Many observers of the social media initiatives that have unfolded within global businesses would be forgiven for noting the similarities with the Science Fiction story, Flowers for Algernon. In this creepy story, a lab rat named Algernon has its brain manipulated and experiences rapid increases in intelligence. The experiment is then extended to a human, Charlie Gordon, and he too experiences a (temporary) spike in understanding, memory and ability. Eventually and cruelly, the experiment devolves and an Algernon-Gordon Effect is detected, and both the rat and Charlie return to their original abilities. Are most ‘Social Media’ initiatives that far away from a version of the Algernon-Gordon Effect?
How would we measure the success of ‘Social?’ Leading businesses have strong and compelling data that indicates that ‘Social’ and ‘Crowdsourcing’ are having a good impact on their businesses. The other 95% of businesses are far behind, struggling to cross over from partisan efforts locked into niches in the marketing department over to the more fertile ground of cross-department and cross-function (integrated marketing, sales and service, and logistics, for example).
The anecdotal information trickling out across many businesses is still fluff. We have seen Cable companies and airlines and retailers flare into the headlines with fantastic stories, only to fizzle out and the leaders of the initiative move on to other exciting opportunities. And the gap between IT and marketing, marketing and customer support, and the CIO and Customer Service groups remains a yawning chasm rather than a shallow eddy. Last week, inside of a large national bank in Asia, I asked the team that came to speak with me about ‘social’ what the driver of the interest in ‘social’ was. “The interest is coming from our customers,” was the answer.
Beware of IT saying, “”The interest is coming from our customers.” Though I was 75% sure I knew the answer, I posed it anyway: ” Who is your customer?” The answer?
The branch managers
The marketing executives
The contact center managers
My follow on questions were:
How often do you sit with or directly interact with bank customers to gather or observe their needs?
How integrated are your Social Media initiatives? i.e., between yourselves in IT and the CIO and CEO and the board and the lines of business?
The answers were: a) we are not in a position to interact with the customers. Those are not ‘our’ customers. and b) there is no ‘we’ at the bank. [that I can attest to, as we needed to drive to a separate location to reach the walled off 'IT-Barracks' that were devoid of any sign that a consumer or business customer had ever passed through the gates.]
Business after business after business is failing to join up the pockets of social media undertaking with an over-arching strategic vision. Though coordinated yet small efforts can lead to eventual success, disjointed efforts will continue to result in the piecemeal and ineffectual efforts that currently encapsulate ‘Social’ at the vast majority of the world’s institutions.
Spoiler alert: next time we’ll look at where successes have occurred, and it is when Marketing and the CIO are on a path together, urged on by an informed and engaged CEO. It can happen, and when it does there is music and magic. If you have examples, pass them on!