I was a studious member and later VP of AIESEC at the University. What I learned through AIESEC rivals what I learned in the lecture halls. Amongst the many team building activities we engaged was this particularly interesting one.
We would break off into two groups and each group would choose one of its own to be blindfolded. The blindfolding would be done by members of rivaling groups to ensure it was done well. Then the challenge: the moderator would take some object and place it somewhere and our task was to direct our blindfolded teammate to that object by shouting directions at him and by shouting the wrong directions to the opponent’s guy. It was always great fun. While teaching this great teambuilding effort to another group of young professionals, I had blindfolded one of the chosen guys but suspected he could still see. I asked him but he denied that he could see at all. So without warning, I made as if to slap him in the face and he ducked much to the amusement of those watching.
What does this have to do with social media? Well, it is about listening, planning, strategy, adoption and excuses.
The moderator was the one with the discretion about how far to put the object that our blind guys were supposed to find. At times it was near, other times far. It could be in a hole, on a tree, behind a rock or near some other landmark. The moderator as far as social media goes is the public; your customers who with today’s technology rule the social space. These customers have taken over from traditional mediums through their social networks. They are doing reviews of products, complaining about brands, discussing personalities and promoting what they like, making R&D suggestions etc. They are the moderators of this space. Wherever consumers are doing all the above is where companies need to go. To do that, they need listen first at where these conversations about them are taking place, plan how to be part of these conversations, and advisedly find social media experts to steer them in the right direction as far as the social space goes. The need to get where the consumers are talking is bridged by the navigator with a distinct voice, one who understands this space and its landmines and one who at can lead the blind guy through the landmines.
There were many of us who were yelling directions to our blind guy trying to steer him in the right direction. Social Media is a very young industry that has a lot of people yelling directions to the seemingly blind. This then requires strategy on the part of the seemingly blind. Your company is blind and there are many people out there, including marketing and PR agencies, Advertising firms, legal departments, social media experts and many more groups who are shouting directions at you. When everybody is shouting, it is confusing to the blind guy because he cannot make out who is saying what. For us, what worked was agreeing on one person among us whose voice was most distinct and which our blind guy best identified with to shout the directions. This always worked well. For companies, this translates to choice of who to listen to as far as Social Media goes. This choice is crucial and companies need to choose a fresh and distinct voice that can give them directions as far as navigation of this social media landscape goes.
Third, your competitors are most probably already using social media without your knowledge. In our activity, we got leverage not only by choosing who among us to do the shouting but also by shouting the wrong directions to the competition’s blind guy. Social Media works in the same way because while you rest in your laurels with the notion that social media is not for your industry; your competitor is encouraging you by not making obvious their social media plans and strategies. You need to be able to know who is in your team is this space, differentiate who is shouting the right directions, and understand how your competitor benefits from this space. That is the reason there are a myriad of applications that help you measure your social media engagement in comparison to your competitor’s like compete.com. You may be a blind guy being led to the slaughter house by the dogs.
Blindness is not an excuse for not seeing. When I suspected that the guy I had blindfolded could see, I did an experiment to prove it. I faked a slap to his face and he ducked. It was funny that he proved me right but therein lies a surreal lesson. Even with your eyes closed, you can always tell when someone puts on the light in a room. Likewise, this guy may not have seen my slap coming, but he saw something. Maybe it was the shadow of my hand, maybe it was the gush of wind accompanying the slap, maybe it was a gut feeling, but whatever it was, he ducked. We as humans have more than one sense. We can hear, touch, smell and see and any one of these senses is as trustworthy as the next. As a company, you may not have seen the Forrester reports on social media or the Nielsen Forecasting and Trends but that does not mean you’ve never heard of social media. The signs are all there and better still; the evidence has been laid bare.
Social Media is here to stay and adopting is no longer a matter of choice but necessity. If you do not adapt and adopt, you are already losing to your competitor who are already leveraging social media. Social Media is all around you and the only reason for not adopting it is a conscious decision not to see, feel, hear, touch or smell it – which means you must be dead or are dying.
Hit me up at the comments section with your thoughts.