I got asked by a friend the other day whether my website was ‘responsive’. The answer should, of course, be “yes”. Is it really that simple though – are there not degrees of responsiveness? The word “responsive” is bandied around like a bunch of other management speak these days – being “customer focused”, “innovative”, or showing a “high performance culture” are all the rage. For those wishing to respond with any level of authority on the responsiveness question, you will need to start with a working knowledge of braille, as requested by W3C.
So yes, we can talk about responsiveness in relation to web design, but what about a slightly different interpretation – how do your social platforms respond to your business? Social media is an incredibly powerful tool because it automatically responds to the weaknesses of any organisation. When I was a kid, my dentist told me to use ‘disclosing tablets’ that make the plaque on your teeth go bright purple so you know where to brush. Social media does much the same thing, if you know what to look out for. Here are my top five tips:
1. Listen to the Trends
You will have influencers, people with real power in the network. With any luck, they will use that power to raise the profile of important issues. It’s not just a matter of looking at the most replied-to/liked conversations, but having a better understanding of what types of conversations are happening in the network. Are people constantly looking for help finding information? Do they need help with particular processes or systems? Are they really proud of their co-workers? All these are trends, particularly if you aggregate across business silos.
2. Distill the Motivation
Now that you ave identified the trends, the next step is to understand what they really mean. It may be simple enough to say that constant requests for information can be ‘fixed’ by implementing a better search engine on your intranet, but does that really get at the heart of the issue? Should you be concentrating on codifying the tacit knowledge that exists within your organisation? Letting people create their own ‘how-to’ guides, or even relocating departments that actually work closely with each other? It is best to think of this as a cultural iceberg, and you should be attempting to find beliefs, assumptions, perceptions and attitudes:
Get creative with your armchair psychology!
3. Don’t Rely on Negativity
It’s all too easy to think of network responsiveness as listening to people’s gripes. This is perhaps the majority of the trends you’re looking out for, but don’t forget that you can still learn a lot from the positive experiences too. If someone gets a lot of praise, they have done something that the culture of your organisation really values. Think about other ways to reward this behaviour. Excitement and hype show what people are missing from their day jobs. As a bonus for smaller networks, this is more likely to be real and raw (and not some managed PR stunt).
4. Have a Voice
All too often I’ve seen a department create its own persona on social media. While this might be fine for a customer-facing twitter account, people ideally want to connect with other people. Having a faceless administrative account, even with the trendy concept of placing ^ID after the post to identify the author, isn’t really going to cut it. Be personable in your voice and sound like a real human being. Sure, it might make administrative sense to route all official queries through [email protected], but that screams out to your colleagues that you don’t want to take ownership of their concerns. It’s all too easy, particularly when dealing with a crisis, to stick to the standard PR-type response so that it is consistent with external communications – do you really have that much distrust of your colleagues? Always think very hard about implementing an orchestrated communication program.
5. Timing is Everything
As with any social media these days, things can creep up on you without warning. It pays to ride the wave of excitement, or be proactive in responding to criticism. Honest conversations are great, but you just can’t beat timely and honest communication. Following on from the point above, you’re probably even allowed a little more latitude with internal communications, so use that to your advantage (as long as you remind listeners that it is for internal consumption only). Push the boundaries of internal communication guidelines – approvals that take days or weeks aren’t going to work in a fast-paced online world. Think of it as an experiment for what you might one day extend to your public social media presence.
If you understand these five steps, you are well on your way to understanding how enterprise social media can really add value to your organisation, beyond it being simply another communication tool.