Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's in a word?

Companies are beginning to understand that social media are a game-changing disruption to the tried-and-true way that they interact with customers. Like Jeremiah Ohwang said at the ACCJ presentation, this is not a trend or a fad. The online behaviours that define social media are not going to fade away, and will likely not be diminished by life stage or lifestyle changes. The challenge for marketers is to morph their selling behaviour into supporting people's buying behaviours.

People are now more likely to trust the opinions of their friends and colleagues - people "like me" - than the corporate sales pitches that have characterized the post-war mass-media modalities of marketers. One key to success in social media executions is to stand back and let opinion leaders - even brand icons - emerge naturally from the conversations we foster.

Sure it's hard to let go, and the urge to intervene is sometimes more than most CMOs can bear. But my personal experience is that when companies take a deep breath and wait for that urge to pass, the results are almost nearly always positive. And it's way better than ignoring problems ... think Sony batteries, and you'll understand where I'm coming from.

I really like the way that Jeremiah and the Forrester team have defined objectives for social media in terms of existing functional roles at most companies. You should probably buy the Groundswell book to learn more about this, but the metaphors are very powerful and the resulting objectives:

Research = Listening,
Marketing = Talking,
Sales = Energizing,
Support = Supporting, and
Development = Embracing

provide a lightning rod for decision-makers against which to test ideas that come forward from staff. As an executive in a pretty big consumer goods company, I can tell you that unless people can define their goals in one or more of the words in italics above (instead of one of the departments) I will not be supporting their idea. A function-based approach almost always brings with it competing interests, and the company in Japan that can get true synthesis rather than one-size-fits-all is rare indeed.

So the thought for today is this: can you describe your social media objectives (it's OK to have more than one, but the degree of difficulty goes up exponentially!) in one action word from the list above? If not, maybe it's time to change your perspective away from the title on the office door, and more focused on the people that count - customers!

No comments: