I’ve never heard Groundswell author and Altimeter Group founder Charlene Li speak before, and I’m glad I had the chance today. She makes “social” seem less scary; audience members that didn’t speak up before are comfortable asking her the questions that most bother them.
The points she made in sum:
- Focus on relationships. This is about having a relationships strategy, not a social media strategy.
- Align social strategy with strategic goals.
- Support your open leaders.
- Plan for failure – there will be many.
Relationships and planning in advance for failure are two themes that keep popping up this week, so it merits taking special note of those.
Here’s what Li discussed in more detail.
A recurring question she gets from companies: “How open do I need to be?” The answer: Have confidence and humility to relinquish the need for control, while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals. That’s how you stay in command without whipping out the iron fist.
A good rule of thumb if you still feel murky about this “being open” thing: Don’t just look at where people are being social; examine to what degree they are being open to one another.
This isn’t about complete balls-out openness; this is about cultivating the openness that is appropriate for your strategy. An example she gives is that she walked into a room full of people and bared her soul, it would probably make everyone uncomfortable, and she’d feel weird about it too. But if she’s walking into a roomful of her closest friends, it would be okay to do that, and people would get it.
Another nice example is considering Apple: people feel it’s incredibly closed, and in a lot of ways it is, but the fact is it would probably hurt more than help if they were more open. When will Apple need to be more open? When it stops designing exceptional products, Li says.
Seven guidelines for moving forward in your relationship strategy:
1. Align openness with strategic goals, say, for 2011. Pick one where “open” and “social” can have impact. Make sure the strategy aligns with one of the five-odd things your CEO truly cares about; if it doesn’t, you’re toast.
2. Understand value. “We tend to overvalue the things we can measure, and undervalue the things we cannot.” – John Hayes, CMO American Express. What’s the value of Coca-Cola’s five million fans, versus people that are exposed to a Coke ad?
3. Understand how open you need to be.
4. Find and develop open leaders inside your company. You may see four types: worried pessimists, transparent evangelists, cautious testers, realist optimists. Treat and use them accordingly. The higher up the organisation you go, the more “worried skeptics” you find. By far, the most effective archetype is the “realist optimist” – they see the problems the company has, but understand the end point and have an idea how to get there.
Cultivate a culture of sharing inside your company, because it’s a safe place. If people can’t share inside, they won’t do it outside. “Mindsets only change if skills and behaviour change,” sayeth Li.
5. Prepare your organisation. What areas do your frontlne people need to be ready for?
6. Organise to meet your goals. Try the social media triage:
7. Embrace failure. Wal-Mart underwent at least three major social media failures before it came up with the Check-Out Blog, which hit the right note: saving people money, no longer fabricating user conversation.
Four goals define your strategy:
Understand that the dialog is important, and you can’t get to the “support” and “innovate” parts of that graph without it. Learning to create a dialog teaches you what you need to do to support users; with that, over time, you can innovate.
Finally, manage risk with Sandbox Covenants: define the limits of your company’s “comfort” sandbox, so it’s clear to all participants. As your relationship strengthens with users, the sandbox will expand organically – yielding not just more openness and comfort with different technologies, but innovations, too.
Don’t forget users have sandboxes too; consider them. What do they expect from you? Create mitigation/contingency strategies for what happens when a line is crossed.
Li wrapped with a pretty idea: In the future, social networks will be like air. It’ll seem quaint that we had to go to a space like Twitter/Facebook in order to feel connected.