Seven misconceptions about corporate social networking

Companies fail at social media because they are too obsessed with delivering the 'correct' message, fail to provide meaningful content to attract participation, or consider social media to be just another marketing channel.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

When people within your company start social networking programs, always ask yourself: Are they thinking 'tribe,' and not 'market segment'? Are they thinking 'knowledge networks' and not 'channels'?

These questions come from my friend Francois Gossieaux, who, along with co-author Ed Moran, has just published a new book that leads managers and business leaders through this new connected economy, titled The Hyper-Social Organization: Eclipse Your Competition by Leveraging Social Media.

While there are extreme competitive advantages to effectively deploying social media strategies to build communities around your enterprise, there is also no shortage of misconceptions, Francois and Ed point out.

1) Build it and they will (continue to) come: "The mere presence of an online venue does not automatically create a community to populate it," Francois and Ed point out. "You need valuable content in order to get your communities going..."

2) The "not-invented-here" syndrome: "Company executives first read or hear about the amazing benefits that other companies have gained by leveraging social media and communities. Then they get the sense that their company is falling behind, and they 'empower' their marketing team or their IT team to initiate hyper-social programs... they never bother to do an ecosystem scan to see whether the tribes they might want to engage with are already congregating somewhere else.... People have limited attention, and they typically will not belong to more than one community with the same purpose." Partner with existing communities or complementary vendors, Francois and Ed say.

3) Keep it small so it doesn't move the needle: Because they are managed as pilot projects or are underfunded, "many hyper-social efforts are too small to make a difference to the business processes that they are supposed to support." Francois and Ed caution that "community efforts can literally be killed by their success" -- as the community grows, "there are not enough people working on the organization's side to effectively manage, moderate, or facilitate the community."

4) My company is smarter than I am: Companies are too obsessed or hidebound with delivering the marketing or approved-by-legal line in social media forums, versus allowing for spontaneous, human-to-human interaction. Lighten up and let your people loose, Francois and Ed urge: "As long as the information is delivered in an honest and fair exchange, people will reward you with their loyalty."

5) Finding that one "big idea" will work magic: One program will not make a dent in sales results, rather, sales growth results from a balanced mix of efforts, from word of mouth to customer service experiences. "Companies that are looking for the single hyper-social killer app will invariably walk away disappointed."

6) It's my world, customer, just live in it: Social networking isn't just another channel for wringing out new profits from customers. In a hyper-social economy, "authenticity, fairness, and transparency are rewarded, and human customers must be at the center of everything we do."

7) You can control your brand: The power of brand creation is shifting away from corporate corner offices and toward consumers. Companies successfully making the shift "are learning from their discussions with their tribes that are a number of dynamics affecting their brand, and that they have very little control over these dynamics."

As Francois and Ed explain, social networking needs to be an informal, honest, and participatory engagement with the "tribes" (used interchangeably with "communities") within an organization's sphere of interest -- and not some one-off program that attempts to bludgeon consumers over the head with new marketing pitches.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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