How to get started with Social Media in your organization

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There are two main schools of thought when it comes to establishing Social Media in an organization: One is the more traditional (in a corporate sense) top-down, the other is the (more webby) bottom-up.

In one, a Social Media strategy is planned and implemented and handed down inside the organization. Pro: top-level support. Con: not all that organic. In the other, employees take Social Media in their own hands and just push the topic themselves. Pro: It’s agile and organic, plus the employees are invested themselves. Con: Can be messy, and there’s no management buy-in.

I’d propose a third way, where the top-level management encourages Social Media engagement and provides a framework for it. Most notably, it must be clear that employees who dabble in Social Media don’t get into trouble for doing so, and they must be given the opportunity to get more resources if needed. Employees on the other hand should feel free to experiment and learn the ropes, then pass on their knowledge and insights to their colleagues. These evangelists should be given the freedom and resources they need, and should also be taken into responsibility to document and share their learnings. It’s a two way street, really.

One aspect I’ve heard over and over again when doing workshops with clients is that often there are people in all hierarchy levels of an organization that are in favor of investing (time, resources, energy) in Social Media, but there is not enough exchange across hierarchies and departments. It’s important to identify evangelists all over the organization, from assistant level to top-level management, and connect them in some way or another. Think round tables, email lists, wikis, meetups – whatever best fits the organization’s culture.

There’s tremendous potential inside every organization, you just need to find it and foster exchange – that’s the first step. The second step, once all parties are talking to one another, you can adapt the organizational structures to reflect the needs that are now more clear. From then on it’s a matter of smart iterations.

So why not start today and ask around in your company: Who is interested in engaging in Social Media? Who’d like to take a lead, who’d like to support? Then give these folks some time to discuss their ideas and needs, and start pilot projects for the most promising ideas.

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