Lead but don’t control. Change agent versus traffic cop. One voice builds trust.
These are three of several relevant points that Rachel D. Metscher made in her presentation at the 2012 PRSA Mid-Atlantic District Chesapeake Conference. Metscher hails from Hobsons, a maker of education software, and what struck me about her talk was that it wasn’t an exceptionally phenomenal or star-studded social media program. It was from the trenches, it was realistic and, in my view, it reflected the very real challenges corporations face.
To that end, I found her presentation to be pragmatic, thought-provoking and helpful and wanted to share a few of her points. Her presentation, which has been posted to SlideShare, is embedded below, and here are four lessons from the corporate social media trenches:
1. You need an executive champion. Asking the ROI of social media is a likely question of an executive getting pitched on a social media program. Metscher quips in response, “You have to give me an investment before I can show you a return on that investment (ROI).” But then she went a different route: she pointed to a litany of inquiries and complaints from existing customers on Hobson’s social media channels. More importantly, she demonstrated how by simply engaging, Hobsons turned a complaining customer into a brand advocate.
2. You need a brand army. Every company has an army in its employees – employees with the potential to be powerful advocates for a brand on social media. But there’s a catch: focusing their enthusiasm in a manner that’s productive, rather than distracting. Employees, especially those new to social media, need guidance on appropriate social media posts because those engagements can both build and detract from a brand, or both attract and repel customers.
3. Everyone is an expert. This bullet almost sounds like the tag line from Help A Reporter Out – the part that is missing is “at something.” Social media has plenty of critics, experts and editors, but what corporations need most in the trenches is contributors, says Metscher. There are a lot of people who think, feel and believe, but what an effective corporate social media program really needs is for people to roll up their sleeves and get involved.
4. Change is hard. Social media is forcing change both inside and outside the corporation. The impact social media has had on the sales cycle is one example. Metscher says the “sales funnel” has morphed into a “consideration funnel” which is reminiscent of Jay Rosen’s enduring headline, “The People Formerly Known as the Audience.” Internally, change management is hard as well since the reaction to social posts, such as those unanswered customer inquiries noted earlier, require a breakdown of functional silos – where PR, sales and customer service all merge – and a literally require change in routine.