Corporate social media integration: The best books aren’t about social media

If you’re charged with finding ways to integrate social media into your company’s corporate and marketing communications plans (and I hope you are, rather than just bolting on a few tactics here and there), then you need to read. Read to learn, and to motivate yourself. Because you have tough job. And much of it has little to do with social media tools.

These are two of the books I’ve found most helpful as I practice corporate communications as a social media consultant. (None of these are affiliate links. I just really like these books.) I bought them both and refer back to them when I feel stuck.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

What I learned:

  • To persuade people, you have to appeal to both the heart and mind (Yes, even in corporations. Step away from the charts and graphs).
  • Keep communications simple. If you want people to do something, give them a clear call the action.
  • If you hit an obstacle, work to figure out the true source.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey

What I learned:

Before you can affect any real change, you need the confidence to inspire confidence. And you do that by understanding how people work and responding appropriately. The most powerful lesson for me: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This is BIG for a talker like me. I’m learning to listen more.

Being a social media consultant in a corporation is as much about inspiring and persuading people as it is about new media communications and technology. Maybe more.

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Is IT playing Whack-a-Mole?

When someone says “IT architecture” I think of CPU towers stacked to make a building, lined with glowing desktop monitors for windows. “IT security” brings to mind little men with big muscles wandering around the network, ready to bounce cyber boogie men. That’s how much I know about IT.

I still think one-off blocking of various social/sharing sites from employee access is a futile game of Whack-a-Mole (hat tip to @JamieSandford for the brilliant imagery). As soon as you eradicate one, another pops up behind you. New platforms are introduced weekly. It’s tough to predict which will catch on. Why not be proactive and figure out how to safely enable employees to enhance their work and career development with these tools instead? Create and maintain a strong infrastructure to support the company, and equip it to thwart cyber attacks.

Communicators can do their part too, by offering up a social media policy and collaborating to create and implement training and education. HR and management need to enforce the policy and any regulatory or compliance guidelines. IT can build in “speed bumps” that pop up reminders when employees access sites that may introduce viruses and such.

Or maybe they just need to stack the CPUs differently…

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Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

If you’re going to push for change in your company, people are going to push back. They’re going to ask questions. Good questions. Some people will openly support you, some will discreetly cheer you on, some will throw up (mostly well-intentioned) roadblocks, most will ignore you.

Get used to it.

People are fearful of change. Uncertainty is scary. And there are many legitimate concerns to address when companies face major changes.

But if you can’t get comfortable with the tension, you’ll ease up on the pressure. And pressure is what makes us bend.

Photo credit: moominmolly via Flickr

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Forget about gaining your audience’s trust

Social media people (That sounds shady to me. Am I alone?) always talk about “gaining your audience’s trust.” And that’s important. But it skips past an all-important step: gaining your colleagues’ trust.

If you’re leading a communications culture shift, you’d better do some of that trust-building legwork inside the company first. I want to show people what goes into keeping the power on all day. It’s an enormous undertaking. And there are some great stories to be told. Like the turkey vulture dung shields our crews invented. Or the yellow jacket attack. That’s a good one! Then there are the close calls our guys have had in some of our work zones. Remind me to tell you about these sometime, will you?

So I grab my camera, Flip cam, and hard hat and head out into the field on a regular basis. I need to explain what social media’s about and ensure the people I work with that I’m trying to make them look good. I’ve considered the risks. I’ve got their backs.

But showing up with donuts isn’t enough. The people who regularly work around energized power lines aren’t impressed when the smiley lady from corporate communications shows up once in a while to take their picture. Why should they trust me?

So I keep showing up. And when they invite me into their “office” to see what it’s like to do business three stories up, I step into the bucket truck, strap on a harness and try to still my pounding heart. And when that hydraulic arm takes us back down to the dusty earth, I detect a slight shift in the way the crew feels about me.

“Hey Lisa, come take a look at these porcelain insulators. Maybe people would want to know what they do. Bring your Flip cam.”

I visited this crew in Concord, N.C. as they were installing new lines in preparation for expanding the roadway beside Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The lines were not yet connected to the power so they were not energized. I mention this because the crew wanted me to know they wouldn’t take me up in a bucket around energized lines. And they’d want you to know that too.

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Taking the shine off social media

Reading Altimeter’s “The Two Career Paths of the Corporate Social Strategist” was like being doused with ice water:

“As requests compound, the strategist must build proactive programs now – or be relegated to ongoing cleanup as the social media help desk.”

This well-thought-out analysis brought something into laser focus: as corporate social media advocates, we have the opportunity to shape our roles. And a major struggle – managing all the requests to open social media channels coming from across the company – offers a major opportunity: to avoid becoming the “help desk.”

I’ve been feeling a little like I did in middle school gym class (I took the “dodge” out of dodgeball) what with so many requests to open social channels coming from all directions.

When people are attracted to social media like second cousins to the wedding reception shrimp, we need to rub off some of the shine. Try the mild abrasive action of a questionnaire, including questions like these:

Who are you trying to reach? Do they spend time on [fill in shiny object of choice here]? What are you hoping to achieve? Who will be accountable for keeping the site alive? Who will create and maintain your content calendar? Who will keep the content coffers full? How will you monitor and moderate comments? What about after hours?

The people who are dedicated to making these channels work will rise to the challenge of providing beefy answers. Some will realize social media requires more time and resources than they have available, and some will just see that there’s nothing there for them right now. 

We want to enable people who understand their bigger idea and how social media fits into it, but who needs 100 ineffectual social channels stagnating across the web with your company’s logo plastered all over them?

The next thing you know, you’re on cleanup duty, wondering how you got there.

Photo credit: Blyzz via Flickr

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The best tools for making corporate social media progress

Donuts.

Also: chairs, hallways, sandwiches and coffee mugs.

These are the tools you’ll need if you want your corporate communications team to start blogging, your HR group to get on Facebook and the IT guys to start sharing on twitter – or to open twitter to your employees.

You’ve heard social media is “all about relationships.” Well, it’s true. Your success hinges on who’s picking sprinkles off his shirt.

For me, it’s the folks who get in bucket trucks on cold, rainy mornings, hoist themselves up and then lay rubber-gloved hands on 24 kV-charged power lines so they can make repairs without turning off customers’ power.

These are the guys who do the real work around here. If I want to take pictures and videos of them at work, and post them publicly, and open them up to public comments (and scrutiny), the least I can do is pay them a visit during their morning briefings. I also meet with their managers, regional directors and safety supervisors.

This is where donuts come in handy too. You can’t talk with your mouth full of cake and raspberry jelly.

Because it isn’t about shmoozing your way around the rules or manipulating people into doing (much) more than they’re comfortable doing. It’s more about Steven Covey’s Habit Number 5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Listen first. Understand why they’re worried about posting pictures, what the security risks are, where the compliance pitfalls lie or why employee relations come into play when a company opens access to Facebook. Ask lots of questions. Acknowledge their fears and accountabilities.

Then launch into your “opportunities abound” presentation, with all the passion and fire you can muster. Just wipe the jelly off your face first.

Photo credit: SideReal via Flickr

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