ben hur, social media, organization, culture, Toby Elwin, blog, engagement

Company social media strategy reflects organization culture — engagement

social media, policy, corporate, culture, marketing, engagement
Corporate social media: you paddle, I plunder.

At work, we accomplish things in both formal and informal ways.  Projects, sales, marketing, product design, and corporate initiatives succeed or fail through social engagement.  Whether formal or informal, just like other social signals you can see a company’s engagement culture in their social media strategy.

No matter the company culture slogan, culture reveals the way things are really done, not the way things really should get done.

Social media reveals organization culture through more transparent ways than any HR engagement program.

In two prior posts, I wrote how social media marketing strategy and social media sales strategy reflect company culture through signals and signs that betray intent.

Social media is less about a sales or marketing revolution debate and more about an engagement dialogue.

Engagement is also where organization culture debate should look.

The Social Row to Hoe

An engagement culture happens when people rise above a standard.  Engagement is rarely attained from a survey or a diversity façade web page.

Far more than a set of quantity characteristics on market segment size, far more qualitative than traditional market segmentation, engagement, in social media, starts with inquiry.

Some might take it further and start with mere curiosity.

Inquiry starts identification of needs, motivation, and goals.

There is little-to-no product or service competitive advantage any longer.  In social media, however, the experience will outlast the transaction.  The experience is more important than the sale and this is what differentiates one transaction from another.  To grasp the experience requires curiosity for a new lens:

  1. Your sale solves their problem or meets their objective, nothing more and
  2. From a buyer perspective their purchase solves their problem, not yours

A company that does not engage their market to focus on experience lends little confidence they engage their employees’ experience.

A persona-driven strategy identifies experience from goal-oriented characteristics with insight, data, and feedback to develop pertinent images of an ideal customer’s goals, needs, and objectives.

What of an ideal employee’s goals, needs, and objectives?

The Empathy Directive

Connectivity and collaboration start with the employee.  Diverse communities have diverse objectives.  To understand their need, frame it in WIIFT?(What’s In It For Them?).  A culture of WIIFT? is a culture of empathy.

There is no one employee persona.  Your organization’s executive assistant has different objectives, needs, and motivations than your organization’s project manager.  Not better.  Not worse.  But objecitvely unique and highly relevant to each.

Empathy is sensing others’ feelings and perspectives and taking an active interest in their concerns.  Empathy is framed in the target’s objective, about their experience.  Empathy is not about your task and your objective.

Empathy in social media:

[B]est business bloggers use empathy to guide all of their editorial decisions. It helps them choose topics that’ll address their audience’s pain points and solve their problems. It helps them structure content in a way that will resonate with readers. It helps them phrase things in a way that leaves their audience open to hearing more from them (nuance is a powerful thing, you know).

Remember, in most cases, you are not your target audience. But if you blog with empathy, you’ll have a hard time creating stuff that falls flat.

What the Best Business Bloggers Do (And You Should Too), Corey Eridon, HubSpot

A company social media strategy is a proxy for organization culture.  Organization culture that ignores these social signals from a traditional recruit, train, and retain frame for engagement culture:

Recruit – Your company games Glassdoor reviews through employee ghost writers responsible to write glowing reviews.

Train – Your company views training as a cost transaction against a tightly-controlled budget and time away from work.

Retain – Your company annual evaluations claim a 360 degree performance review that really comes down to a political agenda.

Organization culture that represent road signs of excellence within recruit, train, and retain engagement culture:

Recruit – There is a forum where criticism is opportunity for deeper insight and questions provide a stage for new discussion.

Train – 70% of learning is on-the-job, opportunities present an open call to learn by doing, as training and education are now lifelong pursuits.

Retain – Failure is a safe space for people to review what could work and others collaborate on what is possible.

Command and Control

What is engagement, but a new spin on an old attempt:  employee motivation.  As one HR director said to me, “engagement is a new attempt at our failed effort to motivate employees.”

Organization design supports how managers group people together to perform work.  Your organization defines culture through symbols and behaviors they design:

  • Organization charts
  • Job titles
  • Routines and rules
  • Promotions
  • Process over performance
  • Answers over questions

Command and control does not work, but it is the fallback approach for people too lazy to care.  Low trust equals low motivation, low motivation equals low engagement.  The elements of low-trust organization culture include:

  • Do people “copy all” on emails?
  • Does process dictate action?
  • Are retribution and sanctions in place to cripple creative process?
  • Do you feel like order generators?
  • Is knowledge power?
  • Insistence on group harmony that turns to post-meeting, savage back-biting?
  • Are there permissions and passwords for everything?
  • Do political connections trump capability?
  • Does the past dictate and control every frame for change?
  • Do all people learn from one method and one method only?

Dissonance invites participants. Organization dissonance is your organization trying to figure out what is happening and what things mean.  Think  engagement from the social media world with Brian Solis’ 21 Rules of Engagement and wearing an organization culture hat:

  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

Announcements Are Not Engagement

There is no clearer method to allow customers the opportunity to engage with products, services, or brands then through social media.  More likely, your company social media strategy reflects an organization culture desperate for change long before social media approached.

There are plenty of keys why so many companies blow it in social media.  If your company has a social media presence or blog, review the external, Internet social media posts and blogs against your internal, intranet with these questions:

  • Are comments open to all or reviewed by senior management, then moderated accordingly?
  • Are your company blogs written by real, active employees or a hired perception relations agency that spins?
  • Do multiple organization levels author blogs or are blogs only authored for executive posts, marketing posts, or HR posts by those leaders?
  • How often are blogs updated and posted – multiple times a day? daily? multiple times a week? weekly? monthly? quarterly [just before analyst calls … ]
  • Do the people who write create their blog about themselves? the company product? the company accomplishment? their achievement?
  • Before new site content or blog posts upload how many layers need to sign off?
  • Does all content require legal review before approval?

Just as many marketing and sales strategies separate groups into segments to better understand consumer behavior, employee communities do not represent a single entity.

  1. Employee Engagement:  a heightened level of ownership where each employee wants to do whatever they can for the benefit of their internal and external customers, and for the success of the organization as a whole.*

Your company website, blog, social media Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or Pinterest page, and corporate online presence provides a view into organization culture from each landing point.

  1. Social Media Engagement:  developing relationships with active involvement and becoming a part of existing communities or fostering a personal community of your own and the value you add to conversations relevant to you or your brand.**

Similarities between social media and organization development strengthen organization culture and rely on a work environment around engagement, that includes:

  • Involvement,
  • Communication,
  • Listening,
  • Collaboration

One-size communication does note meet all communication need.  People who give up talking gave up caring.  Employees who do care do not engage.  Those disengaged negatively infect organization health.

But what is it that engagement really wants to achieve?  What people want, may not be what you want to say.  That gap is more realistically a chasm.  Crossing the chasm will never happen for those unwilling to take the first step, those culture who do not, go the way of the dodo.

Below, is a favorite video of mine around the hackneyed social media discussion.  I invite you to view the video, then replay the video with the perspective of a manager and their employee.

Restrictive, bureaucratic, control with no place for dialogue, comment, or dissonance, little or no training that develops talent.  These qualities are bigger than social media.

Collaborative, engaged, high-trust, diverse, innovative, flexible, talent development as an investment to train and retain the best. These qualities are bigger than social media.

Leadership certainly set cultural expectation.  A CEO perspective of social media engagement is a culture clue.  In a 2013 Social CEO Report almost 70% of Fortune 500 CEOs surveyed do not use social media and cite the following reasons:

  • Not enough time
  • Uncomfortable with transparency
  • Risk
  • Resistance to change

A 2012, Gartner report of CIO Agenda Executive Report 52% responded within the three categories:

Folly: Social media is considered a source of entertainment with little or no business value.  Business leaders ignore social media, saying it has no real business application

Fearful:  Social media is seen as a threat to productivity, intellectual property, security, or management authority.  Business leaders know it has value but think the risks outweigh the benefits.

Flippant:  Social media is a technology IT provides and business leaders use spontaneously to deliver value.

CEOs and CIOs are both pretty influential culture models. There is a real business cost here and the Fortune 500 lends a view into that cost of culture:  ~50% of the companies who started on the 1999 Fortune 500 were gone in 2009, that is the cost of culture.  A second review of the 2003 Fortune 500 finds ~40% no longer there by 2013.

If you try to sell something, you need a buyer.

If you try to tell something, you need an audience.

If you want to know what people want, start by listening to what people convey.

If you want to join a conversation, you need hear what people say.

Sources above:

* Wikipedia


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Comments 2

  1. Very good insights. Like your words “No matter the company culture slogan, culture reveals the way things are really done, not the way things really should get done”. Actually we see things happen when there are bosses only less leaders. They say employees to bring the change but they don’t change themselves and they don’t care about employee engagement which is very important. You can read further about employee engagement here:

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