Critics and Evangelists: A Communication Starter

A huge, huge barrier to adoption of social media is the Us vs. Them mentality. The notion that “they” are preventing us from implementing the social media strategy we want. Or that “they” are a bunch of time-wasters who don’t understand business value and want to upset the apple cart with unproven strategies.

Provided that you have the wherewithal to bring the feuding parties to the table for a constructive discussion (and if you don’t, sorry, you’ve got no room to complain that “they” don’t “get it”), let’s talk through a few things you might want to discuss across the table.

Evangelists to Critics

Speak their language: Understand that the critics around social media are hearing the hype, but they’re likely seeing a focus on the tools instead of a discussion around how they further business goals. They may not use the tools themselves, which means they don’t have first hand experience. Or if they do, they see them as a personal communication tool, and not readily applicable, measurable, or executable in a business framework.

Your job: Education, information, and an objective mindset. And doing your homework around how your social media ideas fit into the bigger picture, including having a realistic assessment of risks and potential challenges. You’ve got to temper your enthusiasm based on what you see, and look at the social media landscape with a critical and editorial eye.

Points of Discussion:

  1. What perceptions do you have about the usefulness of social media within a business? What have you heard that reinforces those notions, for better or worse?

  2. What information would help you feel more comfortable about considering social media strategies as a part of our mix?

  3. What are you most concerned about regarding the risks or implications of social media? What’s the worst case scenario you can imagine, should we undertake such a thing?

  4. Why are these concerns top of mind? Is there anything else we do as a company that has similar risks?

  5. Have you undertaken new or unfamiliar strategies in your role previously? How did you establish a foundation for that and mitigate risk?

  6. Are you concerned that this will somehow negatively impact your role? That of your team? Your available resources? Why or why not?

Critics to Evangelists

Speak their language: Know that many proponents of social media do see potential for this kind of communication and mindset, outside of just Facebook, Twitter, or blogs. Enthusiasm for new strategies is often because it speaks to a perceived unmet need or a weakness in existing approaches. It’s perfectly reasonable to require business justification, but your advocates for social media might be seeing opportunity in places you hadn’t considered.

Your job: Articulating your criticisms and concerns from an objective and levelheaded viewpoint. Educating the group on business goals, and where you see gaps between social media strategies and the ability to meet those goals. Keeping an open mind to looking at existing business challenges through the lens of different solutions that may feel less familiar.

Points of Discussion

  1. Which areas of the business will this impact, and how would we need to adjust our current culture, process, or operations to accommodate it?

  2. How do you see roles and responsibilities changing to incorporate these new strategies and tactics, and what kind of resource allocation will your strategy require (people, time, money, infrastructure).

  3. What are the potential financial risks? Reputation risks?

  4. What training and education will we need to provide, both internally and externally?

  5. What are your goals and objectives for our use and adoption of social media? How will you gauge progress toward them, and how are you defining both success and failure?

On both ends of the table, I’m a big fan of the 5 Whys approach to getting to the root cause of issues. It’s a tactic employed by the folks at Toyota as part of their evolution in manufacturing. It’s not perfect, but if you haven’t tried it before, it can be an interesting way to break through repetitive thinking. (On a related note, if you haven’t read The Elegant Solution, it’s a fascinating look into the world of Toyota’s processes, innovation, and mindset, and a compelling business book.)

Getting the discussion started among dissenting viewpoints is really key to uncovering root issues that stand in the way of long term social media adoption. And you may find that the issues at hand aren’t about blogs or Facebook or policies at all, but a shift in culture that’s happening as a result.

What would you add? Have you had these discussions, and what roadblocks do you come up against? What makes you lose patience with these kinds of discussions? Let’s have an honest discussion ourselves, here, shall we?

image by rmlowe

Critics and Evangelists: A Communication Starter

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