We are Always Arriving, Part 2: A Good Traveller

photo by E3000

“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
-Lao Tzu

So if social media is a perpetually moving target, as new platforms are developed and new functionality added to existing platforms, how do we set our sights on a goal? What if social media really were about the journey and not about the destination? Because truthfully, I don't think there is an end to this journey.

As users of public social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, we've been trained on how to function in the sphere. We learned in our travels through the various mediums. Doing it for ourselves, most of us didn't have a goal, it was really was and still is about the experience. But now, we know how to listen, we know how to talk. We listen for our interests and we talk to people talking about things that interest us.

In a professional context, however, most employees experience fear. Many companies do not practice social communications. Being a part of the voice of a whole company... a company with a marketing and/or PR department is just plain scary. We seem to forget that there are lessons from our personal experience with various social mediums that we can take with us into this new context. Consider the lurker. (more on that later)

The segmented nature and lack of flow between cells in a company work together to create anxiety when CEOs and Marketing Directors think about social media. This removal control of the "message" of the on-going story being told about a brand gives folks in a position of responsibility for the brand pause, even as they get excited about the potential of the medium. From their hands the message is wrested and delivered into the hands of the consumers of their products and services. These are the people who truly control and steer the message in a social media sphere. Even if your company is neither talking nor listening, there's a good chance your consumers are. The reality is, it's always been about the users. In the social media sphere elaborately engineered messages tend to get ignored and authenticity becomes the modus operandi. And in large organizations with diverse product lines, that means there shouldn't be just one point of contact. Experts within your organization being given a voice - that's scary. And the really scary part of losing control is the social empowerment of people you've maybe never heard from within your company.

But there's a solution for that.

Next edition: The Center of Opportunity

photo by e3000

No iPad in the Bathroom

Recently I participated in a high-level discussion hosted by HNi Insurance. Perhaps 20 owners of transportation and logistics companies were present. One participant, Joe, told us the story of the urinals in his company. "It's the best place for me to get information from my drivers about what is going on within the organization, and it's the best place for me to update them. I know they'll be there, so I use the urinal to communicate with them. If I write the information on the wall that I want them to know, or hang it there, they'll see it." This Joe runs 100 drivers around the country every day--no small feat. His company urinal is his social media.

Everyone in every workplace, everywhere in the world, every day, goes to the bathroom. More and more, social media is the one thing everyone in every workplace does, every day. In fact, your employees are using social media while they are in the bathroom, because you prevented them from doing it at their desk when you blocked Facebook. So they do it on the crapper with a device that fits in their pocket.

The question is not "How do we stop people from using social media?" or even, "How do we stop people from using social media in the bathroom?" The question needs to go the other way--not from the company into the bathroom, but from the bathroom into the company.

Here's a new question:

"How do we make the story about what our company does every day something that people would want to share with others?"

Fundamentally, everyone wants to tell stories. Every single human being is capable of telling stories, and does so, throughout life, as soon as the first language is acquired and thereafter until death.

Every job involves storytelling. Engineers on the shop floor tell stories about the machines with numbers. Customer service reps tell stories about their customers, who tell stories about the customer service reps to their customers. Executives tell stories about the past, present, and future, and board members suspend their disbelief for at least a third of the conversation. Sales reps tell stories about customers to other reps, their sales manager, the vice president of sales, and other customers. Marketing people tell stories about the executive's vision of the future, and hope the vice president of sales was in the meeting that day.

Knowing that this is true, and knowing that people will do what they need to do to tell those stories--up to and including an extended crap session--means that resisting this is futile. It's stupid. Give up. Control is a waste of your time: your mission is more interesting than whatever control you exercise over it, and your mission is the only thing your company does that will inspire your people to tell stories about it.

(Check back in a week for part two of this story.)