ago for its annual two day business conference. Live speakers were at various venues and teleconferenced to audiences in movie theaters around the country. Interactive devices facilitated audience participation and captured feedback instantly. This opens discussion and participation to audiences with no access to or comfort with online social tools.
The integration of on-and off-line engagement is a best practices often missed by marketers. In this case, it also provides a very important choice for how to engage citizens.
Congress would then use this feedback to write a bill that reflects the will of the people. This of course has been one of the big criticisms of the current process: the will of the people has gotten lost in the shuffle. Another drawback of the recent debate has been the sheer size of both the House and Senate bills. A Healthcare Jam would break it down and give people an opportunity to learn in smaller bites, participate and “vote”. What a concept. It’s a little bit like “democracy in action”.
Right before the holidays I had the honor of presenting at the All Services Social Media Conference, which was sponsored by The School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown University. The event was part of an ongoing initiative spearheaded by Colonel Kevin Arata to share social media experiences, best practices and approaches.
Lots of smart people and big thinkers presented at the conference. One of the best was Peter Klaus of Fleishman-Hillard’s Digital Media Team. He presented a case study about a program his team put together for the Department of Defense. Called That Guy, it uses an interactive social website as a pivot for a widespread campaign to curtail substance abuse in the military. One device is a set of clever interactive “trading cards’ that help a person self-identify as a specific species of “That Guy”: the comedian guy, the angry guy, the dancing guy, etc. (you know who you are!) The cards list behavior traits, link to video, provide a way to send the card to a friend who fits the description, and so on. The site uses every motivational and teaching device that appeals to its target including humor, games and even a bar calculator for those who are only motivated by their pocket book. Check it out; wonderful program.
I led a session about how to plan and build a strategic social marketing plan. The session sparked a lot of audience participation and of course, the interaction and shared learning among the participants was where the real value occurred. Representatives from across our armed services shared challenges that they face in managing and integrating disparate social media programs. I was blown away by the savvy and sophistication of the questions and insights of the group. At ComBlu, we work with a lot of experienced marketing teams of major corporations, and talk to countless others every week. Many of these conversations do not match the social media knowledge or maturation levels displayed by the mostly military audience at this conference.
I should not have been surprised. Look at the social programs the military uses for recruitment, addressing the concerns of parents and other family members, supporting the efforts of military commands, etc.These are just a few examples. There are many command social media sites, user generated communities for parents and families that are not sanctioned but supported by the military, Department of Defense programs, etc.
One observation about all this activity: just like their corporate counterparts, the military social media approach still seems to be one of “experimentation” or what we call “lots of bricks; no building”. Many public and private organizations have yet to create a social strategy mash-up. Our recent research shows that only 20% or so of major corporations exhibit a cohesive social marketing strategy. While this is starting to change, ultimately the full value of social marketing will only be realized when it is integrated and organized in a way that leverages brand value and offers stakeholders a easy, comfortable way to engage.