I’d like to take a minute and tell you a bit about the concept of Behind The Firewall and what this project is about.
Behind The Firewall is an ongoing project of Arik Hanson and myself to explore the uses of social media inside companies. Our goal is to uncover the ideas, recommendations, solutions, and experiences of internal communicators, marketers, collaboration experts, team & project leads, and really anyone who is working to empower their organization through the use of social media.
There are always challenges in doing something new. Inside a large corporation, we run across a number of things that can keep innovation from occurring, or at least, minimizes the change brought about by innovation.
Social media is one of those combination’s of skills, tool-sets, and creativity. It challenges the accepted practices of the old guard and makes companies (i.e. groups of people working together) uncomfortable.
Of course, a discussion of the challenges of social media within an organization has to start somewhere, and one of the most critical things folks will run across is it’s perception. Many people already have an idea of what social media is, what it’s used for, and who uses it.
Of course, the problem with perceptions is that they’re often wrong. It’s your first job to start either changing the perception, or more importantly, setting them. People usually will give you a chance to explain something new before really making a judgment call on it. Give them the wrong impression, and you’ve then set a perception about what you’re doing that you’ll have to work hard to overcome. Take the time to really understand who you’re talking to before trying to tell people about what social media can do.
Another challenge to exploring corporate social media use is the culture in that company. Many conservative organizations have very rigid structures, several management levels, and an entrenched bureaucracy to deal with. Overcoming this impediment takes time, once again to learn the culture and how it works.
The opportunity in this should be to make connections to the influencers in the company. These folks are usually more open to new ideas, and can often be approachable, even if some of their team says otherwise. Most people that gain attention inside any organization have good ideas and management pays attention to folks with good ideas. Work on developing a relationship with these folks because they have the potential to become your most powerful advocates for change.
This is key and one of the more important things to focus on. When given the chance, always try to educate rather than preach – we all hear enough hype and buzz already. Education on the value of social media is crucial to gaining trust on the topic with middle management. Keep the explanations simple, to the point, and most importantly, relevant to either the business or the manager’s scope of responsibility. Anything more than that can sometimes confuse the point you’re trying to share.
Secondly on the point of education, make sure to keep it short. Don’t expect managers to appreciate a two hour or longer training session. If you can’t communicate that in an hour, you’re being too verbose. Actually, figure only 30 minutes for a 1 hour session because of the overhead of training managers.
More to Come
Of course, there’s much more to it all and even the points talked about here offer themselves to additional detail and discussion. I look to continue delving into the challenges & opportunities of bringing social media inside companies, behind the firewall.