Everyone seems to be asking a lot of questions about social media. Subsequently everyone has an opinion as to the answers to these very questions. The questions are all over the place from how to produce results to what technology to use and how. To say the least there are hundreds of different answers to each question asked.
Business leaders are jumping into the use of social media and expecting results. The results of using social media vary by who is using it for what purpose. However most of the purposes are aimed at marketing and public relations. The results of use are problematic to say the least. We hear of a few success stories but the bulk of the results reveal failure to comprehend the systemic nature of communications. What once was a one way channel to market a product, service or message has just been flipped on its head because everything is now a two way channel with significant reach and influence (see diagram).
Are You Asking The Right Questions?
Viewing social media as just another channel to “push” out messages is indicative of not comprehending the impact of two way communications and the related influence on markets. Corporations do not comprehend that use of social media as more systemic in nature than just thinking in terms of marketing. Failure to understand this means the market will easily and quickly reveal that which you don’t comprehend or have failed to recognize.
Amy Mengel writes: Five reasons corporations are failing at social media. So why is it so difficult for so many companies to successfully integrate social media? Her top five are as follows and I’d encourage you to read the entire post:
They can’t talk about anything broader than their own products
They listen to customers but don’t take any action
They aren’t calibrated internally with the technology
They’re not framing risk accurately
Their internal culture isn’t aligned for social media success
Amy Mengel’s assessment is spot on and the point is that while social media can be used for marketing and PR unless the organization is strategically aligned with the market you will definitely fail. Organizational alignment is a lot different than the practice of marketing and PR. The market is no longer just the end consumer. Rather the market now encompasses everyone internally and externally. In other words “the market” is everyone who communicates anything to someone. Who would that be? Everyone!
What Are The Right Questions?
The success of any business is relative to finding and using answers to relevant questions about the business and how it can best serve a market. Given that the market now includes anyone and everyone within the chain of communications then everything that influences business success is now totally transparent to the entire market. Marketing and messaging is no longer isolated rather it is now a reflection of the organizational quality and effectiveness of management. Before a business jumps into using social media they ought to ask:
- Who is communicating what and why? What is our market hearing? Who is listening? It’s everyone & everything!
- What is influencing the quality of these communications? What are the constraints and problematic issues? Your culture, your knowledge and your organizational quality!
- Where are the markets which consume these communications? Everywhere!
- When will we know the markets sentiment? Every moment if your listening!
- Why do people care about communications? The freedom of speech has been and always will be an attraction and a powerful force of human nature.
As social media continues to fuel the influence of open and transparent communications it will force organizations to think strategically about everything. Why? Because communication touches and influences everything. Organizational design, culture, strategy are all reflective of the quality of management thinking and skills. To effectively address these issues requires new knowledge from the outside. This knowledge domain is not the same domain as marketing and PR. What, where, how, when, who and why are questions whose answers depend on the purpose of your business. Every business purpose is fueled by communications.
Are you asking the right questions?