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Transforming business with social media will #FAIL, if they don't get the education

serviceplease20's picture
Submitted by serviceplease20 on Sun, 2012-06-03 18:16

For there to be a wider acceptance of social media use by businesses then one cannot ignore the biggest blockers out there; the decision makers themselves. Our initiatives will fail without remembering to educate those making the decisions.

Having spent the last 2 years crossing many countries of the EU talking to medium, large and very large businesses about how they could use of social media to further their own interests. The sessions most often begin with an education of what and why we are talking about this and why this is not about their personal Facebook updates.

Since social media has not even been around for 10 years yet, the majority of business owners have been in their chairs much longer. Many or most have not had much exposure to social media with the typical exception I hear, "my children are on Facebook and I thought I would see what they are doing". There is a great hesitancy towards social media as it initially is seen as a tool of the youth. A platform for exchanging pictures of the weekends birthday party or of someones new kittens.

In order to have a broader acceptance of social media in businesses, education of those decision makers will be required.

LinkedIn statistics show that in Europe 80% of those in upper level or owner positions are older than 34 years. In order to have a broader acceptance of social media and implementation of those programs there will need to be an education of many of those in decision making positions up to the top of companies.

Social media is getting attention in the board room now with the arrival of social customer service. Customers are out there, on the platforms asking for help or wanting to make a purchases. While those in other customer facing positions understand the need, the management is without the understanding of how & why to approach this in the right way. While it does not end there this might be the path into the business but then showing businesses how social media can be used to transform their business from purchasing to hiring to the creation of new products as well as making those aware of what you have to offer and to provide services.

Educating leaders and owners of businesses across the EU must be a priority if the results of this Digital Agenda and Social Media is to have the success it strives for.

Social media has changed the way businesses will interact with their customers but also with their partners, suppliers as well as their own employees. The power of many coming together to create the next new is not to be undersold.

Now only making those in the boss's shoes understand that is an important first step.

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31 users have voted.


AjitJaokar's picture
Submitted by AjitJaokar on Mon, 2012-06-04 08:03

I think its like the Internet in 2000. What people dont realise is at some point - all businesses will be e-businesses. Similarly all businesses will also be social - to a greater or a lesser degree ..

1 user has voted.

serviceplease20's picture
Submitted by serviceplease20 on Mon, 2012-06-04 10:43

Nicely said. Business has always been social, at least it was before computers, the telephone, faxes. And with everything moving to "digital" it is all e-business. At some point we will just get back to calling it the Internet again.

5 users have voted.

AxelS's picture
Submitted by AxelS on Mon, 2012-06-04 21:36

Excellent point Andrew. Executives are used to get inspired by their primary vendors and sales forces of technology providers to take their enterprise to the next level. Getting this request from their customer is an all new and never seen before situation.

Rarely have executives connections with their customers. But there are exceptions like Marc Benihoff from, Michael Dell from Dell Computers, Oliver Bussmann from SAP, Tony Hshie from Zappos or Howard Schultz from Starbucks who not only make a difference but have fabulous financial data.

Educating executives in the correlation between a great customer experience and profitability is a key first step. Then helping them understand that social media is one of the best tools to improve on a customer experience.

7 users have voted.

serviceplease20's picture
Submitted by serviceplease20 on Mon, 2012-06-04 21:58

Thank you Axel. While social media may be one of the best or easiest tool to improve customer service it is also the easiest to get wrong. One of the biggest mistakes companies make it addressing social in a vacuum, ignoring the other contact channels being used. So while educating them on social is a great bold step we must not forget those customers are coming from many sides.

5 users have voted.

AxelS's picture
Submitted by AxelS on Wed, 2012-06-06 06:34

Unfortunately very true! And we see still many of those cases in the US. And I guess you are right, education is a key to shortcut the experimentation phase - in particular experimentation with real customers is a dangerous experiment :)

3 users have voted.

RogerAT's picture
Submitted by RogerAT on Wed, 2012-06-06 07:52

Andrew, so true! The biggest fear I could encounter among managers is about getting too open. "What if we get negative feedback on our products or services, and everyone could read it?" This is one of the main concerns I'm hearing. The interesting thing about it is that those managers are always talking about customer satisfaction and how important it is. Sometimes I feel that many of us haven't realized the paradigm shift going on in our society. "Facebook, Twitter & Co are only for playing around in your free time. We have to work and make sure that our sales figures are rising.", I heard recently from a CEO.

4 users have voted.

Jorgen Poulsen's picture
Submitted by Jorgen Poulsen on Wed, 2012-06-06 07:54

Education is definitely one of the primary drivers to get European businesses to pay attention and to understand the power of Social Media.

However, the education needed is not only necessary at the C-level in businesses not taking advantage of Social Media but also necessary for businesses already 'taking advantage' of Social Media.

With reference to France I see most businesses which are already in Social Media execute poorly leading to these businesses concluding that Social Media doesn't work.

It is not that Social Media doesn't work but that whomever has been appointed community manager has little or no idea about how to be 'Social' and the result is accordingly.

By educating these companies and making them successful it becomes possible to use them as examples for companies which have still not made the strategic decision to have a Social Media presence.

5 users have voted.

OlafKracht's picture
Submitted by OlafKracht on Wed, 2012-06-06 09:29

Adapting to a new mindset always takes it's time but I have to support @RogerAT and his experience that willingness to do so is particularly low with company managers. I recommend anyone speaking German to watch Axel Schultze's (@AxelS) keynote on this years Internet World Exhibition in Munic ( ) - a 20 minutes video that is absolutely worth the time. Apart from managers I strongly feel that the education of young grown ups at the end of their school careers on the verge of their business life or academic career is most important as well. I had the chance last year to work with about 20 young adults at the age of 17 / 18 in a 6 hour workshop we set up at St. George's International School in Duisburg, Germany. 99 % of them were using smartphones (no surprise), 100% on Facebook but only 1 out of them was blogging, none was on LinkedIn or XING or knew about other that might help building a network that could support one's career. Those will be the future managers and community managers. If they are educated properly they will as a matter of course support the visions of the Digital Agenda.

4 users have voted.

Maripuchi's picture
Submitted by Maripuchi on Wed, 2012-06-06 10:38

At this point i think it is very important not only to educate and help big companies but also the little ones.
By highlighting success stories, for instance.
Completely agree that education is a must. One of the things that have been done in Basque Country is a thing calle "Barnetegi teknologikoa" which is a 24 hour technologies immersion for managing teams of all the companies around here with good results and that has been well received.

15 users have voted.

Analyticus's picture
Submitted by Analyticus on Wed, 2012-06-06 11:55

History repeats itself. I remember same discussions between management and "experts" when the first desktops were introduced during the early eighties. Management needs to be educated about technical solutions and possibilities. "SM Experts" need to be educated about strategic management needs. Only by iterative dialogue progress can be made.
The da12social program should therefore focus on strengthening the knowledge and capacity within not only the Larger and Small and Medium enterprises on all related subjects in and around Social Media, but we should also strengthen those capacities within Chambers of Commerce, Labor organizations, and Governmental business supporting units on National, District and Local levels.

4 users have voted.

kinnajonsson's picture
Submitted by kinnajonsson on Fri, 2012-06-08 09:01

I totally agree and remember how companies thought the web just being a playground for kids and pleasure. Today a company has to introduce their products and knowledge on a homepage as customers, partners etc search the web first. You have to be visible.

As the search has gone social (social referrals are shown in the search result) companies have to be present and communicate their too.
To implement new ways to work starts at the top of companies. Because this affects the whole organization. If the manager don't approve using social media employees won't use is and a company is not organized to do it either.
And managers have to be educated to get the picture of why it matters to communicate and how that can affect your business and give a result in different ways.

0 users have voted.

Gianluigi Cuccureddu's picture
Submitted by Gianluigi Cuccureddu on Wed, 2012-06-06 14:04

Agree Andrew, educate and experiment. We're in a kind of transitioning phase, just as we did 10 years ago with the web.
Future decision makers are the ones that now are or are becoming comfortable with social and digital tech.

1 user has voted.

ThinkInNewAreas's picture
Submitted by ThinkInNewAreas on Wed, 2012-06-06 14:15

You are all spot on;
Management level needs to "get the social part" - and implement the mindset in the corporate strategy as a whole!
Here in Denmark I am putting the finale touch on (hopefully with an official approval from the Ministry of Education ;-) a new education within that area; Social/Digital mindset.
Thomas Power (Ecademy) says it soo right:
Many companies still have a CSC mindset (Closed Selective Controlling) whereas the future will be ORS (Open Random Supportive) - and its not enough that the marketing department of the company adopts - everybody needs to get it, to reflect a "Social Business of the Future" !!!
Also a good read in this regard is Michael Brito: "Smart Business, Social Business !

1 user has voted.

hgwoudboer's picture
Submitted by hgwoudboer on Wed, 2012-06-06 14:28

The overarching goal is to change the mindset of the people and make them understand that social media enables them to get and stay connected with their customers via various touch points. Only those who do will have a sustainable business. This means profitable under conditions which protect those businesses and being accepted in the society they are embedded in. We need programs to get groups of people educated depending on their experience. I can see that there are many segments which needs their specific treatments for best educations.
Those who have already successfully done could become multiplicators in their field or industry. It reminds me a bit on Simon Sinek and his statement: people buy from people who believe what they believe. In the same Ted Talk he stresses the importance of the diffusion of innovation curve where you need to reach a certain tipping point to have it accepted within the masses. This I believe plays a role as well. And I think this diffusion curve is different for each group.
Best education programs would work in my opinion if it comes from within their own groups.
If you want to sell something to medical you are better a medical doctor wearing the appropriate dress.
Also to a certain extend change management principles are applicable here as well as for any major improvement project in any business.
Just some general ideas which came to mind while reading the various postings.
Regarding the Axel Schultze's keynote video Olaf mentioned, I think this is an excellent talk for enterpreneurs and I believe it would be very educational if the essentials of the talk would be available as an English video.

2 users have voted.

Billy_Stewart's picture
Submitted by Billy_Stewart on Thu, 2012-06-07 16:01

I think this point is excepted then, the education of decision makers is recognised unanimously as a priority and yes I also fully agree. Simply put decisions and change cannot be made without those with the authority to make them, and its important to make decisions with as much information and understanding as is attainable to help insure the best possible choices are made.

1 user has voted.

JackGonzalez's picture
Submitted by JackGonzalez on Thu, 2012-06-07 19:48

Education starts at the very top level - global/national!

I think it gets even easier for corporations to embrace and accept Social Media if it is bought at the national level.

At the corporation level, I agree it starts at the top but then it's all about getting the Cross-Functional Engagement buy-in. Involve every stakeholder..I'm currently on assignment doing just this and it reminds me back to 1990 when the company I worked for in London introduced email! Loads of challenges at first! (especially with our suppliers...who did not want to use it!)

I'm also leading another social media campaign with an Australian state tourism organisation who were open to our proposal (took 6 months to win!!

Like any global, national macro/micro phobia or conflict, resistance is usually due to fear which usually stems from lack of awareness or education...

Only through persistent educational awareness programs will we change the general mindset.

Thank-you @ThinkInNewAreas for the video! Very simple yet effective explanation! I will use this video... good luck.

cheers to all, enjoyed reading all the feedback
Jack Gonzalez

2 users have voted.

MetteRehnstrom's picture
Submitted by MetteRehnstrom on Fri, 2012-06-08 13:13

Have heard several Marketing, Sales, HR Directors and Executives giving advice to not be present in social media since they fear that the company will be "harmed" by consumers. Many companies do not know what their consumers write about them, their competitors and partners in social media and some executives don't even seem to care!

Best way to convince companies is to show the possibilities there are to involve consumers and get advocacy. If you consdider that many companies still today rely only on mass-media communication, and some companies even today don't have sufficient skills for providing an involving homepage, I think it will take another 5-10 year before most companies really understand the importance of social media. However, companies knowing how to involve consumers and get advocay will be those who earn money and have resources for expanding there business! Let's speed up the learning process and help European companies become more successful!

0 users have voted.

peterfinney's picture
Submitted by peterfinney on Fri, 2012-06-08 23:56

Businesses cannot simply sit back at the exec level and wait for a generational change to adopt social media. We live in a dynamic digital world rapid education is key and execs should be reminded that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinekedIn et al. have only been with us for ten years! What will this social digital space look like in another ten years?, and importantly for the business where will your customer base be in this digital world. Will you still be connected and engaged with your customers or will the customer relationship lay with your competition. This is a bit of Darwinism e.g. stand back and die like the dinosaurs or evolve adapt and change now! Let’s get out there and educate

1 user has voted.

Engberg's picture
Submitted by Engberg on Sun, 2012-06-10 01:48

The next realisation in "social business" is companies realising that they are getting intermediated and loosing competitive power to the network managers.

When that happens the hole idea of walled gardens who like Facebook charge 30% will change.

0 users have voted.

dirk_s's picture
Submitted by dirk_s on Mon, 2012-06-11 20:52

I think a lot can be achieved with better user centric webtools and services. We simply can't expect everyone to become social media experts. There is a lack of very good solutions made for the typical user....
People should care about communication - how to speak with one customers or with many at once. How to react on customer complaints etc.
I think its not so much the specific communication channel - its about people not well trained in communication.

0 users have voted.

Opus50's picture
Submitted by Opus50 on Sat, 2012-06-23 16:16

We ALL learned to use the telephone, TV & mobile - w/o certification ! We will learn to use social media the same way. Too much is made of and too much is assumed of, the soi dissent ignorance of ppl in business regarding SM - it is not my experience at all. Traditional business men in their middle 60's are engaging in SM in their businesses in Rural Ireland.

0 users have voted.

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