Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Win the Internal Social Media Struggle

I know. It's hard to believe. But there are still people out there who believe social media is a waste of time.

I've found in most organizations there is a mix of people who believe in the power and the benefit of social media and those who don't. Often, a few social media believers spend a lot of time trying to overcompensate for the time their co-workers won't commit to.

The internal struggle can be the hardest to overcome. But imagine how much more efficiently an organization could spread its message if all the professionals put in even half as much time on social media as they spend on e-mail.

To give proper credit, Jay Baer makes the great analogy to e-mail on his Convince and Convert. He says 15 years ago, no one was using e-mail and that was time consuming, too. Now people spend an hour or two each day reading and replying to e-mails because the benefits far outweigh the time cost.

Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you're already one of the converted. So let me share a few ways you can help evangelize for social media and overcome your organization's internal struggle:

Be nice. I know this sounds annoyingly trite, but it's true. You can't force someone to interact in social media, and if you do, it's not going to be the kind of interaction you want.

People are working more for less, frustrated by the struggling economy and already attached at the hip to their smartphones. Realize where they're coming from and why adding an item to their to-do list—a time-consuming item at that—might not sound that appealing to them.

• Share the metrics.
How much traffic has social media driven to your site? How many new friends or followers do you get each week? How many impressions did your social media interaction result in? What new business have you driven or what connections have you made? Use solid, tangible examples to prove that it's worthwhile.

• Make connections.
Be on the lookout for how your social media connections could help your co-workers and vice versa. It might only take an e-mail or two with a great suggestion, helpful tip or meaningful networking opportunity to convince a colleague how worthwhile social media can be.

• Create internal resources.
This can mean a variety of things. Maybe your company blog offers tips and professional development information, so people see how blogging can be beneficial. Maybe—like I'm working on at my organization—you hold education sessions to help people use social media more efficiently and effectively.

In fact, we decided to make 20-minute personalized sessions because people are at so many different levels in their decision to embrace social media. We didn't want to overwhelm beginners, but we also didn't want to bore the more advanced users. So we're going to have people sign up for different sessions that are more specific to their needs.

• Help people prioritize. This is easier, of course, if you're someone in a position of authority. You could relieve some part of an employee's workload to give them a little extra time to figure out their way around the social media arena. But there's also always something we can do as co-workers to help ease each other's schedules, support each other and encourage innovation.

• Welcome them with open arms when they do join.
Encourage people to follow the new user, interact with them, "Like" and share their items. Prove to them what a positive and supportive environment social media can foster.

Be encouraging and tell people that it takes the most work in the beginning to build an online community, but it won't be this much work forever. Putting in the effort in the front end will eventually save time and effort.

You can't win over everyone all at once. But you can be positive, supportive and welcoming and show people the results—seen and unseen—that come from engaging in these new ways.

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About Me

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Stories are my passion—and I am an advocate for the new, engaging ways to share and create those stories. I grew up in a small town in Michigan and now live and work in the Chicago area.