Want to win in social media? Four ingredients for success

comments     Posted May 16, 2011 by Ted Sapountzis with 45 reads

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I wrote this post last September, aptly titled: Social Media Marketing: Think marriage, not a one-night-stand.  In it, I listed some of the pitfalls and misconceptions surrounding social media.  Eight months later, and after many discussions with my peers in the industry and experiments at my own company, I wanted to share my thoughts on what I am seeing as the four key ingredients of success:

  1. Secure executive support:  While this may appear obvious and trite, it is so true.  As much as we would like to think that if you build a strong grass root movement within your company it will succeed, do not be fooled.  While broad engagement in your company is critical, I would advocate that you not start until you have at least a few key executives on board.  This rang so true to me when I had the chance to visit Dell’s headquarters last February and hear Michael Dell speak passionately about this topic.   There is no doubt in my mind that Michael is the strongest supporter of this movement within Dell, but don’t take my word.  Read his views for yourself in this interview from 2008.
  2. Think carrots, not sticks:  Unless your corporate culture is true command-and-control (which in itself raises a whole lot of questions whether social will ever succeed at your company), you need to be creative and get people excited to start thinking about social the right way.  While the elusive ROI question still looms (and you of course need to get tangible business benefits), as we all know this takes time and perseverance.  So how do you begin to incent the right behaviors in this journey?   As an example, at SAP we used this ‘eye-candy’ infographic to start injecting rigor, changing behaviors and starting to measure the right things when we develop social programs around events.  It was not however these that got people excited, but rather the opportunity to also get one of these infographics for their own social programs (fully automated!), if they follow the right process.
  3. Leverage the initiated:  Even if you are early in this journey, I am sure you can find a handful of colleagues that ‘get it’ and are doing the right things.  It doesn’t matter whether you call them evangelists, ambassadors, or champions, the key is to identify who they are and leverage them.  Use them to help you refine (or even define) your overall strategy and act as your extended arms in your organizations.  Make heroes out of them, have them tell stories and help your company.
  4. Think big, start small, fail fast:  Yes this also seems obvious and trite.  It is however extremely important since (i) no consultant, guru, pundit has all the answers despite what they tell you and you will fail along the way and (ii) given that you have by now convinced your company to invest, you need to start showing results.  They key is to experiment and fail fast but always keep the goalposts (i.e., strategy) in sight.  If you are not convinced great things can come out of failures, watch this two minute video from Tom Peters talking about Walmart founder Sam Walton.

Over the next few months I plan to elaborate on each of these four points, but in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts on whether these resonate based on your own experiences.

About Ted Sapountzis

Ted has been with SAP since 2004 and is currently responsible for scaling SAP’s social media practices in creating awareness, driving a dialogue and generating demand for SAP’s solution portfolio.