Social media success is based on building relationships. Nearly every HBR article I’ve read in the last 6 months speaks to relationships as the key to business success. So do all the men and women interviewed in NYT “Corner Office” columns. We were in the age of “our greatest asset is our people.” Now, we have entered the age of “our greatest asset is the Relationships we have.”
Building relationships is not a task; it is an honor. This may sound hokey to you, so let me take a moment to give you the lens I see through.
The essence of who I am is a relationship person. I happen to be working in the social media industry right now. I’m not a marketer, although those were required classes at Iowa State (undergrad) and Villanova (Exec MBA), but it wasn’t my major. Ten years of my career I was in sales. I was never an all-star at it, but I made a good living in a commission only environment.
During a trade show (in my sales life) a colleague commented on the strength of the relationships I had with my customers; even those with which the company had had some less than stellar moments. That was the beginning of realizing the distinction between “relationship mgmt” and “sales.” I’m naturally wired to be better at the former, and that enabled me to be good at the latter.
The next phase of my career was all relationship management or account management oriented. It has enabled me to work in a range of industries, because relationship management by its nature has to work across silos.
Background session over, back to the topic at hand.
Now that business has entered the age of social media, we need to examine where within the organization the proficiencies for building relationships lies.
Yesterday I attended The Conference Board Social Media event in NYC. It was a fantastic day: great presenters, wonderful exec ed facility, and so much exposure to specific successes and failures, it was completely worth the $1000 to attend. The audience was mainly communications, advertising and marketing execs from some pretty substantial businesses: MetLife, Southern California Edison, Helzberg Diamonds, T. Rowe Price, SAP, CarMax, Colgate-Palmolive—you get the picture. Marketing Departments know they need to get their companies in the game, and they were here to learn from others, go home and implement. (Yoday they are in small group workshops-I couldn’t afford both days)
So, in getting started, of course the questions to answer are:
- What’s the goal
- What’s your strategy
- What tactical elements will achieve that
- Who do we need to execute the tactical plan
Since social media has SO changed the game of business, we should consider if that’s still the best place to start, and the right order of planning.
It makes sense that the marketing department take on social media. And there should be something you want to achieve. Lay out the goal-usually it’s “relationship building.” I think the next best question becomes who is most proficient in the skills needed to be successful at executing on building relationships. If you get them involved in building out the strategic and tactical game plan, things will really come together. Sounds a little weird, I know, but think about it from this perspective:
When you build a relationship in your personal life, do you start with a strategy?
Walk through this with me:
- Who’s your best friend? (OK-I’m presuming you have one)
- Did you have a “best friend finding strategy?”
- Was that part of your personal marketing or personal branding mission?
- Did you pull out the marketer in you and get started?
What really made the friendship happen:
- You both happened to be in the same place
- You found something you both liked
- You had a conversation; and another
- They didn’t get stuck on your faults and you didn’t get stuck on theirs
- Yada, yada, yada—you just keep getting to know more and more about each other, and you liked what you found out
Now back to your worklife–Who in your organization is good at that stuff?
It’s your relationship builders.
Go find them inside your company. My guess is they are in your Account Management group or in your 2nd tier of sales people. Look through your corporate Rolodex and find the folk everybody knows has killer relationships with customers. That’s not the same as people who do anything to make their customers happy. The relationship builders have customers who like them even when things don’t make them happy.
Get those people involved in planning and executing your social media strategy. It comes naturally to them. And they enjoy making others successful, like you.