Why Your Business Needs to Be Focused On Social Media: Unlocking Potential and Avoiding Pitfalls

Background

We are in the midst of a social media revolution.  Like the Arab Spring uprisings, where revolutionary leaders used social media to create widespread awareness, support, rapidly communicate with and mobilize supporters, social media is now enabling organizations to do business as never before.  It is increasing collaboration and breaking down barriers between internal organizations and the external world.  It is also fundamentally changing how work is performed and how organizations operate.

Today’s organizations are faced with a business environment that is increasingly global, competitive and fast paced and where disruptive innovation may render existing business models obsolete.  If they do not act quickly and adapt to these changes, they may not survive.  Such was the case of Borders who failed to adjust to the onset of e-books, unlike their main competitor, Barnes and Noble, who came out with the Nook.  Barnes and Noble is still operating while Borders recently shuttered all their stores.  The choice is not whether to adapt to change and implement social media in organizations; rather it is how to best implement it in order to survive in the rapidly evolving business environment.

The influx of digital natives, the increased presence of virtual employees and the prevalence of virtual global teams has made organizations adapt to new labor market realities.    At the same time, social media use is climbing. With around 800 million people around the world using Facebook, more than 25% of all Americans spending time on social media sites, and the majority of the Fortune 500 implementing social media programs, it is clear that the “social media phenomenon” is not just a fad.

Social Media and Organization 2.0

Organizations are learning how to adapt their cultures to employees who can and want to work differently as well as customers who want to buy and be serviced in more inclusive ways.  These changes have impacted all aspects of organizations including recruiting and selection, rewards and incentives, job roles, leadership, and training and development.  It has also become clear that different skills sets will be required to meet the evolving organizational paradigms.  And as employees have more external touch points, employers recognize that new guidelines, polices and training programs must be put in place.

While social medial media has enabled many positive outcomes, such as new approaches for marketing, branding and communications, opportunities for thought leadership, recruitment of hard-to-find skilled candidates, increased employee engagement and better customer  service, it is clear that it has changed expectations of participation and created a loss of employer control.  It requires more transparency and  a reframing of employee personal versus public communications.

The Upside and the Downside

Brands take on new meaning in the age of social media. Employees can be a visible and positive force in this environment and serve as brand ambassadors.  Companies like IBM have been very successful in utilizing their workers to aid their brand.  They demonstrate brand values and deliver upon brand promises and expectations.  But, judgment must be used on social media and there are many cases of employees hurting brands by writing inappropriate things and embarrassing their employers.   Recently, a Philadelphia high school teacher was suspended with pay after she wrote a blog in which in which she spoke harshly about her students saying, “They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners.  Similarly, an Albuquerque police officer was placed on desk duty after listing his occupation on his Facebook profile as “Human waste disposal.”  Other examples include a police woman posting inappropriate Facebook pictures alongside police insignia, waitresses writing negative things about their customers, and employees defaming supervisors.  And, even a member of Congress, Anthony Weiner, had to resign after tweeting lewd pictures of himself to a young woman.

Without proper training or guidance, employees can unintentionally or maliciously damage organizational reputations, resulting in the loss of customers, revenue and intellectual property.  This behavior can have a negative impact on employee morale, create management difficulties and the inability to recruit top candidates, as well as cause legal issues.  That is why smart organizations are being proactive and trying to understand the readiness of their organizations with respect to social media.  They realize it is critical to have metrics that allow one to understand existing usage among employees, guidelines awareness, etc.  This way they can assess how effective any planned social media implementation will be or measure how successful existing ones are.

The Solution

The solution we developed is PSMOTM – a Program for Social Media Optimization – that is designed to measure the organization’s current status as an entity in the social media context, identify and solve for any competitive weaknesses and optimize its functioning to produce employees who act as brand ambassadors in the social media cultural milieu.Image

The PSMOTM process assesses the eight (8) specific factors that comprise organizational optimization regarding employees’ social media behaviors and brand advocacy.  The assessment process involves quantitative survey research and in-depth qualitative interviews among the organization’s leaders (policy-makers) and “customer-facing” employees.  An organization’s PSMOTM profile is used to determine specific strategies and tactical programs that can be implemented to achieve a more effective set of social media policies to drive better employee selection, retention, leadership, and branding.

For more information about the PSMOTM program, feel free to contact Andrea Goldberg, Ph.D., President of Digital Culture Consulting, LLC. (http://www.digitalcultureconsulting.com/)

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