Friday, November 30, 2012

Love in the time of Social Media


What do people love about social media?  When you live like an insect in the weeds you often don't even stop to think.  In fact, you are usually simply checking out the weeds from this vantage point day in and day out.  And I would argue it doesn't matter if you are a strategist or a market maker, if you live inside the bubble you will lose your perspective quickly.  So it made me think a little, since I would imagine those who read what I write are focused on the subject, about trying to get on the top of the trees a little.
If you ask anyone involved who works in this space, they might say they love social media because of the opportunity, or because it is a bright shiny new object and most would say because they feel connected perhaps.  These are all reason that cutting edge flies find innovative honey.  I believe the reality of this post is less about why people love social media and more about why they need to figure out how to love it.  My experiences are telling me that there are more reasons we don’t like social media as much as we do.  And I am not being negative when I say this, I am simply trying to go beyond evangelism and more towards practicality.  In fact, the best way to sell a new idea is learning to live in the mind of those who resist.

So firstly, what are the reasons that people need to figure out how to love social media?

Reason #1 – They have to.

This is me being the master of the obvious.  All the naysayers are finally coming to terms with the idea that social data is not going down, is becoming more relevant day by day, and is helping their consumers/customers make decisions.  Social is simply a reality now.  And I am sorry I have to write this paragraph, but if I didn’t this wouldn’t be a thorough enough post.

Reason #2 – Fear is the mind killer and their minds are at risk

One of my favorite politics of innovation principles is this; great innovators are often successful because they have encountered the desperate.  In social, there are many desperate executives, managers and workers being told that Reason #1 is valid and they are now desperate.  It doesn’t matter that they want to resist, slowly but surely the social media borg are taking over and they are trying to wrap their mind around something that is forcing them to change way faster than any “fad” they were afraid of in the past.

Reason #3 – They have had a near death social experience

Their reality is their experience and they love social because they have been burned by its fire.  If reason #1 is true and they are scrambling to get their mind around it, then having a true experience when it bites them is enough of a reason to learn to love it.  This would also fit into the encountering the desperate, but those who have been burned and lived are now more logically thinking through what to do to avoid having it happen again.

And secondly, what can you do to help those who are learning to love social media that they are safe?

So what can you do to accelerate those who are merely learning to love social media to become those who actually embrace it the way they need to?  As someone trying to help others understand why to buy something that lives over the horizon, it is imperative to learn how to find their sweet spot.
If we agree the reason’s above are true as to why others must learn to love social, then you need some weapons to help them get there.  Below are a few thoughts gained during my experiences living within the corporate monolith for 15 years  that always helped an intrapreneur succeed in gaining investment in the adoption of new ideas.
In my experience, great innovators are often successful because of 4 different drivers.  These include, data, power, influence and personal drivers.  Each of these drivers has sub drivers that helps you “read and react” in any situations.  These are different than the rules of thumb I described before.  I would say that the art of helping those who are learning to love is founded in these “success drivers” and how you use them.

Success Driver #1 – You’ve encountered the desperate (Influence Driver)

I know I mentioned it, but for someone who is resistant to doing something new (which your organization has many of these) this driver is the most helpful at getting the proverbial “quick hit”.  One can never underestimate the power of someone who really needs you; the desperate.  This sounds like a negative, but in some cases, helping them when they need you can help create new allies WHILE getting your new idea embedded in the organization.  As stated in Reason #2, the entire organization is become afraid of ignoring social, so in essence the company could become desperate.  The trick is to find the people within who are opening their minds.  This leads us nicely to Success Driver #2…

Success Driver #2 – You have strong standards of legitimacy (Data Driver)

You are working with someone who is starting to see the light or has simply been burned (the desperate), while they are going to be susceptible to your ideas, remember they have been resistant in the past.  You can’t simply go running into their office wild eyed with big new ideas.  Chances are no matter how much they are “desperately” trying to love social media, they got there by being someone who is “sensible”, prides themselves of taking “calculated risks” and understand “how things are done around here”.  You need to bring something concrete in your suitcase.  It is the essence of negotiation; strong standards.  What does this mean?  You have a strong experience based example that will align with how they thing about things.  In negotiations your rationale for your proposal for influencing someone is based on having a strong standard or simply put a reason you can point to for proposing what you are trying to get away with.  If you can help your client, who is learning to find the passion, feel safer because why they should adopt social is not terribly far from where they live, you can get them to try something new.

Success Driver #3 – You have created Hierarchical Cascade (Power Driver)

What the hell does this mean?  A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I was charged with making new prototypes for cleaning products of all things.  And in this job, I didn’t own the product launch, I didn’t own the interaction with the customer, I didn’t own the message when the idea launched.  Frankly, I didn’t own anything.  My skill was my ability to come up with new ideas and imagine what a person cleaning their floor would do.  Then I had to come up with a bottle of juice so compelling that it met the needs of the person launching it to the market, it met the needs of the person trying it and it allowed the person marketing it to say what they needed.  When I had so little power at the bottom of the consumer packaged goods food chain, I learned something very quickly.  If you can adeptly reach very high within the organization to demonstrate value to a decision maker, everyone in your way can quickly become “agreeable”.  Now everyone says that simply makes sense, sell high and you will always win.  I would caution anyone reading this to tread extremely carefully using this success driver.  Why?  Because it can quickly destroy all your tools in the last success driver (personal drivers) if done callously.  Innovation is absolutely about trust, transparency and collaboration.  Going around everyone can quickly leave bodies in the road that will leave a stench few will soon forget.  I bring this success driver into the discussion because of the nature of my reasons at the top of the post.  Follow my logic a moment.  Social media is here to stay and thus the organization, the leadership and the operators have to accept it.  This truth leads to people being afraid and makes them unsure what to do.  And this truth for those who are little late to have been burned by social to know they must do something.  Hierarchical Cascade is about knowing within the current landscape that someone high up is dealing with their new love of social, so the path to senior executives is going to be a pull.  Your opportunity to use this success driver has never been less dangerous.  If your CEO is dancing with their new passion for social, they are going to be looking for those they can trust to help them.  Leverage that shit…and don’t look back.

Success Driver #4 You have professional Credibility AND You have strong allies/relationships (Personal Drivers)

Ok, you are looking for a desperate ally who you is open to listening to new ideas using a historical that is in charge of making decisions so you can cement their “new love” of social.  Now you have found them.  Your ultimate success will be founded when you deliver the goods.  You are there because you work in social and have the credibility to make the recommendation.  Don’t blow it.  But I have put two success drivers here.  Why?  Because now that you have climbed the mountain to drive the change you will need support from someone to make sure you can play defense as you execute.  This is where the second driver comes in; strong allies and relationship.  We know that success has many parents and failure is an orphan.  Well you have just created a situation where parents will be running around everywhere trying to own your effort.  You ability to bring about the needed change after you hear Go will be about the strength of your village you build once you get going.  You are at the top now.  You are enabled to try something that will help everyone else “love social”.  Don’t forget to bring along your friends for the ride.  Going it alone is way less preferred than having everyone else win too.  It will make your ability to create hierarchical cascade way less dangerous in the future.

I know many of my posts seem a bit off kilter.  They vary between examples and theories and thoughts.  What I can tell you is this.  As an evangelist, many people simply dismiss our success as not being scalable because we sell on the merits of our passion.  Thinking this is a mistake.  Driving change is definitely an art, but to me it is a science too.  Why do I believe this?  Because after fighting the battles others are not willing to take on, the similarities in each situation from a cultural perspective are eerily similar.  This is what social media is about today.  It is not about whiz bang tools, great pitches and even decks with recommendations that result at the end.  If it were only about these things then the question about tangible ROI would be much firmer than it is.  In fact, if you think about it to a change agent the ROI question is their worst enemy because sometimes you don’t know even when you see.

Social media is about cultural adoption, creativity and collaborative innovation, NOT ROI.  It will be soon and has started to be over the past 12 months, but the free for all that exists is evidence of this.  And to bring it home for this evangelist: the fact that the market is unbalanced between pushing its message harder in a social media wind that blows back at you like a hurricane (because there is so much content every second) is evidence enough there is much change that will happen.

And as I like to say…change is my business and business is good.

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