“Companies emerging as successful are often those that are the most human.”–Peter Merholz
Most organizations have realized the power of social media at an intellectual level but few have applied these tools in ways that accelerate the humanization of their organization.
Social media applied effectively increases both the quantity and quality of relationships between individuals. One tweet can instantly nurture hundreds of connections; over time relational bonds with hundreds of people maintain their strength.
Marketing of products and services as well as archiving information consume a large amount of resources, providing a superficial sense of integration. These focus points reside on two ends of a spectrum (marketing on the external, product side and archiving on the internal, bureaucratic side), rarely leading to a significant increase in the connections between individuals within the organization.
Yet the connections between individuals drive the growth (or stagnation) of an organization. Think about the last thing that you wanted to get done but could not at work. There’s a good chance it was affected by a lack of personal connection between people.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, epitomizes this new connected, humanized company:
“At Zappos, our belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff — like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers — will happen naturally on its own.
We believe that your company’s culture and your company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin. The brand may lag the culture at first, but eventually it will catch up.”–Zappos Blog
To get started on humanizing your organization using social media:
- Increase and empower the number of people on social media. Find the people using it well personally and find ways to integrate them into larger organizational projects. The most senior leaders may not be the most influential or active online, their presence is more important to signal to the rest of the organization that social media is valuable, and to model humility and a willingness to learn something new and uncomfortable.
- Use the online tools that your staff are most comfortable with, not the ‘best’ tool. Basecamp may be your favorite project management tool (it’s mine) but I have found it’s rarely been the most effective tool for most of the staff in my organization. Facebook groups, in spite of their limited capacity, work best for most projects.
- Create resources to help people get started on social media (particularly Facebook, Twitter, and blogging). Many people have just entered social media and feel overwhelmed setting up their online presence. Creating resources to get them through the learning curve will help tremendously.
Your organizational culture can be radically changed by using social media. This can happen intentionally and strategically or passively and haphazardly. If you are on the top you must provide spaces in the organization for humanization to happen. If you are on the bottom you must continue to explore and innovate with these tools to show results and demonstrate the value of scaling the integration of social media across your organization.