I have gone to enough conferences over the past 6 months to pull the alarm. Consider it pulled. Why? I have gone to a number of social media conferences dedicated to functions or departments and I have found that each function had a different perspective on the fit of social media in their organization. Here are a few examples of my recent experience at these conferences.
Public Relations and Communication
The general thinking here was one of resistance and consequently little ownership. There was an overall view that social media was another layer of work and if they were pushed to “embrace this phenomenon” the thinking was about how to continue current habits using social media. The current habits or practice included pushing information to the public. Oh dear, this approach just oozes doom. It was quite surprising to me that the “stakeholder management and communications” professionals were somewhat reluctant to want to own, or at least pursue, an opportunity to use social media as a way to reach and engage with their stakeholders on a deeper level. The whole concept of building those relationships, or listening, was not raised. Now having said that- there was a clear generational difference in the audience. The younger adults would try to share the merits of social media however they were soon overshadowed by the more dominant older crowd. Very intriguing- speaks to my earlier post on generational differences.
Human Resources (HR)
I wrote a blog post on this group of professionals : the HR Goes Social Impact 99 conference. A high energy conference. The HR professionals were a lot more engaging and was definitely looking at this new medium as an opportunity for engagement and collaboration both internal and external to the organization. Their prime focus was talent acquisition, corporate communication and employee collaboration. Here the enthusiasm was infectious.
Sales & Marketing
Across all the conferences the Sales & Marketing group was very excited about having a new channel to market and sell. The challenge was what was the best way to leverage these potential platforms of wealth. Which one is the yellow brick road to dollars and success.
Publishing and Broadcasting
Most surprising of the bunch. I found this group very traditional in their thinking. While the nextMedia conference had excellent speakers, the panel discussions with the mainstream media Executives were very traditional in their thinking and although they felt they needed to have a social media presence , I was somewhat taken back, when they referenced their “pool of bloggers” like a pool of secretaries characteristic of the 1950s when being politically correct was less fashionable. They were in a time warp. It was quite eye-opening. They shared that “They had bloggers whose work they would edit before publishing anything for the public”. It seemed they were a few decades behind the times. The word “empowerment” and “accountability” seemed not to be in their vocabulary. I hope this is not representative of all but given the high profile of this conference, it was very telling.
Packaging and Manufacturers
I found this group wanting to learn more about social media however not really sure of the fit in their line of work. The conference shared basic information and experiences. Again, it was more of an exploratory experience neither for or against social media.
Now I recognize that this is a sample analysis and there is a danger of generalization. So if you are reading this and have another perspective, please do share. Would love to hear from you. However having said that, there are key takeaways here. All these professionals had different perspectives on the role of social media- its use and fit in their organization. I cannot help but wonder with all these conferences for the different departments, how are these experiences, learnings, and thinking integrated when they return to their organizations? Are they integrated? I have my suspicions. Can you imagine the turmoil around the table when the subject of social media is raised?
There is no doubt in my mind that social media should be an organization-wide, cross-functional strategy for it to succeed. I believe if it isn’t, it will fail. Having each department decide on their own social media strategy spells failure before an organization even gets started. I know “integration” is my mantra but I am challenged to see it any another way. Like any strategy or organization change, alignment and common goals are imperative. Each department has a role to play while working towards that over-aching goal and if not align the benefits will not be realized. This is why when bringing in a social media capability, you need to start with the strategy. You start at the top. Otherwise you may get pockets of excellence but your successes without a doubt are compromised. Recently, I heard a presentation titled :Social Media Infrastructure by Sam Fiorella which provided an excellent model on corporate alignment. Thank goodness there are others with this thinking. What do you think? Do let me know. Also continue the conversation with your network. Let me know of any pearls you discover.
Photos by LexnGer
- Which Department Should Lead Your Social Media Activities? | The Social Customer (serve4impact.com)
- 20 Social Media Blogs You Should Read in 2012 (pamorama.net)
- Social Media For Everyone (digitalebookformatting.wordpress.com)
- Social Media Infrastructure (Sam Fiorella)