7 Things CXO’s Can Do to Ensure Success with Social

February 19, 2013 Charlie Cowan

ImpressionThe World is going social.  The analysts have social as one of their key trends to watch.  Facebook had their multi-billion dollar IPO in 2012.  New networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Path command mega-valuations.  Everyone is sharing, sharing, sharing.

And then you see an amazing Chatter demo at Dreamforce and you say to your fellow Execs “We’ve got to deploy Social in our company right now!”  But wait – being a social business is much more than technology – it’s about your people, it’s about your culture.

Before you press “Go!” on your social revolution here are a few things you should do to prepare.

If you are going to actively sponsor social activity in your company then it makes sense that you are social yourself.  One of the common misconceptions with deploying social is that if we train employees how to use the tools then they will use the tools.

But if you take a look at Facebook or Twitter user statistics you will see that only a small percentage of users are content creators – actively sharing and writing original content.  The majority of users are lurkers or voyeurs – logging in to see what others are saying but not comfortable enough to add to the conversation.

What % of Your Employees are Creators? (source: Wikipedia)

Across the internet this is known as the 1% rule , or the 90-9-1 principle (1% create, 9% contribute by liking and commenting, and 90% view with no participation).  Your enterprise social community will remove some of the friction by comprising people that should already know each other and by not requiring additional login details, so you could assume that between 2-5% of your employees will be content creators – the majority will have limited interest in posting, no matter how cool your new social tool is. So what can you do to make sure that the social tool your company invests in and rolls out is actually used?

Here are 7 Things You Can Do to Ensure Social Success:

1. Set yourself up a Twitter account
If you don’t have a Twitter account, set one up, add a photo and profile and follow some great people.  Vala Afshar, CMO at Enterasys has put together this list of 100 great leadership, business and technology Twitter accounts to follow.  If you do nothing else, just learning from these tweeters will give you great value.

2. Listen first
A common objection I hear is “I don’t want to be on Twitter having to hear what some person that I don’t know had for lunch!”  Rest assured – the people on Vala’s list are not telling you what they had for lunch!  To put Twitter in context – I learn more from Twitter than I have ever done from any other source (university included).

Instead of using your new Twitter account to talk, spend time listening.  Download the Twitter app to your smartphone or tablet and take 20 minutes in the morning or evening and just scroll through – see what thought-leaders in your industry or function are saying, how they are saying it and the great articles they are sharing.

3. Start sharing yourself
I’m very confident that quickly you’ll read a tweet relevant to your role or industry that you want to share, and that’s great – retweet it to your followers.  Stay consistent so that people that follow you understand that you are focused on product development, or finance, or global trade.  Feel free to add a bit of personal life in – you want your followers to feel that you are real – but remember no-one wants to know what you had for lunch!

Aim to share 10 pieces of content (retweeting or tweeting someone else’s article) for every 1 tweet that talks about your own business – this isn’t a PR operation.  Remember the guy in the bar that talks about himself non-stop – don’t be that guy!

Social is about being social!  Don’t fall into the trap of talking at people.  Ask questions, gather opinions, get answers, make connections.  Add value.

4. Be patient

For me, my Twitter ramp up probably took 6 months.  During that time I had plenty of times when I just didn’t get it and felt like giving up on the platform.  It took that amount of time to find accounts that I had an interest in following (you can fast track with Vala’s Top 100!), to understand how to engage with the community and get the most from it.  Today I see it as a learning platform, not the broadcast platform I thought it was.

Back to Social in Your Business
As you now go back to considering rolling out a social technology like Salesforce Chatter across your business, consider what you have learned through being on Twitter.  If we just turn Chatter on, will they come?  They might – but more than likely you will have the majority of your employees at the same stage you were pre-Twitter – What should I write, let’s talk about me, who should I follow, why is no-one else saying anything. So, what can you do to apply what you learned on Twitter to the context of your company?

5. Assemble a group of “reverse mentors”
The rest of your Exec team may not have had the Twitter epiphany you have experienced – so we need to fast track them.  Look out into your employee base for keen social networkers and set up a reverse mentoring programme whereby they assist a named Exec with their social journey.  Perhaps set up an hour every Friday morning when they can help them by drafting some posts or getting involved in conversations that have developed that week.  Reinforce to your fellow Execs that there are no silly questions – “@mentions, hashtags – what are these exactly?”

6. Make it a learning platform
Make Chatter a learning platform by sharing relevant content to your employees.  Perhaps go back over your Twitter feed and pull out a link per day to share.  Provide regular, consistent insight on your industry, on career development, on competitors, on new technology.  Make sure that when your first employees venture on to Chatter they find great content that they too want to share.

7. Ask questions
What is the best way to get someone to speak in real life?  Ask them a question!  So encourage the rest of your Exec team to use Chatter as a question platform.

1. “What’s happening with this customer?”
2. “Why was this campaign so successful?”
3. “What could we do to accelerate this plan?”
4. “Who should get recognised at the annual awards?”

Remember your Twitter journey and remember how hard those first few tweets were.  Help your employees to make that first step and you’ll be ahead of most companies when it comes to turning your organisation social!

I hope these tips will help you in your social journey.  For more detail, take a look at this McKinsey article, Six social media skills every leader needs. If you have any questions then feel free to tweet us @appirio or @iamcharliecowan.

Charlie Cowan is part of the Appirio team in London helping large enterprises achieve rapid business value by transforming their businesses with public cloud technologies. You can follow Charlie on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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