When companies adopt social media, they get more than just the marketing juice they’re typically seeking: they’re inviting in a Trojan Horse full of questions about their offering, their approach, and even their fundamental value proposition. My recent blog post for Harvard Business Online looks at how companies can best engage the Trojan Horse of social media, and it’s drawn some insightful comments. Here’s a sampling:
- Samuel cites the cases of several companies…[who] wound up having to retire from the social media playing field. [T]hat it is because the companies went in with the wrong attitude. They weren’t really looking for a dialogue. They thought they could control the conversation. It doesn’t always work that way.
– Les Blatt
- As social media is enjoying the spoils of a bubble, more people are focused on the promise than the reality. Perhaps this is why many organizations choose to build online communities where the communication is more collaborative.
– Vanessa DiMauro
- [When companies get negative comments, they need to:] 1) learn from them: what is the collective voice telling us and how can we use it to further the customer experience and 2) answer the comments right away, offer respect to the writers and think from THEIR perspective when addressing the issue. Result? Happy Greeks, happy Trojans, and a Trojan Horse that can win the Kentucky Derby!
– Loraine Antrim
- [T]his all does have to do with company culture and marketing directors who only think about advertising and not more holistically about the company brand. This trend is not going away. Social media will look different years from now as traditional media and marketing theory morph to meet the desires of the consumer.
– Rick Hardy
- It is arrogant to think that social media is either a gift or a threat to your agenda. It is neither. It is a mirror. And it sometimes reflects things that you don’t want to see. So rather than blaming the mirror for revealing ugly things, let’s look at the truth of what it reveals.
– Melanie McBride
Social media is a powerful catalyst for reflection and change within organizations. But the Trojan Horse goes anywhere social media goes: your home, your favorite bar, your state legislature.
Conversation is the engine of change; online conversation simply makes that change possible on a scale the world’s never known – or needed more. It’s not just marketing sites or business intranets that build relationships of trust; it’s the fan sites that foster cross-cultural connections, the photo-sharing sites that unlock the creativity and innovation of closet photographers, and yes, it’s the big picture, Save The World commmunities.
Whether a conversation is built around world or work, relationships or individuals, its success depends on three kinds of participation. Someone has to conceive of the conversation: to define the purpose (however vague) of this new conversational arena, and the audiences (however varied) that will be engaged. Someone has to convene the conversation: to invite people to participate, and to help build momentum as the conversation unfolds. Most crucially, someone has to contribute: to write the blog posts, post the photos, ask the questions, upload the video, or whatever the content is that will make up the substance of the conversation.
Conceiving, convening, contributing: fulfilling any of these roles effectively involves connecting tangibly and meaningfully with other people. We suspect that the key to harnessing the power of online conversation lies in playing each role, in every conversation, with careful attention to the work of connecting with the other person (or people) involved. But the surest path to that connection depends on what role you’re playing, and what kind of conversation you’re having. The moderator of an environmental campaign site has a very different job from an employee posting a note on a corporate intranet.
My post about businesses encountering the Trojan Horse of social media focused on one particular domain (work) and one particular kind of role: that of online convenor. When companies jump into social media, they’re typically asking one particular kind of question: What conversations do we need to have with our team, customers or supporters?
We’ve mapped out the questions that encompass the broader impact of social media in catalyzing change — not just at work, but at the individual, family and even global level. And we’ve broken these into the questions that should be asked by people who play different roles in the conversation:
- Leaders and marketers and communciators conceive online conversations. They do the work of envisioning, designing and building a conversation venue, group or space.
- Community managers convene online conversations by animating, facilitating, moderating or gardening.
- Community members participate in an online conversation by posting text, images, video or audio.
I’ve added links to blog posts on our site that speak to the questions for each domain, and each role.
Twelve questions for meaningful online conversations
Family and friends
How have you been challenged by the Trojan Horse of social media — at work, in the world, at home or personally? How are you managing the changes it brings? Leave your comments here, or back on the Harvard site.