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This social media fad will ruin Organization Development

Toby Elwin Blog, Marketing, Organization Behavior, Talent Management

Beacons of Gondor, smoke, fire, social media, Toby Elwin

Where there’s smoke, there’s social media fire.

I’ve heard it all too often and continue to cringe hearing organization development (OD) and human resources professionals lack of effort to understand social media.

The organization development profession is in a, social media, world of trouble.  Social media delivers all the intended qualities of OD.

The difference? Social media is more organic, more genuine, more sustainable, and delivers more impressive community results than OD has ever been accepted to do.

The OD world is under invasion by social media.  Social media is the most important communication and collaboration tool since the smoke signal and evaluating social media is time to move beyond fight, flight, or friend.

What does the social media fad have to do with business? How is this social media fad related to organizational development (organization development)? Do you ask yourself if you should bother to learn about social media?

What is crucial for today’s work environment has to include:

  • Involvement,
  • Communication,
  • Listening, and
  • Collaboration

These all make for any organization development (OD) practitioner’s short list of requirements crucial to successful OD interventions.

What does OD have to do with social media? Surprisingly, an awful lot, like:

  • Involvement,
  • Communication,
  • Listening, and
  • Collaboration

Fight the Social Media Fad

Both OD and social media seem to have more in common than appreciated. But why is it the practitioners most likely to need involvement, we OD folk, so resistant to social media?

Why is it an organizational discipline that requires communication, so eager to ignore social media?

Why is it a group so reliant on listening, so adverse to social media?

Why is it a profession where collaboration is vital to understanding, so suspicious social media has a hidden agenda of coercion?

I worked for a decade [the 90s] in marketing, but for the past 10 years I’ve been an OD consultant and living within organization transformation, learning, leadership development, strategic planning.

In 2007 I came upon social media with a marketing mindset, whoa, things had changed. Instead of interruption or command and control marketing, social media [or Marketing 2.0] looked to contribute and collaborate. The first rule in communication:  know your audience.

Organization Development Lost Along the Way

If you are not looking at how social media has prepared us for collaborative business, you are forgiven, if you won’t look, you are at serious risk for relevancy, both as an OD professional and an up-to-date professional.

Every OD professional relies on communication and usually a change management communication plan is a critical component for change and for any transformation to succeed. Marketing communications has a natural affinity towards effective change; after all marketing hopes to motivate action and change management or OD hopes to motivate action.

So what are the rules? Well, here is a quick hit list of 21 from Brian Solis

21 Rules of Engagement:

  1. Discover all relevant communities of interest and observe the choices, challenges, impressions, and wants of the people within each network
  2. Participate where your presence is advantageous and mandatory, don’t just participate anywhere and everywhere or solely in your own domains (Facebook Brand Page, Twitter conversations related to your brand, etc.)
  3. Determine the identity, character, and personality of the brand and match it to the persona of the individuals representing it online
  4. Establish a point of contact who is ultimately responsible for identifying, trafficking, or responding to all things that can affect brand perception
  5. As in customer service, representatives require training to learn how to proactively and reactively respond across multiple scenarios – don’t just put the person familiar with social networking in front of the brand
  6. Embody the attributes you wish to portray and instill – operate by a code of conduct
  7. Observe the behavioral cultures within each network and adjust your outreach accordingly
  8. Assess pain points, frustrations and also those of contentment in order to establish meaningful connections
  9. Become a true participant in each community you wish to activate, move beyond marketing and sales
  10. Don’t speak at audiences through canned messages, introduce value, insight and direction through each engagement
  11. Empower your representatives to offer rewards and resolution in times of need
  12. Act, don’t just listen and placate — do something
  13. Ensure that any external activities are supported by a comprehensive infrastructure to address situations and adapt to market conditions and demands
  14. Learn from each engagement and provide a path within the company to adapt and improve products and services
  15. Consistently create, contribute, and reinforce service and value
  16. Earn connections through collaboration and empower advocacy
  17. Don’t get lost in translation, ensure your communication and intent is clear and that your involvement maps to objectives created for the social web
  18. Establish and nurture beneficial relationships online and in the real world as long as doing so is important to your business
  19. “un” campaign and create ongoing programs that keep you part of day-to-day engagement
  20. “un” market by becoming a resource to your communities
  21. Give back, reciprocate and recognize notable contributions from participants in your communities

New View of Organization Development

Read the list again with an OD practitioner lens, then reread the list as a social media practitioner. Seems there is far more in common in the process than many OD folks are willing to admit.

OD is a planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization’s effectiveness and viability.*

Doesn’t seem there is much in common with social media. But it is not the intention I’m interested in presenting, it is the process.

Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention, generates online conversations, and encourages readers to share it with their social networks.

The message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it is coming from a trusted source, as opposed to the brand or company itself.**

Social Media Fad and Organization Development Ruin

So, do OD folks who rail against social media really miss out on the most elemental of OD prerequisites: involvement? Are they afraid things will get beyond their control and this fear manifests itself in blissful ignorance of social media or wishful thinking for social media’s demise?

Seems to me ones railing against social media’s involvement, communication, listening, and collaboration is really railing against the most basic principles of OD. OD has never been a completely accepted business driver, so OD practitioners looking for a way to gain traction can do little harm learning social media.

Where social media is sometimes called Marketing 2.0, OD struggles to even get to an OD version 1.0 foothold. Perhaps social media practices are less the threat and more the enabler for an open, transparent organization.

I don’t know, what do you think the gap is?

Involvement might be the secret for those who get neither social media nor organization development. Let’s keep this under our hats.

No doubt I got some things wrong, or left out some important ideas. Please let me know what you think and suggestions you have for me to add value.

*Wikipedia: Organization Development

**Wikipedia: Social Media

Bonus: How Virgin Media use social media as a key part of their internal communications strategy

If you found the above post interesting, you may enjoy Social Media, Fight, Flight, or Friend – Organization Development presentation below.

I delivered the presentation in 2012 at the St. Louis OD Network conference: The Shifting Role of Organization Development in Business Conference in St. Louis.