Thursday, December 10, 2009

Social media burdens your business short term. Stay the course to achieve Twitter success.

Extreme danger: Burning oil/fat in deep pan fr...
Do you expect social media to improve your business results? It won’t. At least not right away according to the ITIL framework. If you are personally just trying out the new kids on the block like LinkedIn or Twitter, then the danger is that you might discard it thinking that it doesn’t work.

If you are trying social media in the business environment, the pressure from executives who expect immediate financial or sales results might scuttle the whole effort and tarnish your image. How do you keep that from happening?

Maybe you decided to improve the marketing effort with public relations automation through the use of Twitter. But it’s not doing much. Short term results in an improvement program are much different than long term results. Could the problem be not having the right quality processes in place? Could you be measuring the wrong metrics and ignoring the ones that would keep the system well tuned?

After trying to stall the decrease in work productivity because people started using social networking sites and did less work, you threw your best managerial tactic at it and they just got more frustrated causing a morale decline. All of a sudden, social media looks like a big, fat, frozen Thanksgiving turkey spitting grease and catching on fire in the deep fat fryer all around the organization because you always solved the turkey  problem by deep frying it. The holiday dinner turns from expecting a delicious juicy centerpiece to expecting a fast ambulance driver and fire department.

Business problems don’t always come in the same shape and sizes so you can throw your tried and true methods at it and expect the same result. If you’ve put together a quality improvement program such as a social wiki to help people discuss work issues and found that people just didn’t find it useful, it was probably because those people have already labeled it a bad idea for your company and decided to move on.

Quality programs don’t help you grow?

Why is it, according to business school professors Pinanelli and Csillag in São Paulo, that firms with a high effectiveness in the implementation of quality management principles and techniques don't do any more than just average in growth? The quality pioneers of Deming, Juran, Feigenbaum and Crosby all told us that our bottom line would be so much better if we just did a little Total Quality Management (TQM). Are these Brazilians a wet blanket on using Twitter to improve our customer reach?

The answer according to the Brazilian professors is that quality implementations and growth rate are not related by much. That means that there must be much more to growth than just a quality program.

Deliver improvements with better management

Elizabeth K. Keating and others published a journal article entitled "Overcoming the Improvement Paradox" which talks about the failures of TQM both in delivering improvements and in keeping themselves alive. The findings of that article were that it wasn't the program at fault. It was the ability to manage the program that led to the failure and demoralization of the employees.

ITIL can help you be a better manager. The ITIL framework is a business management guidebook. It’s like getting Peter Drucker’s full set of writings instead of the anthology of excerpts. And it’s focused on business using IT. Not only does it have the advice about how to structure your business but it will show you where you can improve your management and what’s really important today with so much technology improving traditional work processes.

Adding new tasks to increase your results

You may have experienced the improvement paradox in your personal use of social media. The scale is smaller but the principles for a large business are the same. You start out blogging and develop a sizable following. You find your voice and then get stalled out at a level which leads you to try to find an improvement in your process. A quality improvement plan can help your knowledge service move to the next level.

Your first step is to add other applications and interact with other web sites besides what's been giving you the good results over the last year. You may decide to start tracking some of your activity to see where if you are improving or not and exactly what’s making the difference. But you devote valuable time to the plan and have less time to blog. Less time to blog or tweet now equates to less satisfied people who were used to your frequency that now is lagging.

The new tracking that you are doing shows that the extra time spent going to new sites and tracking is slowing down your publishing schedule and affecting your rankings. Your family sees less and less of you, the dog seems unhappy, and the pressure to get things back on track will push you to abandon the extra monitoring and visits to new sites. This is the short term effect of a quality program.

Plant a garden

Or maybe you’ve implemented a new social media plan for yourself by learning Twitter, LinkedIn, and a little about RSS feeds. But you noticed that it takes quite a bit of your daily time to administer those accounts and you had to delay the plan some. You may start justifying the return back to the old ways saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and that these time wasters can slowly become an addiction which won’t deliver results.

That's not really wasting time as much as they are getting planted and starting to grow. Impatient people rarely plant gardens and like to visit grocery stores much more. The hunters of the old sales 1.0 world don't see the benefits of the initial decline of the benefits curve. That decline signals that time is being invested for a much better future return.

It does take time to get the results that an improvement plan will eventually deliver. DuPont, according to Keating, had to develop a training plan that discussed the worse-before-better tradeoff so people weren't disappointed at the initial poor results to get ahead of the curve and achieve better future results. For some people, that might mean that you initially replace that old laptop of yours and get not only the current model but finally get the real software that makes a difference instead of hobbling by with some free or cheap substitutes.

Push (bad) vs. pull (good)

You know the difference between a person who beats you over the head with a message and someone who tells you just enough to pull you to the edge of your seat. One is pushing as hard as they can to get you to listen and the other knows how to instill the behavior of listening. The division that is commonly contrasted between Sales 1.0 and Sales 2.0 is really just a shift in business from a pushed message to a pulled message.

Keating said that pushing the right thing to your employees is not going to drive your ROI up. On a personal level where you hand out advice over a social channel, a common push technique looks like “Amazing new secret social techniques to become a millionaire discovered in Mayan tombs.” Or it could be the current social media author promoting their ten-point plan for SEO success with an inspirational speech about the importance of any of their detailed processes and tools suspiciously only available from them.

Instead, people should pull from you when they realize the benefits of your improvement and commit to doing what really works despite all the four-hour work week ads they see. The pull from employees that you want to see is the influence that Dale Carnegie recommends in How To Win Friends And Influence People. In social media, the readers pull from each other through a soft humanized side of marketing that Chris Brogan and Julien Smith describe in Trust Agents.

Unachievable sales goals

The idea of setting unachievable sales goals is behind the fact that managerial push is always going lose effectiveness over time with people. In my opinion, management does not favor pull style sales programs because it seems like the wrong type of sales culture. These Big Hairy Aggressive Goals (BHAGs) or "stretch objectives" do help people get further along than if they were using realistic goals though.

But people's commitment rises in relationship to the amount of success a worker achieves towards their expectations. The bigger the BHAG, the more likely a better motivation turns to disappointment. Even W. Edwards Deming, a pull-style innovator, saw this and tried to eliminate the carriers of the push disease in his 14 points. He wanted to eliminate slogans, exhortations, work quotas, management by numbers, and zero level targets entirely.

Expect long term growth

Goals must be set realistically so that staff and resources are used wisely. Employees can be included in the planning process to keep it real but a real commitment  comes from a desire to do better instead of a numeric goal. With enough pull from the employees, the need for managerial push is almost eliminated.

A social media program should be implemented with a long-term goal in mind. The staff must know that it will mean extra work for a little while. But after a year of effort, the results can be measured and seen as a successful venture. Expectations have to be set for short-term loss and long-term gain. Set your business goals with the knowledge that the social networking “fad” will strengthen future business relationships and the wise will make that adaptation while the foolish will not think it’s worth it.

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