Thursday, August 13, 2009

What about the "In" of Social Media?

Most diagrams you see included in Social Media presentations mostly focus outward. It's probably a spoke and hub model, with the arrows originating from the center then heading outward into the internetosphere. I know because I've drawn a few. "This is how we get our message out." Looks great on the whiteboard, doesn't it?

People are spending a lot of their energy on figuring out how to get out there and make their presence felt in the Social Web. How do we take part in the conversation? Which is really not a bad thing. It means they're past "why do we want to do this" and now at "OK how do we do this?" Progress!

But I'm looking further down the road, and I see some issues. It is a conversation after all, and what happens when customers start talking back? You got their attention, and you know what, they got a few things on their mind. What do you do with that feedback?

The organizations that are adapting Social Media (marketing, advertising, PR) are generally outward focused. But now that they are engaging, they need to be prepared to accept feedback, complaints, etc. Not only do they need to adapt, they need to be able to track and measure the feedback in meaningful and actionable ways. Most likely they will partner with the "in" organizations like support - but they still need to close the loop and be aware of the outcomes.

It will come down to Change Management, and the ability of a corporation to continually encourage adaptability as well as offering education and support. It will require a company to constantly reevaluate processes, and not be afraid to make changes. That being said, it's critical that the company ensure that everyone understands the purpose and benefits of those changes.

For a company who's culture doesn't naturally support these notions, it will be a much tougher road. Their Social Media efforts will be fragmented and disconnected, and will suffer constant setbacks. They will be frustrated and constantly question themselves and their efforts. "What are we doing wrong?"

Only those companies that can demonstrate that they are not only able to talk and listen but able to react to and integrate incoming feedback will be able to build a thriving, successful community (Zappos anyone?). They will know what their customers like, hate and want, and from that alone they will have a distinctive competitive edge.

Social Media is not only about reaching out, it's also about holding the door open and inviting people to come in. Listen, learn, embrace.

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