Social media depends on change management

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At SAS, when we talk to customers about successful business analytics implementations, we hear a lot about the importance of executive sponsorship, aligning with business goals and continuing to build on your success by tracking and celebrating the successful milestones in your analytics projects.

It's no surprise, really, that social media success stories share a lot of those same themes. It's all about change management. Whether you're trying to get your organization to approach risk in a more analytical way, to manage marketing campaigns more strategically or to support customers via social media - in most companies - you're dealing with cultural and organizational change that involves at least a handful of departments.

Panelists on the Blogworld panel "Social Media and the C-Suite: Selling the Board Room" went beyond just discussing executive buy-in and encouraged attendees to listen to the company's leaders, set expectations and communicate consistently with executives and middle managers to achieve success with social media. Panel members were Jaime Punishill from Thomson Reuters, Zena Weist, from H & R block and Christopher Bacus from AT&T. Jason Keath from Social Fresh was moderator.

You can use the advice from these panelists for any change management project you're attempting - business analytics, social media or otherwise.

Map out dynamics inside your organization. The initiative might come from marketing, PR or e-commerce; "There's no one right place to park this," said Jaime. In a previous job, he worked for a global bank where PR was risk adverse and only had a "talk at you" approach. "It was the wrong group to grab the mantel. At other organizations, it’s the only group that knows how to hold a two-way dialogue.

At H&R Block, social media used to be in the marketing department, and the company had just one social media manager before Zena came on board. At that time, says Zena, "The focus was on online marketing, and it was very campaign driven. We worked with the CMO to get back to fundamentals. We focused on client service and conversations before marketing. We showed what we needed to do in order to achieve objectives, and the executive team has given us support to do it."

To find a champion, find the person who has the greatest "What’s in it for me" and work with them," says Jaime. "This expectation that the CEO at most companies is ever going to understand social media is not realistic. It’s not their job. That’s why they have people. Find the person who can say, "If you tell me we should do this, we’ll do this – and I trust you to do it right."

Involve middle managers and many departments. "The hard part isn’t getting the buy in," said Christopher. "The difficult thing is maintaining buy in and moving to a strategic form of social media. In order to make that happen, buy-in from middle managers is just as important as buy-in from the C-suite," said Christopher.

"Weave in and out of different groups within the organization to help them weave social into what they do," said Zena.

Put someone with authority in charge of the program. "Citi had slide decks going back three years trying to convince executve managers into buying into social," said Jaime, "But they had failed to sustain anything past, 'Hey, this is really cool.'" What it took was a senior person taking charge of the program. "Citi wasn’t going to trust the repair of its brand to somebody fresh out of school. They needed somebody that was senior and could translate social into terms that meant something to business. We’re effective because we play the translation function enough that they can see the business impact."

Find a metric you can move. "When I took the job within ecommerce, the first place we started was customer service," said Jaime. "It was a line item I knew I could move. It was a meaningful metric. Find the hook that’s going to mean something to your organization."

"What my boss wants is to make sure we’re listening to the customer," says Zena. "Loyalty reduces churn. Managing issues before they become crises improves the brand." Her team figures out what the customer wants and facilitates that in the social space.

"The customer care aspect seems to be easier to sell than conversational marketing," said Christopher. "You have to have a team that’s dedicated and engages that audience in an interesting way. You need to participate as a participant. Social media is a great way to get a quick response. But how much will that happen? How much will it scale?"

Champion how social impacts the brand. Zena made sure the executives at H&R Block understood how her team was improving brand perception. "We had to step away from metrics and went back to asking, 'What does this means to the brand?' When we go to executives and say, 'Here’s what we’re doing with brand awareness, attribution, and customer support,' they shake their heads and say, 'You guys are just another channel?' Yes, we’re just another channel! 'Oh, okay then. We’ll carve this out for you.'"

Engage consultants but don't outsource the entire project. "In order to build a team, I had to get help outside," said Zena. She says she used an agency partly to make it clear that "Zena’s not trying to build an empire." Instead, she made it obvious that, "In order to do the job well and do what’s right for brand, here’s what H&R Block needs. It's not what Zena needs."

"Much like Zena, we hired an outside agency that mapped out our structure and provided advice on how the organization could move forward."

Fight process with process. Legal, compliance, fraud, risk, IT, information security can all be blockers but you have to work with them. "We took a federated model," said Jaime, "Because there were so many employees. We put policies in place and put a steering committee in place. Then my team focused on doing things really well and embarrassed others who weren’t doing itg right." Since you can’t stop the fringe efforts, says Jaime, "Make it painfully obvious that any initiative that didn’t check with us first didn’t know what it was doing."

Finally, don't be afraid of hard work. "We go to a lot of meetings during the day and then do most of our work at night," said Zena "That’s what we’re doing. I’ll be honest. H&R Block is a large company, and there are five of us in social media."

Further reading suggestions from me? Try these change management books: Switch by the Heath brothers and A Sense of Urgency by John Kotter.

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About Author

Alison Bolen

Editor of Blogs and Social Content

+Alison Bolen is an editor at SAS, where she writes and edits content about analytics and emerging topics. Since starting at SAS in 1999, Alison has edited print publications, Web sites, e-newsletters, customer success stories and blogs. She has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University and a master’s degree in technical writing from North Carolina State University.

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