February 17, 2012
The ever-excellent For Immediate Release (episode 638) put me onto 10 things you still need to know about social media / social business, by Olivier Blanchard (aka the Brand Builder), which sounds like every other post you’ve ever hear of.
But it’s worth a read (the hint is in the use of the word ‘still’). Despite Olivier’s focus on the private sector – where both customer service and marketing are mission-critical, not Nice-to-Haves as they are for the EU Institutions – it got me thinking about the gulf that still separates the EU Institutions from the effective use of social media.
So I thought I’d run down his list from the perspective of the EU Institutions, and see where it lead me:
1. “Social” is something you are, not something you do
This led to a somewhat pedantic debate on FIR, but my take on this is that you have to be social to do social. As Olivier puts it:
“If your company culture doesn’t focus on building relationships with your customers, then chances are that you won’t use social media to do it either.”
Now the EU has, for 50 of its first 60 years, never had to consider European citizens – the only relationships it had were with other denizens of the Brussels Bubble, and governments (the EP elections results show that the EP is no exception here).
This inward-looking culture runs deep. Transforming it into a social culture is an epic task, to say the least.
2. You cannot effectively outsource customer relationships to an agency
Given that my main client is an agency, you’d probably assume I’d disagree. I don’t. Partly because:
“Research and intelligence, sure: that can be outsourced. Creative? That too. Implementing technologies and helping you with strategy? You bet. Marketing, PR and advertising? Of course.”
But the actual interactions? That’s hard. I’ve been looking at this for a few years now, and my experiences to date are behind some of the posts in this blog (example). Essentially, an outreach team needs more than expertise in social media and in the content being discussed, both of which can be outsourced – they also need an escalation path for when the conversations get too technical (or too political), and that is pretty hard for a bureaucracy to outsource, particularly when you remember that these escalation paths need to span organisational boundaries, across which even angels fear to tread.
3. A blog is just a blog. It isn’t a magical trust and influence publishing converter for the web.
“Publishing propaganda or marketing content is just that, regardless of the publishing platform.”
Some people in the EU Institutions got this right first time, years ago. Others still don’t.
4. Marketing on social media channels isn’t “social.” It is just marketing on social media channels
Amen. See Point 3.
5. Transparency isn’t just a word. If you don’t intend to practice it, don’t preach it.
This is a biggie. As I mentioned somewhere recently, we’re living in an age of transparency, whether governments and corporates like it or not. And in such an age, it helps to look good naked.
The EU, of course, has been covered up for a long time, but now people are taking a closer look, under the clothes, and finding that it doesn’t look good naked.
Changing this is such a cultural shift that in my pessimistic moments I just don’t think it can happen.
6. Change management, not social media tools and platforms, is at the crux of social media program development
If you’ve read this far and haven’t grasped this by now, perhaps you’re in the wrong business. Olivier puts it succintly:
“Because social is something you are, not something you do, most organizations cannot succeed in the social space by changing what they do and not who they are… “Social” speaks at least as much to your company’s DNA as it does to its business practices.”
As pointed out above, the EU Institutions’ history means that the DNA is a long way from being social. Adding a layer of doing social on top of the old processes, structures and mentalities is not a recipe for success.
7. People are more important than technology. Hire people who care about other people
Do I need to go into any detail about the impact the EU Institution’s Human Resources policies have on their communications work? No, I didn’t think so.
Suffice to say that this is again about DNA. Bureaucrats are generally process-driven, not results-driven. In any case, there are no rewards systems in place for encouraging them to care about anyone other than their hierarchy.
Olivier’s take on this is not particularly relevant to the EC (which, on the whole, is not populated by particularly unpleasant people), but it’s so damned funny I’m going to reproduce a paragraph anyway:
“If you hire and promote assholes, your company will be full of assholes. It doesn’t matter how much Twitter and Facebook you add to your company’s communications or how many awesome monitoring dashboards you buy… [because] an asshole on social media is still an asshole.”
8. Social media should not be managed by Marketing anymore than your phones should be managed by Sales
Olivier’s point is that social media is about relationships; the relationship a customer wants from a company is generally customer service; so why are the marketers involved?
Probably because the relationship the company wants with the customer is to sell them something, not provide customer service.
If you think this doesn’t transfer across to the use of social media by the EU, ask yourself this: what do you want from your government? Services, and a voice in the laws you must respect? Or someone trying to sell you something?
9. Shut up and listen
Again, some thought is required to translate this from “what a company should do” to “what the EU should do”, because companies have both customers and competitors, and the EU has …?
“Pushing content all day long and measuring likes and impressions won’t get you very far… If your communications serve your marketing department more than they serve your customers or your business on the whole, you are probably doing it wrong.”
I guess the general point is that if the Institutions’ use of social media is aimed at making those doing it look good internally, rather than Being Useful to Europeans, then they’re probably doing it wrong. And to do it right: first, listen.
10. Any consultant, “thought leader,” agency or partner who doesn’t tell you these things isn’t fit to be consulted on the subject
As possibly the only communications consultant to the EU Institutions who blogs about EU communications, I like this one!