6 Principles That Lead to Social-Media Success
[Editor's note: This article is adapted from Barry Libert's book, "Social Nation."]
A 2009 study by the Nielsen Co. revealed that employees, partners and customers/donors spent 17 percent of their online time social networking or blogging — and 83 percent more time in online social networks than the year prior. Essentially, these statistics tell us that organizations need to embrace and capture the voices of their staff and donors if they want to innovate and thrive.
Here are six rules for implementing a successful social-media strategy in your organization and for-profit examples nonprofits can model themselves after:
Rule 1: Develop your social skills
Leaders in this new social nation are expected to follow as much as they lead, collaborating with their colleagues while still providing structure and support. In boardrooms and offices around the world, leaders are starting to become more interconnected to put others' needs first and find motivation in helping others succeed. They facilitate rather than control.
You can't expect your organization's social nation to be successful if you as a leader don't think about the needs and wants of your employees and customers. I'm reminded of Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon. She strives to make Avon a "company for women," and feels that it's very important to empower the company's saleswomen by talking with them about what matters to them as well as to Avon. And guess what? Avon was one of the few companies to chart growth during the 2008-2009 recession.
Rule 2: Let culture lead your way
When building your social organization, remember that the DNA of the organization is very important, so let an open and honest culture be a guiding principle. After all, culture defines your company because it tells employees what to expect and lets donors know who you are and what you stand for.
For a great example, look at Zappos — a company whose success is due largely to an emphasis on culture. Zappos is based around 10 core values, which all employees know and understand. Beyond that, working at Zappos is fun, personal and social. For example, there's a Dance Dance Revolution machine in the lobby! Most importantly, though, employees are encouraged to connect authentically with each other and with customers. They feel good about where they work — and that shows in their engagement and performances.
Rule 3: Mind your online and offline manners
How you say something — be it online or off — is as important as what you say and can help make the difference in gaining fans, friends and followers. And remember that technology connects people in faster and more transparent ways than ever!
Social media can definitely propel your company forward, especially when employees are excited and involved. Australian telecommunications company Telstra gets this concept. In fact, at Telstra, social-media participation is mandatory! However, the company trains each employee on how to appropriately participate, basing its guidelines on responsibility, respect and representation. Very, very smart.
Rule 4: Listen, learn, adapt
Social intelligence enables your organization to benefit from all that is happening around you — including the conversations of your constituents — so you can adapt what you do and how you do it to better meet the needs of your donors, employees and beneficiaries. After all, it's a good thing to understand what your donors and supporters need and want, and how they interact with your services.
If you have a younger child, you've probably heard of Webkinz, which has turned out to be a brilliant concept by Ganz. Kids receive avatars of their stuffed animals in an online community, which allows them to interact with other children and to care for their "pets." But more importantly, Ganz is able to keep tabs of how many customers it has, how long they spend online and how they feel about the products they've bought. Using this information, Ganz is able to improve its product and its customer interaction.
Rule 5: Include others in everything you do
As an organization that is seeking to benefit from membership in the social nation, relying on others in every part of your company is the only way to alter what you do and how you do it to generate new donors and increase gifts.
Ducati really personifies this strategy. In 2003, the company did away with its traditional marketing in high-end magazines and the like, and re-centered itself around community members, their needs, feedback and conversations. Ducati made sure that fans and owners could attend plenty of rallies, races, parties and bike shows, as well as become involved in an online community. Now, Ducati has become even more popular due to fan enthusiasm — and its products and services have improved due to customer feedback and suggestions!
Rule 6: Rely on others for growth and innovation
Friends, fans and followers are instrumental in achieving growth in today's connected world. Instead of the "old" method of relying on focus groups that meet behind two-way mirrors, it's time to engage donors in a two-way conversation to innovate new services and ideas that matter.
Take Mountain Dew, for example. Instead of traditional product development efforts, PepsiCo created a "DEWmocracy" campaign to decide what the next Mountain Dew flavor would be. People could log on to Mountain Dew's website and play an exciting multileveled game, through which they could rack up points toward their preferred soda being chosen. Essentially, the company's next soft drink was in the hands of its social nation. Power to the people, indeed!