I’ve been doing quite a lot of speaking at ‘online’ conference events and workshops recently (this will surprise nobody who knows me) and consequently meeting a lot of people who are experimenting with social media within their organisations. It’s something of a growing trend – typically, one person within an organisation has been using Facebook or Twitter, even blogging, and has come to realise that there is very real value to the organisation in ‘being there’. A lot of these people come from the communications department, although by no means all. At a recent event where I spoke to an audience of event managers, I found quite a lot of people who had responsibility for companies’ events were the drivers behind introducing social media to their organisations.
Something of a pattern has started to emerge. The enthusiast is given permission to open up a social media account because it seems harmless enough – the company’s management doesn’t ‘get’ social media and so doesn’t see any danger in letting the enthusiast play with it. The enthusiast starts out and quickly finds a ready audience of people responding, interacting and demanding information, access and insight. It all becomes hard to handle precisely because it has been successful – one person can’t keep up with the volume but has gained enough experience to see the potential for this new medium.
So they go back to their management and point out that the experiment has been a great success, customers are now talking to the company over this new medium and appreciating the new degrees of access it brings. Can we expand the programme now?
And many I talk to are right in the middle of that conversation, mired in ‘not just yet, there’s a recession on you know’ and ‘What’s the ROI?’ reactions from the management team that has allowed this thing to develop so far precisely because it has ascribed it no importance.
The trouble is that social media is a difficult habit to break. Having started engagement with customers, partners and other stakeholders online, you have set an expectation of accessibility that can only grow. These early steps are important and help to build experience and learning – but it can’t stop there. The very fact that these programmes now need additional resources and expansion shows that they’re doing something right. It’s odd, in fact, that management presented with something new that is actually working would balk at it.