Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Social media – To be or not to be…How to get management “to be”

Many public and private organizations are already using social media tools as part of their communications planning to advance their missions and reach target audiences. For organizations still relying primarily on traditional media to get their messages out, curiosity about how to incorporate social media tools are high. Facebook, Twitter, Wikis, YouTube, blogs, podcasts, forums, etc… there are so many tools to be used. How should one go about using them wisely? Better yet, how does one get the “buy-in” from key staff in their agency to successfully launch such communication efforts?

Management skepticism: If management doesn't believe in social media, then employees who have been told for years that public communication needs to be filtered will be hesitant to try out a new medium which requires them to speak openly. In this scenario, management needs to encourage and reward participation to make social media work. If they don't, it will fail.” Unfortunately, passion for social media alone won’t get the job accomplished. All your wonderful and enthusiastic ideas still need to pass the litmus test for the go ahead.

How can you help introduce the use of social media in your organization?

1.) Understand the “resisters” and “doubters”: Know what the true concerns of those who are not yet receptive to the use of social media tools. Is it a fear of change, lack of understanding of these tools, etc? Identify what the sources of resistance are and address them accordingly.
2.) Educate: Educate your audience on what the tools are and how each is used. Provide supporting evidence on how similar organizations are successfully using social media tools to help get the creative juices flowing on how your organization can adopt these ideas to suit its needs.
3.) Do your homework: There is nothing worse than presenting a case for something without having done your homework. Research the tools, know your facts, anticipate potential questions or comments, and be prepared to respond to questions or concerns. Bottom-line: present a solid case to your audience.
4.) Pilot Projects: Start off small with some demonstration projects in a part of your agency that is willing to experiment with a tool or two. Hopefully, these pilot projects are successful and you can use the results to help gain support.
5.) Present benefits of the tools: Back up your suggestions with some benefits that are important to management, such as efficiency, effectiveness, furthering the organizations missions, etc.
6.) Be honest- Don’t over “hype” the use of social media to win support. Be sincere on the pros and cons and limitations of tools.

Making the transition from “filtering” communication to engaging in the “open” arena of social media may seem like a daunting task for some organizations. However, with some preparation and the “good ole” power of persuasion the transition can be positive and valuable. Have any additional tips or success stories on how you introduced social media and new tools in your organization? We’d like to from you. Please share how you overcame the “resisters” and “doubters” in your organization.

Marie Ulysse is with the Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. You can connect with her on GovLoop.


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  2. Nice post, Marie! All of it useful. I'd add:
    1) Focus on mission. Managers have a job to do. Help them understand you're not pushing for a cool toy, but rather for them to incorporate useful tools into how they achieve their mission.

    2) Be clear this is a culture change. We need to trust employees and the public, because mistakes will happen. But the benefits far outweigh the occasional mishap.

    Here's the presentation I use when briefing EPA mgr groups about social media. Feel free to use any of it. http://www.slideshare.net/levyj413/social-media-and-the-govt-presentation

    I also like two engaging videos that either I ask them to watch ahead of time, or show them during the presentation:
    Information R/evolution: discusses and demonstrates how the way we think about information is changing

    Did you know? Current version is 3.0. Provides several facts about how the world is changing, esp. online.

    Also good is The Machine is Us/ing Us, but I don't think it's as useful unless you know some technical info like what RSS is.

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