Take heed Social Media Experts, Gurus, Ninjas, Samurai, Other

Take heed Social Media Experts, Gurus, Ninjas, Samurai, Other

Seems like this conversation comes up about every 6 – 9 months and I am usually late to the conversation. I last wrote about this almost 3 years ago (boy, my writing style sure has changed). Rest assured, I am not here to judge or ridicule anyone – just make a point, add some value to the conversation and hopefully help a few people along the way.

I am capitalist. So whatever business you are in or whatever you want to call yourself to in order to make a living doesn’t bother me at all  – as long as it’s legal of course.  I do get a little agitated at times when someone tries to sell me a social media seminar for $13K but whatever.  I certainly don’t hate anyone and I am sure Peter Shankman was just trying to make a point when he said that, “all social media experts should go die in a fire”, although it had me laughing hysterically.

Shel Israel wrote in a post the other day and said that “social media’s disruption is pretty much over” and that social media is “normalizing inside of business.”  This is probably the first time I have ever disagreed with Shel but I have a different view. The disruption is not over – it has shifted. And, social media is far from becoming normal inside of any business operation.

Peter Kim was right.  We are moving into a new era of social business. But what does that exactly mean? Let me explain what that means to me based on my experience working in the enterprise.

Most organizations do realize the growing influence of the social customer; and they do pretty well in Facebook, Twitter and they are certainly hiring the thousands of community managers that exist today; or hiring agencies to manage their communities. Yeah, many make mistakes but for the most part, they do get it or they will get it sooner than later.  I refer to these companies as social brands (or at least they are trying to be.) Social media marketing – the way it is defined today is becoming a commodity skill set. Everyone knows how to do it – consultants, experts, PR and digital agencies and even the larger consulting firms are starting to dip their toes in.

The disruption today has nothing to do with the external nature of the brand; but everything to do with the internal dynamics of the way a business operates.

It’s not visible to most because it’s happening behind the firewall. I would go as far as saying that there is organizational chaos (and even anarchy in some cases) happening in many companies today. Big companies.

Organizational silos still exist and are alive and well today. No one knows who should own social media or which function it should report into. Marketing and PR teams are still fighting for it.  Everyone in the organizations measures social media differently. Companies are struggling to organize their teams to be the most effective. Minimal collaboration is present and being facilitated by technology; yet, business culture as a whole is resisting change. Technology decisions still take years to make, and even longer to deploy (try getting an IT manager and marketing manager in the same conference room together and agreeing on next steps of a project … yeah right).  Budgets, for the most part, are a non-existent line item.

An organization that is evolving, either willingly or forcefully into a collaborative social business is attempting to solve these problems.

The social media consultant/manager/strategist isn’t going anywhere and nothing will change in the near term.  There will always be a need to manage content, engage with the community, create advocacy programs, influencer outreach, pull metrics and the list goes on. And, most companies today can’t afford to hire entire teams internally to do this. What is changing, however, and will be a problem for many is the growing competition. Everyone and their mom is a social media expert or community manager.  But business decision-makers are getting smarter and not basing their hiring decisions on the quantity of Twitter followers or self-proclaimed titles anymore. They want business value, someone who can help them navigate through their own social business evolution.

So here is my advice. I hope it’s valuable.

If you are a social media expert, I would highly recommend you begin to learn about the enterprise and apply your social media acumen to help optimize and humanize general business operations and job functions like the following (not a comprehensive list):

  • Human Resources – learn how HR teams are communicating with each other and with the business units/employees they support. Learn what technology applications they are using like to track employee/candidate data like PeopleSoft or Zoho.  Learn about their staffing/recruiting process and how they are using LinkedIn, Facebook and Google to find quality candidates.
  • Learning & Organizational Development (sometimes a part of the Human Resources Function) – this is one area I wish I had learned more about when I worked on the L&D team at Sony. Learn about what type of training and curriculum is being developed for employees and what kind of change management initiatives are being rolled out to the organization. Understand if they are working with employee communications and what tools they are using to communicate (Yammer, Intranet); and what Learning Management System (LMS) is deployed.
  • Supply Chain Management – learn about the process on which the storage of raw materials, WIP inventory and finished goods get from one phase to the next. Understand how orders are being taken, shipping procedures and how partners are collaborating with each other until the product becomes readily available for sale. Figure out how the use of social technologies can help streamlines these processes.
  • Customer Support – learn about the technology they use to manager their call centers. What type of IVR are they using? Does it integrate with the CRM application? Is the call center outsourced? Are they using social media to solve customer problems? And, also learn about call center metrics like cost per call, customer satisfaction, first call resolution, hold times, service levels and response times – there are certainly ways that social technologies and increased collaboration can create efficiencies.
  • Communications (marketing & PR) – get a high level understanding of how the two often separate organizations work together. Understand and learn about the communication gaps and examine their organizational structure. Learn about organizational models and think hard about roles/responsibilities and communication.
  • Sales – learn about the sales organization.  How do they communicate with each other, partners, customers and prospects when on the road? Are they using a CRM application and does it integrate with any social applications deployed? Are sales people using Twitter or online communities to find and track leads? Better yet, does the CRM application merry the customer record to external social profiles?

At the end of the day, much of this revolves around change management. In fact, I would argue that the entire foundation upon on which a social business is built is change management. All of this other operational stuff doesn’t matter if the organization as a whole – starting with the organizational leadership – isn’t committed to changing their behavior, their culture, the way they do business.

I write at length about this very topic in my upcoming book , Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media in Your Organization scheduled to be released in July 2011. You can pre-order by clicking on the below social business book cover. Thank you for your support.


About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • http://twitter.com/RyanCritchett Ryan Critchett

    Mike, this is huge bro. 

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and you’re right, we’re not talking about some concept or idea on the outside, we’re talking about Rob and Stacy making behavioral changes, and executing from a new configuration of thought. Since the number one need for human beings (arguably) is to do what’s familiar, this poses a problem but only if:

    They don’t realize they need to evolve

    They do realize they need to evolve, but are afraid to

    They (in the back of their minds) know they should evolve, but somehow think the intellectual business evolution will start to go backwards, and things will be the same as they were. Unfortunately, we won’t wake up tomorrow and see that it’s 2006 again. I’M PSYCHED about this change. I love evolution and you’re on it bro, the social media consultant isn’t going anywhere, but needs to understand these important components. This reminds me a lot of the book The  @nowrevolution:twitter . 

  • http://twitter.com/bikehugger byron@bikehugger

    Admittedly much of what us experts did was entirely made up. Meaning we winged it in pitches and meetings to explain blogging and eventually social media then needed to codify in manifesto and apply terms like ROI or redefining what business were already doing in new mediums. Business has always been social, we’ve just got new tools and mores now that are more social. As I said on Twitter, there are business that operate under the radar of the tech news that have zero interest in the feel-goodness of Facebook and Twitter, but also want to be relevant and wonder what these tools can do for them. Importantly, whatever they do must move the needle for them, because it’s not a brand experiment. They’ve got no marketing budget.

  • http://www.britopian.com Michael Brito

    Ryan — thanks for the note. Yes, definitely similar for sure. Amber and Jay did a fantastic job with the Now Revolution.

    To build on your comments, as society progresses and business changes, this evolution is going to change naturally .. especially as new business leaders (Facebook generation) clmb the corporate ladder.

  • http://www.socialmediaforlawfirms.com Samantha Collier

    Another excellent post Michael. I’m passing it on now. You hit the nail on the head with using social media to help optimize general business functions. I work in a law firm where we constantly need to share information with attorneys across three offices.  We are thinking of using social media to disburse this information in an internal structure.  It’s quite interesting to see how it will work in the long run.  

  • http://www.britopian.com Michael Brito

    Byron — i agree but that’s a problem…. there needs to be budget allocated towards social initatiaves. It can’t be left over dollars from the marketing or PR anymore.

  • http://twitter.com/JanetAronica Janet Aronica

    What is this social business nonsense? I Tweet for a living. 😛 

    Seriously, great post. What I like is that you offered a *solution* – something that people can do to prove their worth in this business. It’s not just another rant about social media “experts.”

    Also something I’ve heard mentioned in some of these conversations is this important point: There are snake oil salesmen in every industry. My dad does ad sales and has worked in TV and radio for many years. I hear stories about phonies in that industry all the time. My godfather is a personal injury lawyer… lotta phonies in there as well. Name any occupation – bus driver, hair stylist, teacher, doctor… etc etc… some people are just fake and can’t really put the actions behind their words. The difference here with the social media expert/clowngate meme is that we are more inclined to blog, Tweet and talk about it more than in these other occupations who don’t exist in the social media echochamber.

  • http://twitter.com/SGaspary Stephanie Gaspary

    This is such a great post for so many reasons. I fully agree with your point that social media is far from becoming normal inside of any business operation. And the average strategists who simply have experience with social marketing may not be equipped to change the organization internally without having a strong history with the company and knowledge of how things get done.  Sure there are brands like Dell and Zappos that are frequently referenced for weaving social throughout their organizations, but these companies are still the minority. Even when you work for a company that is digitally savvy and accepting of new forms of communication, it still takes a cultural shift to get all the departments you mentioned onboard. For me it’s been rather easy to convince my organization that this is important, but full adoption is still going to take time and a lot of effort from stakeholders throughout the company. Good reminder here on the roadmap.

  • http://www.britopian.com Michael Brito

    @twitter-17218986:disqus – yes, the snake oil salesman are everywhere. One search in Twitter for “social media” yields hundreds of them, literally. I always try to add value in my posts .. thanl you for your support as usual.

  • http://www.britopian.com Michael Brito

    @twitter-17218986:disqus – yes, the snake oil salesman are everywhere. One search in Twitter for “social media” yields hundreds of them, literally. I always try to add value in my posts .. thanl you for your support as usual.

  • http://www.britopian.com Michael Brito

    @twitter-17218986:disqus – yes, the snake oil salesman are everywhere. One search in Twitter for “social media” yields hundreds of them, literally. I always try to add value in my posts .. thanl you for your support as usual.

  • http://www.britopian.com Michael Brito

    @twitter-14839008:disqus hi, loved your comments – “it still takes a cultural shift to get all the departments you mentioned onboard” .. there is still so much work to be done too!

  • http://www.britopian.com Michael Brito

    @twitter-14839008:disqus hi, loved your comments – “it still takes a cultural shift to get all the departments you mentioned onboard” .. there is still so much work to be done too!

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

     I feel its  good investing in
    Social media. Social Media platform is ideal for different uses and should
    therefore have a customized strategy. Due to the rapid rise in popularity and
    relevancy many online marketing companies now offer Social Media Marketing and
    strategy development services which are paramount to the success of Social
    Media as a viable marketing channel.

  • http://shanegarrison.com blog online marketing

    It will take a lot of good ideas to keep up with the changes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chen.lavonia Chen Lavonia

    I always try to add value in my posts .. thanl you for your support as usual.