Is your company culture ready for social networking?

It’s been a busy week setting up the business and I’ve come to the conclusion after evaluating a video on the history of You Tube, lots of viral games, travel communities, Tweets and Facebook pages that the most important decision any MD or Marketing Director has to make when deciding whether to get involved with social media is whether their company culture is ready for it.

It feels a bit like the wild west days of the internet in 1995 when I remember evangelizing about the internet with the sceptics in the company who kept saying it’s only 2% of our retail business – this is not important to us.

I can hear the traditional marketers claiming that social media is not important to them and it does not change their need to broadcast their desired brand messages and press releases.

The key thing is that we need to understand who those “Connectors” are out there who are evangelising or otherwise about our brands, products and companies. For those of you who have read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” these “Connectors” are those individuals who spread the word of mouth rapidly. They are the avid networkers, opinion formers, bloggers and twitterers who we ignore at our peril. They are the ones that will play a role in taking social media to a tipping point where we cannot ignore it as it will become the way we connect with our target audiences.

It’s more than 10 years since I remember reading the words “Markets are Conversations” in “The Cluetrain Manifesto – The end of business as usual” and for those of us working in community marketing in those rollercoaster years of 2000 and the dot com boom and bust – there is now a momentum which has caught us like rabbits in the headlights as social networks brings a transparency and immediacy of communication which many company cultures are not used to.

Witness the frank conversations now going on in Twitter with customer service departments and the multitude of forums where you can learn what works and what doesn’t which is helping communities to help each other to come to grips with new networking tools.

I was browsing the Eventbrite forums the other day and noticed a posting from a guy who was very subtly mentioning some 3D virtual reality games for events which was a relevant and timely idea for the readers. I also saw other customers proactively helping that company by making posts about how their event software could be improved – a real live online R&D department.

Imagine how much added value those forums are building for those companies and their customers by making their customer interaction transparent. Is your company culture ready for this brave new world?? Do let us know and for those who’d like some further reading have a look at this interesting link to an Harvard Business Review article on the topic of “When your company culture isn’t ready for social media”.

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