Where should you focus your time and energy? What should your priorities be? How do you keep your programs moving forward while building a business case for carrying those initiatives deeper into the company? What things can you focus on that are always necessary and can help you stay on track?
We’ve got a few ideas. Six, to be exact.
It might seem obvious, but having clear vision and goals for social business becomes your anchor. That’s the stuff you come back to when things get off track or seem like they’re not aligned.
The most important element here is not to build the goals for social business itself. First, work with leadership to outline and understand the business-level goals for revenue, market growth, research and development, culture and talent retention, partnerships. What is the C-level committed to in terms of the company overall? Once you understand that, build your social business goals so that each one can be tied to the larger goals of the organization.
Consider what social business practices will enable, make possible, or accelerate? Speak in terms of business outcomes, not social media program objectives. If you can speak to people about the things they will always want to achieve and how social supports those objectives, you’ll always have a strong foundation for support and forward momentum.
And all of that together helps you illustrate a very important picture: the one that describes what your organization will look like 6 months, 12 months, 3 years from now. The picture of your company as a social business.
2. Finding Champions
You can’t do this yourself forever.
While you’re the lone solider leading the charge, you’ve got to find the people in your organization that believe as you do or at least have a curiosity and an interest in learning how to build social programs within the company. They don’t have to be seasoned social professionals. They can come from anywhere in the organization, and they can be at pretty much any level of responsibility. The key factor is their desire to help establish roots for social business practices because they can help them do their jobs better, further their department goals, build a better business in which to work, or all of the above.
Finding internal advocates is the first step to establishing things like social business councils or building a Center of Gravity. The more invested people are in social’s potential in the organization, the more they’re willing to lend their time and expertise to the cause and eventually help build a case for more devoted staff. Plus, the volunteer/unofficial approach to finding social advocates across the organization time and again proves itself as a strong foundation for collaborative work that transcends hierarchies and silos. It just works.
Education is perhaps the most critical piece is socializing knowledge about social, the context for your initiatives, and your intent with the programs you hope to build around the organization. Over time, methodical outreach and education is is how you build a case for additional budget and resources and create enthusiasm and curiosity around this “whole social business thing”. That’s what creates upward momentum among the people in your company, and grabs the attention of the decision-makers.
What about convincing the skeptics?
If you address them openly, honestly, and patiently (including admitting what you don’t know yet), they’re much more likely to support your approach, which is what you need at first. The goal isn’t necessarily to convince them immediately that you’re right. Your job is to instill enough confidence that you’ve thought things through and have a plan. Because leadership doesn’t really shy away from risk; most of them have become leaders because they understand the inherent value of taking risks.
What they shy away from is risk without a plan that addresses it realistically. That’s the difference between calculated risk and unmitigated, messy risk. Illustrate that your approach to social is well-reasoned, and you’ll buy yourself enough breathing room and support to execute on the plan and be accountable for it (more on that in a moment). That should be your goal. Not to convince the people that don’t yet buy what you’re selling, but to earn the chance to prove it to them.
4. Enabling Others
In these early days of broader social business practices and models, the value is very easily obscured if these programs become isolated and detached in their own corner of the business rather than integrated in a way that touches every department. Detached and isolated means it’s easy to dismiss social business as ancillary instead of as a core layer of the company that supports and enables everyone, in every role.
So if you’re the solo leader of social business programs, it’s important to take the time to methodically and personally meet with key leadership in your organization to discuss how social business will help them achieve their objectives. It’s fantastic to speak in terms of what your programs can accomplish in and of themselves, and it can be tempting to start there in order to prove your own worth and value to the organization in your role. But the very definition of social business is improving the entire organizational ecosystem, which means constantly illustrating how social business will support, accelerate and advance other important initiatives in the company.
Your most important job is to initiate those discussions and act as the connector and ambassador of social business, the inquisitor that helps ask the right questions to understand people’s needs, and the architect that builds programs with all of that in mind. Sometimes you need to be the facilitator, not just the expert. This is one of those times.
5. Auditing & Planning
Social business audit initiatives are the things that organizations need the most, but into which they probably invest the least time and energy.
As the thinker and the doer for nascent social programs, it’s critical that you have three pictures detailed at all times: Your Current State (where your organization is now), Your Future State (what you envision your company as a social business will look like), and the plan that helps you bridge between the two.
A key tool in that quest is the audit and evaluation process. You’ll want to take stock of everything: your culture and the organization’s mindset around social programs, existing education and training programs, the organizational design and roles that are relevant to this work, social media listening and engagement strategies, systems and the necessary adoption programs, and the framework and infrastructure that you’ll build on in order to grow and scale. (There’s more of course, but that gives you an idea of how to think about it all).
The audit process helps you uncover weak spots and potential obstacles, evaluate your strengths and good opportunities, and gives you a tool to track your progress over time.
As for your plan, you’ll need to design it around what you learn in that audit. That’s the bridge part; the bit where you outline how you’re going to move from “here” to “there”. Incorporate your goals and hypotheses (this is what we think is going to happen if we pursue this program), outline the execution of the plan and the resources you’ll need to help you do that, and include methods for tracking and evaluating your results.
Both of these processes are super valuable for a solo practitioner for one big reason: they necessarily mean that you have to collaborate and work with people all across your organization. You can’t do either auditing or planning in isolation, because you need diverse input and to consider the impact your plans will have on other people. That’s an outstanding way to socialize and talk about what you’re doing and why on a regular basis.
6. Patience, Patience, and more Patience.
Constant communication is your friend. As are deep breaths and constant reminders that this is a major shift that happens in small pieces, not all at once, and certainly not quickly. If you’re the army of one for a while, it can seem like progress is even slower and more incremental.
Remember, social business is as much of a cultural shift as an operational one, and you can feel a bit like a stranger in a strange land if you’re brought in to lead these programs yourself. No one really shares your perspective or understanding (that’s why they need you, after all), few other people may share your enthusiasm or vision for what social business can achieve, and fewer still may be interested at the outset in paying any of this much attention at all let alone taking their time and energy to help you.
But remember, your role is the ambassador and teacher. You are social business’ walking and breathing business case, champion, and advocate. The fact that the company has made the investment in you means that at the very least, they know that there’s a “there” there even if they aren’t yet sure what it looks like in the long term. They need you to help crystallize that.
This is hard work. Make no mistake. And it takes an inordinate amount of small steps forward, small steps back, repetition, reinforcement, discussion, explanation, education, adjustment, more small steps forward, and so on. Establishing a sound footing for social business programs in an organization is an effort that takes many, many months in the very best of circumstances, and sometimes much longer in resistant, complex, or slow-moving organizations.
You are doing the work of tomorrow, the work that will help businesses of all kinds learn and improve and adapt to what the web is relentlessly pushing on the world and the vast opportunities it presents. Being out in front of the charge takes patience, and courage, and vision, and the knowledge that someone, somewhere needs to take the first steps to create the change rather than waiting for it to simply happen to us.
Why shouldn’t it be you?
So what did we miss? What other things do you think the social business army of one needs to keep in mind and focus on? Add your thoughts in the comments.