The most important thing you need to understand to really “get” social media is this: It only works when you give.
I just got back from holding a week-long social media workshop at the beautiful lake Starnberg near Munich, Germany. And throughout the week this was the number one message I tried to hammer into my participants’ brains. “Most people think Social Media is great because you can take out whatever you want. But it only really works for you if you give as well.”
“Most people think Social Media is great because you can take out whatever you want. But it only really works for you if you give as well.”
For most of you reading right now, this of course makes perfect sense. You’ve understood that giving is an essential mechanism of keeping the modern day internet going. Your giving includes posting your own contents, giving appreciation through likes, comments or shares and you recommend and review products, locations and co-workers.
For some people I talk to, this is a weird and unnatural concept. Not creation and engagement as concepts in general. But some have difficulties reflecting on how they behave in real life and mastering the translation of that into social media. They grew up with one-directional mass media, where all you could do was take, take, take. The option of directly and publicly communicating about the contents or – even “worse” – communicating back at the author scares many. When I explained the concepts of Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants in my workshop, there was a collective sigh of relief from everyone but the 19-year old. Finally they could blame their unease on a semi-scientific reason.
Inclusion and Gratitude
How did I counter this lurker mentality in my workshop? In the same way I established a positive and interactive attidude towards social media during my time at Microsoft and in various client projects thereafter. The keywords here are inclusion and gratitude. In my opinion the two most important factors for social business success.
Trying to force employees (or my workshop participants) to use social media doesn’t work. Simply expecting a full technological and cultural adoption of a new internal social collaboration platform without putting forth the effort does not work.
What works for driving effective adoption of and more importantly satisfaction with new communication models is GIVING. Companies and managers trying to implement an enterprise social network need to give first to be able to receive later. To successfully implement a new internal communications and collaboration platform, companies need to establish central services that focus on giving value to their employees.
- Every company should invest in a series of social media and social collaboration trainings for all levels (Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants and Digital Deniers).
- Every company should appoint at least one dedicated internal community manager, ideally coming from the internal communications department. This person should be responsible for maintaining and fostering the internal community structures and positive attitude, should provide uncomplicated help to community members and assist management in bridging the gap between management blabla and authentic social communication.
- Every company should make sure they allocate time for social communication and collaboration in their management’s day to day to set a good example for the rest of the company.
It comes down to attitude
All these activities need to be interwoven with inclusion and gratitude. What do I mean by that? It all comes down to attitude. You can say thank you, but it only works if you mean it and it comes across as authentic. You can genuinely make people feel welcome and included, or you can go through the same motions and sentences but leave people feeling like a burden.
Yes, this is time-consuming. Yes, this can sometimes be annoying. But is it worth it? Absolutely.
My workshop was officially a 9-6 deal, but I made myself available during lunch and after dinner, set up a facebook group for easy communication and made sure that everything we did had inclusion, gratitude and ultimately recognition written all over it. I highlighted the progress that was made. I was discreet and non-judgemental when someone came to me with a question. I kept everyone motivated and saw to it that we had a positive attitude throughout the workshop. I was actively doing community management for my workshop, online and offline.
For management and communications professionals, this behaviour should be self-evident. Sadly, again and again I hear of instances where it is not. And scared employees, feeling like their questions are a burden, shut off, emotionally distance themselves from their work and are less productive.
I see my maxim of inclusion and gratitude working every day. The results of my workshop: 11 people that have lost their fear and unease towards social media, two start-up ideas born, one business idea brought to fruition, and ongoing productive group collaboration happening in a Facebook group.
Picture Credit: Gratisography.com