Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Governing twoubled tweets

hey Zeus! album cover
Governance, not even including social media governance, is a dismal topic usually reserved for executive meetings late in the day and people who read Greek mythology for fun. But it’s a crucial word that helps clarify why you use Facebook or Twitter even if you are the only person running the entire business. It involves setting policies and making decisions about who makes the decisions. There’s also that sticky part about having a mean auditor rap you on the knuckles when you don’t follow the course.

If you are working in sales or marketing or any other business function, it involves the knowledge of business world-order and what kinds of decisions each manager should be able to make individually or in agreement as a management team. Another valid organizational form of governance is just telling them what to do because “I said so.” As you can guess, the business value doesn’t work out as well in the dictatorial model.

Since the web world has infiltrated the marketing world and handed the reins over to sales people to do their own marketing, it seems that there is contention for the decision rights of just who gets to decide what. Sales can go find a new social news site to post product announcements on. Marketing can sell direct from their web site. The ability of everyone to do their own intertwined marketing and sales has opened the flood gates of unaccountability due to the lack of social media governance.

If a sales person releases information about a new product before a launch because they’re excited about it, does that make it a policy violation? If the competition finds out, it is. If they tell the newspapers on the phone, it likely is, especially if they print it before the embargo date. But if they tweet it and no one finds out, then what? No one has a tweeter policy to figure it out until it damages the impact of the Twitter marketing campaign and somebody’s twiddling head has to roll.

Social media has been putting pressure on the C-level offices to think about how they manage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other types of uncontrollable web accounts. But they are only out of control because the policy is not clear on how they are used. Back in the good old days, it used to be good enough to distribute an email policy and not show up after work wearing a corporate logoed shirt in places of ill repute. Then it was a web site policy that wasn’t followed unless you enforced it with an annoying firewall which blocked more than you wanted. But now people carry your brand around with them on the web as email addresses and enter strange web sites that their less web-savvy bosses would cringe at.

So what’s the answer? It’s basic business governance. If the policy makers understand what business is doing and why, then it’s easy to understand what role the tools play in the processes of the business. The most likely culprit today is not understanding the tools.

I really don’t blame business people for not understanding what the business value of these tools are. The social media experts are just building their personal brand. But it’s also clouding the waters with new terms for their interpretation of the old terms. Chris Brogan, a great promoter of social media and author of Trust Agents, calls the six characteristics of trust agents Make Your Own Game, One of Us, The Archimedes (another old Greek!) Effect, Agent Zero, Human Artist, and Build an Army. Actually, I think the one social media characteristic that business people want to hear about is Stronger Customer Relationships. Do we have to wade through all the Archimedian Artistic Army Agent lingo? It’s attention getting for sure.

Let’s take Twitter as an example. Many old school people think that twittaholics just like to talk about themselves and the whole thing is like high school kids texting each other. It’s not. The types of business processes that can be done with Twitter just by following twitterers and searching the twittersphere are:

  1. Monitoring trends
  2. Monitoring buzz on your company
  3. Monitoring buzz on competitors
  4. Monitoring significant events to sales accounts
  5. Measuring influence of thought leaders by retweets and followers
  6. Finding people to sell direct to
  7. Increasing network of contacts to use for later promotion activities

… and lots of others. The business goals in line with these twactivities (I’m really getting tired of the pun now) as I see it are to

  1. Manage a product portfolio
  2. Increase brand reach and improve sentiment
  3. Position products in market optimally
  4. Maintain strong customer relationship
  5. Increase brand influence
  6. Increase revenue
  7. Increase market share

Each of the business goals are a reason why the activities are to be done. Each business activity should be mapped to a specific business function and the management responsibilities assigned accordingly. Some are the better in sales or marketing, and some are more appropriate for product development or public relations. Wherever the people exist for those functions is where the Twitter activity should be accomplished and also where the auditor goes to rap a few knuckles if they are following Oprah instead.

OK, so who of you Greek mythology perusers knew that Zeus was a symbol of intelligent governance of the world-order? Instead of Hymn to Zeus, a Hymn to Social Media Policy Makers doesn’t have quite the same zing. Still, a little praise and encouragement to follow social media governance is never going to go out of style.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Brian Solis and the PR elephant in Kansas City

PhotonQ-Certainties on the gravitation of an E...
Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks, an award-winning PR and New Media agency, the guy who came up with the PR 2.0 catchphrase and co-creator of the Social Media Club, spoke in Kansas City last night to a group of PR people attending the Public Relations Society of America chapter meeting at the new Power & Light district’s glitzy AMC Mainstreet theatre. I think the crowd was expecting more of a Purple Cow and got an elephant in the room pointed out to them instead.

The wake-up call from Brian about the state of public relations was to go do something about the pitiful state of the commercial propaganda that people are calling public relations. He had the gall to tell us that it wasn’t a “summer of love” any more and it has to be all about business. No clapping ensued.

In fact, I don’t remember any cheering, ataboys or rude remarks yelled at the podium for the duration of his thoroughly convincing hour of downright obvious conclusions that PR has changed from a top-down control the audience form of communication to that of a participatory form of influence. Bloggers have influence. You should pay attention to bloggers because bloggers control your brand. Simple.

Instead of shouting your message louder, the soft-spoken Solis wanted us to believe that you should think about the person you are trying to reach and then, listen closely now…, TALK to them. He wants us to use social media to have a conversation. He wants people like executives to have a conversation with real customers instead of with middle management who have conversation with the interns and then write a blog. You let interns make the decisions on what to tweet and eventually you end up with Habitat’s hash tag spam PR nightmare that happened in June this year.

Of course, he let some of the executives off the hook by realizing that if an executive like the shoe superstore Zappos’ Tony Hsieh aligned the entire corporation around solid social guidelines that would always speak the same about the culture, the brand, the core values, etc., then every employee would be tweeting and twittering the same message and Tony wouldn’t have to even have a Twitter account.

But Tony does have a Twitter account because he knows the importance of the conversation. He has 1,317,394 followers and doesn’t even talk about shoes. Here’s the most recent tweet today from the magical multi-millionaire of MBTs on @zappos:
Can't sleep. Head filled w/ deep thoughts. Wondering what happens if a vampire bites someone that just ate garlic bread?
Tony Hsieh has met the audience and the audience is himself. He’s completely transparent and believable. And he empowers his employees to create relationships and conversations that influence people to buy his shoes online. According to Brian, that’s putting the public back in to public relations.

Brian is the creator of the Conversation Prism also and had posters for sale beside his recent book. I’m not sure the meaning of the prism was understood as I heard acclaim that he could get so many little pieces on the diagram instead of knowing what the analysis really said. He does his homework well and tends to fill his charts up with very relevant detail underscoring his principle that you need to be relevant when you talk to your audience. I respect him more for having the data than just making it up like some social media authors. But I need better glasses even sitting in the third row in a movie theatre viewing his TMI PowerPoint slides like an influence diagram showing hundreds of people relationships that crashed the demo.

I think we’ll be hearing from Brian Solis in the future because he understands that public relations is an offshoot of sociology and psychology. It’s about understanding how the “human network” communicates with each other. He said that the currency of the exchange is attention. When we engage our customers, we give them attention and they give us their trust and loyalty. The influence that we garner is what public relations has always been about instead of controlling the message and the response.

Another reason that we’ll have to keep hearing from Brian is because the elephant isn’t moving out of our room very fast and he’ll keep telling us about it until we do something about it. Keep the conversation going, Brian. We’re listening.
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