Trying to solve a business problem ? Don’t start with a social media plan !

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Résumé : even if maturity on social media is increasing, we still hear to many incantations like “if you dont’ use social media you’re gonna die”. Not only the systematic nature of the discourse, applied to any subject is irritating decising makers and is not a good thing for credibility, but it’s also misleading. Saying that social media are the only way to do anythigs leads to tool-centric strategies instead of problem-solving driven strategies.  No tool will help to execute a plan that does not exist.

Clear-sighted as usual, Luis Suarez rencently wrote :”Dont’ start with the tools, they’re not your final destination”. I am sure that, unlike two years ago, everybody now understands this point of view and that even vendors, for whom it’s a very counter-natural and cultural point of view, now agree that their product is only a part of a global approach.

Yes but…

The small world of people convinced by social media still over-proselyte. The point is not about knowing whether they’re right or not but the manichean and systematic nature of the discourse. Consider any business issue. As soon as it becomes a little bit trendy, we can hear the “if you don’ use social media to….your enterprise will….”. What can be adapted to anything. “If you don’t use social media to innovare /engage / share / communicate, your enterprise will die / become obsolete / lose its customers…”. Maybe one day we’ll be advised to use social media to paint the office’s walls.

A discourse that raises questions in terms of credibility…and is even misleading because partly wrong.

A credibility issue first. Decision makers have been hearing this discourse for years, applied to any possible subject and its systematic nature is irritating them, and slowing losing its credibility. So, there’s no surprise they don’t listen anymore because they know what they’ll be told even before the gurus speak and the social media world is more and more looking like a sect where believers talk to believers.

Remember our childhood. And what our parents used to day to make us eat things we did notlike. “You should eat…. to grow up / not to fall ill / be good at school / not be feel tired”. Every time we felt a little ill or did not feel very weel, we could guess the answser prior to say anything. And, logically, it made use smile..but never changed anything.

Even worse : the discourse is wrong. Let’s repeat it again : Saying that if an enterprise does not use social media to innovate, engage or anything else it will face big problems is an intellectual swindle. You have an innovation / engagement issue, so install the right platform and wait… You may wait for a long time without seeing any change.

There organizations where everything is fine and employees are engaged, other that are innovative, other that are loved by their customers….and that don’t use social media. What does it mean ? It means that, before using social media to do anything, organizations have to decide to do this anythings, build a strategy and plan its execution. In many situations, social media will be a part of the system…but only a part. Organizations that are successful without social media today will come to it one day…but they have time because they already have actual strategies to address these issues and are not waiting for a magic tool to execute plans that have never been built for various reasons (that are not all respectable).

Social media will never help anyone to execute a plan that does not exist to serve a strategy that does not exist to reach a goal that is nothings more than a word that was expected to be self-achieving.

If you want to innovate, engage your employees, harness and capitalize on your knowlede….start by deciding to do so and build a real plan. Then choose the tools to support the plan. In some case you won’t need social media, in some others it will help you to deal with some barrieres and in some case it will help you to do much better. But if you start with the idea that you need social media to be successful, you’ll build a tool centric strategy instead of one that will help you to achieve your business goals because you’ll focus on how to make people use the tool instead of making the tool serve people that serve your strategy.

General Electric, for instance, had a problem solving system that have been working well for a long time “in real life”. Their internal platform only helped them to increase the bandwith of their system. They used social media to serve  real plan. Their system gives sense to the tool that improves the way the system was working. But without the pre-existing problem solving approach, the tool is nothing.

Social media are catalysts, accelerators, tools that can makes things incredibly more efficent and simple. But they won’t support a plan that does not exist. Their use will never solve any issue by itself and won’t prevent businesses to face their actual problems.