Want to win in social media? Four ingredients for success

I wrote this post last September, aptly titled: Social Media Marketing: Think marriage, not a one-night-stand.  In it, I listed some of the pitfalls and misconceptions surrounding social media.  Eight months later, and after many discussions with my peers in the industry and experiments at my own company, I wanted to share my thoughts on what I am seeing as the four key ingredients of success:

  1. Secure executive support:  While this may appear obvious and trite, it is so true.  As much as we would like to think that if you build a strong grass root movement within your company it will succeed, do not be fooled.  While broad engagement in your company is critical, I would advocate that you not start until you have at least a few key executives on board.  This rang so true to me when I had the chance to visit Dell’s headquarters last February and hear Michael Dell speak passionately about this topic.   There is no doubt in my mind that Michael is the strongest supporter of this movement within Dell, but don’t take my word.  Read his views for yourself in this interview from 2008.
  2. Think carrots, not sticks:  Unless your corporate culture is true command-and-control (which in itself raises a whole lot of questions whether social will ever succeed at your company), you need to be creative and get people excited to start thinking about social the right way.  While the elusive ROI question still looms (and you of course need to get tangible business benefits), as we all know this takes time and perseverance.  So how do you begin to incent the right behaviors in this journey?   As an example, at SAP we used this ‘eye-candy’ infographic to start injecting rigor, changing behaviors and starting to measure the right things when we develop social programs around events.  It was not however these that got people excited, but rather the opportunity to also get one of these infographics for their own social programs (fully automated!), if they follow the right process.
  3. Leverage the initiated:  Even if you are early in this journey, I am sure you can find a handful of colleagues that ‘get it’ and are doing the right things.  It doesn’t matter whether you call them evangelists, ambassadors, or champions, the key is to identify who they are and leverage them.  Use them to help you refine (or even define) your overall strategy and act as your extended arms in your organizations.  Make heroes out of them, have them tell stories and help your company.
  4. Think big, start small, fail fast:  Yes this also seems obvious and trite.  It is however extremely important since (i) no consultant, guru, pundit has all the answers despite what they tell you and you will fail along the way and (ii) given that you have by now convinced your company to invest, you need to start showing results.  They key is to experiment and fail fast but always keep the goalposts (i.e., strategy) in sight.  If you are not convinced great things can come out of failures, watch this two minute video from Tom Peters talking about Walmart founder Sam Walton.

Over the next few months I plan to elaborate on each of these four points, but in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts on whether these resonate based on your own experiences.

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14 Responses to Want to win in social media? Four ingredients for success

  1. todd wilms May 9, 2011 at 08:52 #

    Ted, very nice post. It cuts to the quick of what we too often see in these programs -ruderless action, programs so large they fail by the sheer weight of them, and complete fear of failure (so much so that you are almost destined to fail). Good quick read on the topic. Kudos!

  2. Fred Landis May 9, 2011 at 10:36 #

    Hi Ted,
    I think all of these are great points that organizations should consider. I would also add having a set of objectives on what they want to accomplish and build it in their corporate strategy is important. It sounds from listening to Michael Dell that this was true in their case. For instance, does the organization want to achieve brand awareness or thoughtleadership, pre-empt support issues…or some combination? Determining this has a dramatic effect on the social media strategy, resources required and which metrics are used to measure its success.

    • Ted Sapountzis May 9, 2011 at 22:24 #

      Fred,

      Thank you for your comments. I did not mean to gloss over the importance of having a strategy under #4 (had written about this topic in an earlier post, see http://bear4415.com/2010/06/social-media-and-leadership/). My premise however is that regardless of your strategy (which I absolutely believe you need to have), these points are all valid.

  3. daigoumee May 23, 2011 at 05:04 #

    found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  4. Christina Carabini July 5, 2011 at 23:59 #

    ..Filed under kboulas 4 32 pm Tags ……Ive read several lists of reasons CEOs are not adopting and in some cases are afraid of social media over the last couple of days 13 reasons 11 reasons 28 reasons the CEO is afraid of social media I think the purpose of these lists are to help inform and create discussions by describing questions and objections they have encountered. I am going to add my thoughts to that discussion..Ill preface my comments however with the observation that I dont believe that CEOs are afraid of social media. I do believe that some might think social media is just a flash in the pan I think these CEOs underestimate the sea change that is occurring disregarding social media the effectiveness of virtually all other forms of marketing have been in steady decline for years . I also believe others see social media for what it is a potential game-changing disruptive model for integrating ones customers into the business. If the latter is true as I believe it is then there is tremendous organizational complexity in adopting this game-changing model complexity not just in fitting social media into the marketing mix but integrating it across customer touchpoints all the while addressing the uncertainty ego issues and performance management questions that will inevitably arise..First Principles.In thinking about the core first principles for adopting social media I believe there are four key questions the CEO is concerned about and these as in any highly functioning and complex business are all interrelated. These questions arent in any particular order in fact they relate to each other and a key goal when discussing social media with a CEO is to first figure out which question is most important to him her as an entry point into the conversation….How does Social Media fit within our company?.One question a CEO must answer is How does social media and social marketing fit within my company?

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