MAD Perspectives Blog

Social Media is Killing My Productivity!

Peggy Dau - Monday, July 23, 2012

Productivity: the ability to generate, create, enhance of bring forth goods and services. The economic success of nations has been defined based on productivity. 'Advanced' countries are those who used to lead in productivity. Why? Because they had invested in technology innovation, which help create efficiencies. According to a Harvard Business Review blog in May 2012, the United States enjoyed the greatest productivity increase from 1980 to 2000 thanks to the deployment of enterprise-wide IT. However, technology only improves productivity if it is aligned with changes in how work is done. The bottom line on productivity is to maker more using less.

Enter social media. Loss of employee productivity is one of the most frequently mentioned fears when considering adoption of social networking platforms. Executive perception has been that social networking is a recipe for disaster.  

  •      -  Employees will waste time or share proprietary corporate data 
  •      -  Corporate networks will be invaded by viruses and bandwidth will be maxed out
  •      -  Time will be consumed without a clear ROI

As mentioned in last weeks blog, fear is a powerful inhibitor. Given the current economic environment the focus on productivity is intense. In fact, global productivity has been in decline for the last few years. Corporations often capture revenue per employee as an indicator of efficiency and success. With overall productivity in decline, it is easy to imagine the fear felt by senior executives when faced with an unfamiliar communication platform that has infiltrated businesses by way of consumer adoption and success.  Social media was not originally designed for corporate use!

However, the rapid adoption grew due to a desire by customers for real-time, authentic engagement. Now, companies have the ability to adopt social media for external communication AND internal collaboration. Yet, the fear remains. How can businesses overcome the productivity concern? Be smart.  Align your use of enterprise 2.0 platforms (e.g., Yammer, Jive, NewsGator) or outbound networks (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) with how your business works. Every company has its own way of getting things done. These platforms should augment and simplify those processes. They may displace existing tools, requiring a learning period for new users.

More importantly guide employees on the usage of the tools. Keeping productivity as your target, consider advising employees to:

     - schedule time for managing social engagement
     - turn off notifications that may overwhelm your desktop
     - separate personal and professional use of social media

True social media aficionados will argue that meaningful engagement means listening and responding in a timely manner. However, not every organization can afford to dedicate personnel to monitoring social media full time. Barry Moltz blogs about how to Calm your Social Media Anxiety, with a focus on brands and consumers. His advice is also relevant to users of internal social collaboration platforms.

For those companies embarking on the use of social media to increase internal collaboration, understanding how and when to engage with colleagues will be useful. Many employees are already feeling overwhelmed due to persistent layoffs that increase existing workloads and existing platforms that can distract focus from the matters at hand. Most corporate employees are already a slave to their email inbox. Help them understand how enterprise micro-blogging can reduce their inbox clutter by resolving easy to answer questions quickly and allow others to see the answer to that question without creating and exhaustive email distribution list.

The fear is real. Concern about productivity is rampant. However, with a little education, patience and common sense social media can become a differentiator that improves collaboration, communication and ultimately, productivity!

What's your perspective?

Top 5 Blog Topics of 2011

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yes, it's that time of year to look back and reflect.  I took some time to see which blog topics garnered the most interest this year.  The list does not surprise me.  As B2B companies figure out their use of social media, they are facing questions of where and how to leverage social networks and interact with customers.  With no further ado, here are the top 5 MAD Perspectives blogs of 2012!

#1 - LinkedIn:  Companies are just beginning to realize that LinkedIn is more than a site for networking to find a job.  It is THE site for professional networking to find decision makers, engage in group discussion on industry topics and amplify your B2B brand.  Of course, it is also the site to represent your personal professional brand.  For enlightened companies who empower and value their employees, there is recognition that a powerful LinkedIn profile reflects positively on an employer.  Employees can provide links to key corporate sites.  A profile reflecting the value an employee provides to customers, reflects the culture embodied by the company.

#2 - Planning:  It is difficult to know if you're successful in any effort if you don't have a plan that defines goals, tactics and metrics.  Social media evolved from a individual consumer perspective.  The very nature of social media is immediate and authentic.  How can a company plan to engage socially without losing a sense of unaffected spontaneity?  It is a challenge for B2B companies as their messaging will always be related to their brand and products.  However, defining your audience and their needs will help in developing a plan to provide the right kind of content via the right communication channel.  Know your brand's voice and identify methods to share that voice.

#3 - Strategy:  You might find it interesting that strategy lagged slightly behind planning in interest.  Strategy and planning are closely related.  As we talked about strategy this year, we spoke specifically about how your social media strategy must be closely aligned with your brand strategy.  If a company does not understand its identity and does not have clear business goals, it is impossible to develop a social media strategy.  Your social strategy must be aligned with and support your company's business goals.  These could range from market awareness to customer support to product innovation.

#4 - Social Analytics:  This is a hot topic as we move into 2012.  This space is expanding beyond the ability to monitor and listen to what your customers are saying.  It is taking that data (and there is a LOT of data) and using it to drive planning.  Acting upon data collected is often the biggest challenge for any company.  The social universe gives companies unprecedented access to honest insight, opinions, and concerns.  Through their online activity on both search engines and social networks, customers are revealing their needs, being influenced by the opinions of others, sharing experiences and changing the entire purchasing process.  A critical part of any social media strategy, is defining how to monitor, capture and act upon social conversations.

#5 - Corporate Culture:  This is a carryover from 2010 and continues to be relevant.  Your company's culture directly impacts how employees will participate socially, if at all.  Command & control organizations who are leveraging social networks lack the authenticity of empowered organizations.  Social updates from hierarchical organization tend to revert to push marketing techniques of notifying customers of events, without inviting interaction.  In fact, this likely reflects fear of the unknown at the executive level.  Companies who empower their employees are creating strong customer communities through honest, ongoing interaction.  

2011 has seen more B2B companies adopting different forms of social media.  The pressure is on to show measurable results in 2012.  This  means that strategy, planning and analyzing will continue to be critical for success in this space.  Social media is useful for more than pure marketing, which seems to be the default entry point.  I'm curious to see if companies will utilize social networks for other purposes such as recruiting (Facebook and LinkedIn will fight to the death on this topic), customer support (in more than a consumer centric model) or product development (prioritizing roadmaps).  Broadening the use of social media may reveal the path to measuring its real success for B2B companies.

What's your perspective? 

Corporate Culture & Communication - The Keys to Success

Peggy Dau - Thursday, November 17, 2011

I've been talking with a colleague about companies investigating transformation.  It seems to be present at all types of companies and at all levels within the company, although most companies seem to focus on the technology.  My colleague has led a global consulting practice enabling business transformation for telecommunications operators around the world.  Their focus is business process and organization structure first, before any discussion about technology needs or solutions.  As we've discussed the challenges companies face when they consider transformations to drive new revenue or to reduce operational costs, I've raised the importance of communication during this transformation.

I asked my colleague about her communications as she built her practice.  While she had not thought about a formal communication plan, she did in fact have regularly scheduled discussions with each set of stakeholders. These discussions reinforced goals and progress and provided opportunities for issues to be raised and addressed.  Why were these conversations so important?  Because they gave stakeholders the opportunity to understand the strategy while also giving voice to perceived challenges.  While her desire was to develop a practice focused on systematic change to enable clients to better serve customers, this foundation may not have been sufficient without development of a culture that led to ultimate success.

The culture as embodied by every practice member reflects confident leadership, an empowered team and consistent communication.  The result is trusted client relationships, a team dedicated to facilitating client transitions to build and offer new services, camaraderie enabling rapid solution definition, and commitment to mutual success.  The team shares challenges and success in equal parts, understanding that communication opens the door for insight, acknowledgement and and problem resolutions (if needed). The team uses existing corporate communication tools such as conference calls, email and Sharepoint.

However, successful communication is not about the tool itself, it's about defining what needs to be communicated, understanding the concerns of all stakeholders and addressing those concerns.  As I've spoken to various members of this practice, I've recognized a common thread.  Each consultant is uniquely focused on understanding how the defined transformation will impact each business group involved.  While they may not acknowledge it themselves, their open communication as they work with clients is a key factor in their success.  Each of them develop strategies and goals with senior management, yet they work across all levels of individuals to understand impact, identify existing and perceived challenges and reinforce business benefit.  

It is through a culture of inclusiveness, awareness, innovation and empowerment that organizations can transform for greater business success.  Transformation is not possible without persistent, consistent, two-way communication.   Does your culture empower individuals to communicate openly?  Do your employees really understand the reasons behind organizational change?  Have you shared the business benefits of new initiatives at a micro level, rather than at a corporate level?  Even if your current culture doesn't seem to support open communication, it is possible to change.  

Think about the companies you most admire.  It is likely that they clearly communicate goals and impact to all levels.  It is likely that they empower individuals to make decisions AND make mistakes.  It is likely that they enable employees to easily communicate with each other AND with senior management.  Corporate culture and effective communication go hand in hand. Is it ready to enjoy the positive, productivity inducing energy that effective, interactive communication can provide?

What's your perspective?

How do you Orchestrate Social Media?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I was recently in a meeting with a client when the marketing manager stated that all social media updates are reviewed by her or her team before being posted externally. After a bit of probing, I came to understand that her concern was about maintaining the company brand and the unintentional sharing of intellectual property. These are fair concerns, but they raised alarms for me. 

To be clear, my engagement with this client is not specific to social media.  They have hired an agency to help them with their efforts.  My concern is that with too much control, their social media communications will be flat and uninspired. Regardless of who helps them develop their social media plan, they will need to think about the company culture.  Her comments made me realize that this company does not have a culture of empowerment. They have been through many acquisitions and spin-offs, and the culture has been impacted by the continual shifting of leadership and ownership,

Like a symphony orchestra, each individual brings a unique tone to the overall production.
Social media is about being transparent and authentic
. If the director, stifles the soloist, the performance seems lacking. The role of the director is to infuse his musicians with and understanding and passion for a particular piece of music. Companies should consider a similar model.  If companies are concerned about their employees sharing inappropriate content, they should inform and educate their employees on the company goals for using social media, provide guidelines for content and ramifications for employees if they show poor judgement.  A company's culture and organizational structure can provide two of the biggest hurdles to social media success.  Take the time to understand your company's culture and the impact on communication style and channel, is critical when initiating your social media efforts. 

Recommendations for addressing these challenges include strategic planning to align the use of social media with clear goals and metrics, employee education, organize a hub and spoke social media team and constantly listen, review and assess.  Everyone I have talked to about social media shares that their experience has been trial and error.  It's ok to make a mistake.  Own it and move forward.  Your goal should be to orchestrate the efforts of your organization in such a way as to let individual personalities emerge and shine.  The content they share will reflect positively on your organization

How are your social media efforts proceeding?  What are your biggest challenges?  I'm interested to learn from you!

What's your perspective? 

Do Your Execs Believe in Social Media?

Peggy Dau - Thursday, April 07, 2011

I've been thinking about how companies get started using social media. External usage tends to be led by the marketing team. Their focus is on sharing company and product information with customers to increase brand awareness, thought leadership and ultimately lead generation. This does not mean that that companies are not focused on other uses (think Dell, Comcast or Jet Blue have not focused on customer service. We've read and heard about leaders in social media. But, I'm now thinking about how company leadership influence adoption or use of social media.

There are great case studies about Marriott, Cisco and Best Buy (to name a few) and how CEOs at these companies "got it" when thinking about the benefits of social media. However, many c-level execs think in a traditional hierarchical organization mindset. They raise concerns about risk, security and confidentiality. For me, this begs the question about leadership style. Do certain types of business leaders just "get it" easier than others, or are they just throwing caution to the wind?

In her book "Open Leadership" Charlene Li, shares her thoughts on how social technology can change the way you lead. She presents great examples of companies who have experienced success. She shares case studies on how social media has influenced leadership and culture. She also talks about the best mind set for open leadership:  passion for the vision, focus on relationships and a hacker mentality (by this she means dissatisfaction with the status quo). But still, I wonder, is that enough. I've experienced many leaders who had passion for "their" vision, focused on relationships (with customers, industry leaders or peers and executive peers within their company), yet, their support for social media was tepid at best.

Social media requires openness. Are leaders open? Social media is collaborative. Are leaders collaborative?  Social media requires trust. Are leaders trusting?  Social media is authentic. Are leaders authentic? In fact, this last question is the big issue that faced many of the top executives at financial services and automotive firms during the economic crisis. There is a significant cultural shift underway, enabled by social technology, that is bringing openness back to big business. Do customers and employees trust executives? Once upon a time, yes. Once upon a time companies were transparent. 

My career alma mater, HP, is a classic example. The HP of Bill and Dave was one of collaboration, innovation and openness. Trust was paramount. However, the HP of the past few years is hierarchical and siloed with employees living in fear of making a mistake that might cost them their job. Communication flows downstream and is edited and reshaped until it loses meaning. Power is craved and held tightly. The culture of open communication is long dead and the bottom line has become the driving force (and perhaps that is partly Wall Street's fault) of all activity. 

Executive support is critical for social media success. What leadership characteristics are needed to drive social media success from the top? I recently read "Leadership and Self Deception" by The Arbinger Institute. Their advice (adapted a bit for my own purposes) is relevant:

     - Don't try to be perfect - try to be better!
     - Don't use vocabulary people don't understand. Be clear and true to your own principles.
     - Don't impose your fears, confusion or uncertainty on others. Assume the best!
     - Don't give up when you make a mistake. Apologize and move forward.
     - Don't focus on what others are doing wrong. Focus on what you can do right to help!
     - Don't worry if others aren't helping you. Focus on helping others.

If your executives and senior leadership exhibit these characteristics (they sound awfully social don't they?!), your company can successfully implement social media tactics to engage customers. That is the goal, right? A meaningful social media strategy requires support and involvement from executives and employees across the company.  Employees won't feel empowered to be authentic and transparent unless their leadership also exhibits those traits.  Customers are demanding honesty and openness.  Social media is the desired method for this style of communication.  Are you ready?  Are your executives ready?

What's your perspective?