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5 musts to get people on board with social business

8 min read

Social Media

SmartBrief on Social Media, the daily snapshot of social media news and insights, has relaunched as SmartBrief on Social Business. This new focus reflects the broad changes to business in the social media era, from marketing to customer service to revenue models. As part of the relaunch, we’ve asked industry leaders to give their thoughts on what it means to be a social business. Today’s post is from Amber Naslund of SideraWorks.

It’s a fact that people are still struggling to get social business to take root across the organization. Heck, sometimes it’s still a struggle to get it to work within its own department, wherever it starts. Or to get people to even notice and pay attention to these ideas in the first place.

The only way to scale social business is to get it out of its nesting place – marketing, customer service, IT – and get it all the way to the edges of the organization. That means having people buy into the vision for social business, invest the time and resources in the practices and tools, and enthusiastically do what they can to support those efforts.

So how do you get there? Here are five musts to help socialize social business within your company and teams.

1. Show us how it benefits us.
Most of the time, we position social business in terms of how it benefits the company. Better communication with customers, increased productivity or sales, decreased customer service time, that sort of thing.

But the reality is that the individual people responsible for carrying out strategy need to understand how social business will benefit them and make their jobs easier, better, or more fulfilling.

The social business road show you do in your company to get everyone excited can and should certainly include company benefits. But be sure to place a strong emphasis on individual use cases, from the perspective the people you’re actually relying on to execute on these ideas, and be truthful. What will the challenges be? What’s the upside? What will they learn or gain? How does this help them become more valuable and professionally enriched?

2. Convince us with your passion.
The best public speakers in the world have a common trait: passion for their topic. Conviction. You can see it in their eyes when they tell you that this is something they believe in. If you believe in the potential for social business, share your passion for it. The numbers and charts might be important to some people. Share a case study or two. Cite examples, all that jazz.

But don’t forget to let go a little bit and share why you believe social can change the game for your team, your department, your organization. (Oh, and if you can’t find any passion for the topic, you might need to back up a bit and figure out why not first, because that’s most certainly going to hold you back. Progress is messy, and you really have to want it to weather those storms.)

3. Form a coalition.
Are there other people in your organization that believe as you do? Are there other people outside your organization that do? Good. Bring them all to the table.

Bust out the best books on the topic (shameless plug). Get the authors in there to give a talk and fire people up. Watch videos or stream one of the great social conferences for your leadership team (better yet, get them in the room). Ally yourself with other leaders in your organization and present a united, enthusiastic front that will lead your social business journey together as a team.

Having perspectives from various disciplines, backgrounds, and experience levels will help your teams and individuals find something that they can relate to, and show them the role they can personally play in the future of their organization’s social business endeavors. There is strength and conviction in  numbers, so don’t let them take just your word for it. Find lots and lots of people who will share, in their own words, why this might matter.

4. Put your feet on the pavement. Or the carpet.
It’s tempting to fall back on email and PowerPoint presentations when you’re trying to share and disseminate information. Don’t do it.

Instead, put together your own internal road show. Whether it’s walking down the hall and gathering friends around a lunch table or getting your leadership in a room to talk to them personally (yes, meetings CAN be valuable), get face time with the people that you want to invest in social business. Maybe more than once. If you’re geographically dispersed, try to get on an airplane and see people in other offices. Or use the coalition you’ve formed above and recruit people in those locations to get face time with their colleagues.

Think of it kind of like a campaign or a customer road show to show off the latest features of your product or your newest offering. But this time, the customers are internal and you’re bringing them ideas for how new business models and practices can transform their work.

It’s okay to supplement your in-person meetings with regular electronic communication (more on that below). But get out there and talk to people, in the bar or in the boardroom. Those are the moments when things stick in people’s minds, and the moments that they will talk about with others when they leave the room.

5. Communicate early and often.
In sales and marketing, they say it takes anywhere from 5-10 times for someone to hear a pitch or a message before they’ll commit, or before it sticks. That means repetition and conviction are your friends while you’re building up  support for social business.

Note: this does not mean to just send the same email over and over, or point people to the same slide deck on the intranet.

It does mean that you want to think through a strong internal communications plan that can help keep social business principles front and center in people’s minds. Build an email autoresponder series and send it out internally (I know, gasp!). Do webinars and live Q&A sessions on your internal social network. Have lunch n’ learns or heck, have a social business happy hour. Offer educational sessions or online learning. Build a resource library full of great content from the best in social business and point them there. Give away a bunch of books and do a “Business Book Club.”

Communication doesn’t have to be about scripted, carefully crafted messages that are delivered through staid and traditional means. The idea of communicating here means that it should happen regularly, with enthusiasm, and in ways that can encourage people to share, to talk about it with others, and to participate themselves.

You’re building word of mouth inside your own walls, encouraging the messages to cascade throughout the levels and areas of the organization. Because when people can’t stop hearing about social business, natural curiosity will take over. The more curious they are, the more questions they’ll ask. The more questions you can answer, the more opportunities you have to emphasize why you’ve got a great plan.

Bonus round: Renegade proof
This is what I call “walking the walk,” even before people have given you permission. Be the spark that ignites change by starting and building something yourself.

Yep, that means it’ll likely take time outside of your normal job. Yes, it’ll feel lonely and frustrating at times. Yes, you might have to answer a million questions about just what the heck you’re doing. But get ambitious. Create a pilot project to solve an existing business problem using social business principles. Form an unofficial social business “mastermind” group and get together regularly to brainstorm. Start a blog of your own.

Sometimes, the best way to convince people that something deserves their attention is to lead by example. Do something and let the activity itself spark curiosity and interest and questions (I mean hey, everyone wants to be part of something that looks cool).

Remember that change can start anywhere in an organization and grow. Why shouldn’t it start with you?

Amber Naslund is the president of SideraWorks, a culture and organizational transformation firm. She’s also the best-selling author of the social business book The Now Revolution. You can find her on Twitter at @ambercadabra.