No one really likes making mistakes. We all make mistakes and most people learn from their mistakes. The value of social media is you can learn from other people’s mistakes. You can also simply copy current practices and make the same mistakes others are making.
In the old days mistakes could be fairly contained to a few people unless of course your mistake hit the headline news. Today mistakes, whether personal and corporate, are transparent for the world to see. Social technology can not only propagate mistakes to a large audience quickly it can also create unintended consequences.
What Are Unintended Consequences?
Lets say that you are a major branded retailer worried about reaching year end results. Management wants to move inventory during the holidays and the edict is “all hands on deck, if we can’t reach these numbers then layoffs are inevitable”. So the communications to the work force is embedded with the emotion of fear and everyone feels it.
The people on the front line are usually the first to go when there are expense cuts. Yet they have no control over the marketing, the message, the economy or the methods management uses to create results. The CMO, who is clueless about social media tells his people to “push out the sales using email campaigns, twitter and all those other social media sites”. His people, whom have had little training on use of social media, begin a campaign of spamming, tricks and mass marketing using every social tool they can find. They tell their boss “we’ve pushed out our sales to millions of people and will continue to throughout the next month”. The CMO smiles and tells his boss “our people have tapped into this social media stuff and pushed out our sales to millions. This will help us reach our needed results“.
The holidays are over and the results are not good. Layoffs begin and the CMO tells his people “you said you knew how to use that social stuff and it would generate sales. It didn’t and your fired”. The CMO then tells his boss “I laid off six people who promised that using that social stuff would generate sales. Social media doesn’t generate results so they are gone.”. The CEO responds “Good, we also need to cut training and education expenses. The market has changed and we need to find some solutions or we are toast”.
Subsequently the people laid off start telling their friends on Twitter, Facebook and everywhere else that management blamed them for not producing year end results and now they are looking for jobs. Get the picture? They do but management doesn’t!
When Management Fails Everyone Else Is To Blame
According to Wikipedia: The verb manage comes from the Italian maneggiare (to handle — especially a horse), which in turn derives from the Latin manus (hand). The French word mesnagement (later ménagement) influenced the development in meaning of the English word management in the 17th and 18th centuries. Does management look at people as animals?
The Worst Social Media Mistake
In my humble opinion, as if I am humble, the worse mistake people and organization make is not acquiring knowledge about social media. Instead they assume they understand it as just another marketing or PR channel and subsequently they do not think about it systemically.
To understand what the systemic implications are requires new knowledge. Knowledge comes from learning, education and innovation. Something most managers do not think they need rather they think the employees need to learn the “system” that management has created. How is that system working for you? By the results in the market place it would seem apparent that a new system is required to survive. A new system can only be created by management. Employees and the marketplace only responds to the effectiveness of the system created by management.
In an article titled “Eight Ways to Ruin Your Social-Media Strategy” by Catharine P. Taylor at Bnet provides an excellent outline of common mistakes the market is making in terms of using social media. These include: 1.Pretend you can do without it. 2. Play down the costs. 3. Act like you own the conversation. 4.Fear empowering your employees. 5. Assume you have little to learn. 6. Take negative feedback personally 7. Fret about return on investment. 8. Underestimate the power of seemingly small efforts.
These eight mistakes reflect the need for the market to change the way it thinks. Changing how you think and about what requires new knowledge. I think Deming was onto something.