How to get started with Social Media in your organization


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.

Seven rules for a corporate presence on Twitter


Twitter still seems to be one of the bigger mysteries for many folks out there, particularly in the corporate sphere. No surprise, it’s one of those phenomena that aren’t easily understood at a first glance. (When looking at a few hundred web 2.0 services for a study I was working on, Twitter was one of the very few – maybe the only one – I thought wasn’t even worth signing up for. Err, right.)

So all the better that Joel Postman over at Socialized shares his experiences with corporate Twitter accounts. His seven rules for success:

  1. Create a Twitter profile that helps people verify your legitimacy
  2. Let consumers know who they are talking to
  3. Empower your Twitter representative to make a difference
  4. Protect consumer information
  5. Include your social media affiliations on your corporate web site news page
  6. Be human, and have a sense of humor
  7. Turn control over to “regular” employees

That’s the short-short version, so don’t miss out on Joel’s more in-depth explanations. Also, to get a better understand Twitter and where they’re coming from, I recommend this video interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Vator TV. Jack Dorsey spent 15 years writing dispatch software for couriers, taxis and 911, so he’s very familiar with the concept of background noise and what has been called ambient intimacy:

There’s money in Web 2.0…


Corporate, CC-licensed, Image by Flickr User Halans…says Forrester‘s Josh Bernoff, author of Groundswell. It’s just that quite often, the most successful Web 2.0 companies aren’t widely recognized because they cater to a relatively unsexy target audience: Corporate. Here goes Bernoff in Harvard Business Publishing:

…there are a class of startup companies making good money right now from Web 2.0. They’re not flashy and they don’t grow like mushrooms. But they’ve got all the business they can handle and they are growing. I am talking about companies that serve corporate social application needs. This isn’t the typical Web 2.0 business paradigm, since serving corporate customers means lots of client service, which is people-intensive — it doesn’t lift off miraculously like a pure technology startup. In fact, in many of these companies, the technology itself is positively mundane. But the startups grow because they deliver value for which they can charge a premium and get customer loyalty. The customers of these companies don’t defect when something shiny and new comes along, because they like the service they’re getting.

It’s the part about the technology being mundane and still charging at a premium that I’d like to point out here: Do focus on getting your tech right, but more importantly, don’t forget that money could be in places you weren’t looking. Bernoff lists a whole lot of successful examples. Think corporate clients! Maybe, just maybe that way you can keep your service free for your clients and still earn your share, making it a win/win.

Sure, this doesn’t hold for all services. After all, Web 2.0 isn’t primarily corporate-driven. Quite the contrary, it’s the social factor that brought the Social Web to where it is today. But maybe there’s something in your service that corporations wouldn’t mind to pay for, and this would allow you to keep offering your services for free for consumers?

Think about your service or app for a second – is there anything you could offer corporations? Or is there a case where selling to corporate would ruin your Web 2.0 service? Please share!

Note: I’ll cross-post this to a new blog my friend and former colleague Burkhardt just launched: Hintergrundrauschen – Web 2.0 für die Verlagswelt. As you might have guessed, it’s in German. Also, I hadn’t planned on cross-posting, but since I had written the post in English already, I thought I might as well post it here, too.

Image: Corporate by Flickr user Halans, CC-licensed

Why Small Organizations See The Internet As A Chance, Big Ones See It As A Challenge


There is a thing about the internet, a notion that has been around since the early days: That the internet offers a chance to anyone to do something big, to start their own projects, companies, or even movements.

While this is true, what’s easily forgotten is that anyone refers mostly to individuals, or small organizations: Think start-ups, freelancers, NGOs, or clubs. The internet gives those small organizations some leverage compared to the big players, it levels the playing field. So small organizations, quite naturally, see the internet as a chance.

For big organizations, namely corporations (but also governments etc.), it’s a whole different story. Before the advent of the internet, these big players were, more or less, in charge; Certainly in charge of their own identities and products, but to some degree also of their customers and markets. They had control, and this has been dramatically changed by the internet. Big players are more likely to see the internet as a challenge, if not outright threat.

By now, major corporations have adopted the internet as a toolset for various purposes: Marketing, content distribution, public relations, customer service; also for internal knowledge work and transfer. But this process is far from finished. In many cases, the internet is just used to transfer traditional processes online without really taking advantage of the new possibilities of networked communication.

Start-ups, freelancers and the like have adapted far more quickly, as they are more agile and less restricted by hierarchies and longstanding rules, regulations, legacy – what’s commonly referred to as package. In these smaller teams, when you hit a problem, you just figure out a solution, a work-around. If you need help, you ping your network and find help in an instant, no long screening and hiring process required. In other words: The internet gives you the speed and flexibility you need to solve problems quickly and without much of a fuss.

Big corporations or governments don’t have that chance, it’s inherently not possible for them to react as quickly and flexibly. Big players need to react more slowly: for security reasons; to have time to evaluate potential long-term outcomes and implications; for their staff and stakeholders to have time to learn and catch up.

In my line of work I’ve worked much more with smaller organizations, NGOs, start-ups, agencies. In a few cases I’ve worked with (or in some cases: at) big organizations like an embassy, a newspaper, a publisher, a provider of medical services. The difference I made were very, very different, including (but not limited to) the speed of decision-making, the work pace, procedures and processes, and evaluation. Personally, I mostly preferred the work style in smaller organizations.

However, the big companies have one advantage: Resources. The biggies have the money to just do stuff, once they decide, and to assign significant manpower to projects. So it’s always somewhat tricky to find the balance between Powerpoint Karaoke vs Getting Stuff Done, between Throwing Money At Marketing vs Building Cool Stuff Quickly. Both are tempting in one way or another.

One issue though remains that still needs to be resolved: Many big companies, particularly in the content industry, see the internet primarily as a threat, as a marketplace for stolen good, as a bazaar of doom. They would, if that was an option, shut down the internet, or regulate it so it catered their own interests. Quite often, their interests conflict with their customers’. The opponents, if you want to call them that, are perceived as thugs, criminals, pirates.

Quite often, these so-called pirates have no intention of hurting or damaging corporations or corporate interests, but prioritize their own interests as users. Sometimes this is illegal, sometimes it isn’t. Almost always, though, it disrupts the companies’ traditional business models. (For more thoughts on this, check out The Pirate’s Dilemma.)

Now, to cut a long story short: How can big organizations adopt these strategies that can be found on the web frequently? How to make use of these tools, ideas, and models to grow and innovate, instead of trying to suppress them? This will need a major mind-change for a great many corporate and government players, and some bold risk-taking. The walk won’t be easy, or free of risks. However, the potential benefits are huge, for both the big players and their stakeholders. I’m looking forward to see this development evolve, and to be part of it.