Take Social Media Stealth, At Least for Now

I’ve been following interesting discussions lately about the use of the word Media in Social Media. Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research takes his usual professorial approach (that’s a compliment Josh). He points out that media evokes advertising which is one way, but all social web sites/technologies are two way. He offers a number of other insights and ways to refer to Social Media in his blog post Why Social Media Sucks here. Reading the conversations brought to mind some other concerns some of my peers are facing.

Much of the debate stems from the attention Social Media is beginning to receive from senior managers inside large companies. We have been spending the better part of a year trying to get their attention and trumpeting the value of Social Media and the need to enter this space. Of course when you ask for attention you will ultimately receive it. A favorite quote comes to mind, Goodness by the inch invites evil by the yard. Getting the mind share of execs in your firm is a double-edged sword for sure. They will want to know more…

  • Because they have heard about the missteps made by some brands and want to see if they might be next
  • Which means they will have ideas and perhaps, dare I say it, tinker
  • So they can understand the expense dollars and staff time being placed against it
  • Give their personal perspective thumbs up or down sign

radarscreenAll of these things are completely fine, especially the financial curiosity; after all they have a business to run. But as was pointed out in a recent Forrester report, three-fourths of firms polled said their Social Media budget is less than $100,000 annually. That’s small by most large company standards, but in this economic climate nothing escapes scrutiny. Those reported expenses are services purchased dollars and does not include FTE. Now that we’ve got the C’s leaning in it’s time to reduce altitude and fly under the radar.

  • Get your modest budget approved and protected through the rest of the year (important safety tip: stick to it)
  • Ring fence your people resources to as few as possible
  • Carefully choose who else you engage, don’t overburden other stretched teams (especially IT)
  • Leverage everything you’ve already built over the last year
  • Develop your established properties; you’ve probably got lots of opportunity there
  • Report progress and milestones only to your department head, letting her decide how and when to pass it on
  • As I’ve said in previous posts, think and act like a start-up. Be scrappy and lean

We’ve been exploring alternate terminology to the Social Media handle in my company. Don’t do this in a vacuum, as the choice should largely depend on your organization’s structure and how they think about channels. Look for successful case studies within your own firm where groups have changed their name and it has been viewed as positive. Avoid being seduced by the latest buzzwords. This is one you need to work on from the inside out. I could reel off a laundry list of labels but you probably have already thought of them and could add 10 more.

My potential best advice is to not name it at all. More of an exercise in subtraction vs. adding other terms you have to explain. If you are called E-Commerce today in your firm, then you’ve already got your name. Social Media is just another thing you take care of.

I believe this is a temporary state for Social Media. As the economy begins to rebound you will be able to pull back on the stick and ascend to cruising altitude. When you’re back on the radar screen the C’s will say, “Well done.”

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