Listen but don't forget to act - lessons from #LikeMinds


At the end of February, I had the pleasure of attending one of the more vibrant and collaborative social media events that I have been to. The Likeminds conference, held in Exeter in the UK, is an interesting mix of enterprises using social media, leading practitioners such as Chris Brogan, Trey Pennington and Olivier Blanchard, and a number of local businesses and public sector organizations. Orange Business' own Yann Gourvennec was a keynote speaker: a video of his presentation can be found here. You can find an array of videos, blog posts and musings from the event here

There was a great deal of discussion on how companies are adopting social media, and the challenges of bedding the technologies into working practices. Other talking points centers on brand reputation, motivating internal contributors, whether a brand can be sincere and whether tools are coming before process.

And it is this last point that I would like to address. Many companies have taken the first forays into social media: they may have a corporate blog, or a Twitter feed or a Facebook page. The problem is they are only using the marketing aspects, and even then, not effectively. This is a question asked by John Bell at agency Ogilvy. "How do we go beyond social media as a token gesture - this is the CMO's dilemma" he says.

So why isn't social media joined up with business processes? May be because people started with the tools first and thought about what to do with them afterwards.

This was a point well made by Oliver Blanchard who discussed the evolution of social media in the enterprise, and how organizations were struggling to marry strategy and tactics. His belief is that companies need to focus more on enablement of social media and business process, rather than endless strategizing.

Blanchard shared with us his own experience of how social media is not joined up: when he tweeted that a shop had poor customer service, it was quickly picked up by those responsible for monitoring the company's online reputation. They tried to contact the store manager to respond to the customer (who was still in the shop), but to no avail. There were no processes within the organization for joining up social media to the outlets.

This illustrates that many organizations listen to what is said about them in the social media, particularly Twitter, but as yet have not incorporated social media into marketing, PR, product development, customer service, help desks and so on. Collating reputation or buzz measurements is just the start of the journey that companies need to go through.

When I visit conferences, I talk to people who say they've been asked to create a Facebook page, or a Twitter account by their boss, but it stands alone, detached. This is completely the wrong approach to social media. You need to start with what you want to accomplish, then identify how to change processes to achieve this and finally you can address the issue of which tools to use.Just to emphasize why listening and contributing to social media is important, Chris Brogan had a valuable point to make. Customers wanted to be loved. They may use social media to praise their favourite brand, or occasionally to moan but ultimately, like a small child playing hide and seek, they want to be wanted. So it's important that companies don't just listen to their customers complaints and feedback (their reputation), but that they do something about it.

Madlen Nicolaus, social media manager EAMER at Kodak shared a good example with the Likeminds attendees. The launch of the Kodak Zi8 portable HD camera was greeted enthusiastically

Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.