Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Social Media Skills And Influence starts with building confidence

Forbes published an article entitled 7 Ways to Improve Your Social Media Skills and Influence.  I found it very interesting, and certainly worth the read.   The first element is critical to successfully grooming Social Business skills within the organization ... How to deal with your confidence.   

Companies are beginning to understand the importance of Social Business.  You don't have to go far to see company's references to their Twitter or Facebook pages on just about every advertisement ... to just about every product you buy (everything from Orange Juice to that big screen TV you just bought)!     It's great that companies are leveraging social media, as long as they can fully understand and participate in the conversations that it will generate.   This could be an overwhelming task for the typically small social media team.   Participation in social media has significant opportunities, but If companies don't respond in real time to those social channels, it could negatively impact their brand perception.   What is really needed?   Social participation from all employees to provide perspectives from all aspects of the business - from sales, to development to support.  This is a grand challenge, with each company's enablement being different based on their culture and strategies.

This challenge brings us back to the confidence factor.  While it will be different for each company, employees typically face a huge hurdle around how to deal with their confidence to participate externally.   Many feel comfortable with collaboration within the safety of the firewall.   When it comes to sharing insights externally, there is uncertainty and fear of the unknown.   Questions like ... what should I say?  what will people think of it?  what happens if I say something wrong? 

So, what can be done about building confidence?  The article suggests that the key is having a point of view, which is very powerful:.  "What I mean by a point of view is an unshakable belief in the rightness of what you are doing, at the core. It could be your point of view requirement is sated just by blogging, for example. If you believe that we are all entitled to be up here having our say, then that is a strong point of view."

Based on my discussions with Social Media advocates, having passion on a topic is a key enabler, and one that will continue to drive conversations ... but it may not work for everyone.   It's interesting to think about solutions based on different personality types.  Some people love to be vocal about their ideas at a party, while others would rather have more personal conversations.  For these people, perhaps a group blog is a good alternative ... which provides a way to vet ideas before publishing and establishes some confidence within a small community.    Or, maybe the establishment of social mentoring ... where social media advocates  'just like me' can help me get started and be available for questions I have.   Of course, the best option is to have support from your management team, starting with strong support and guidance from first line management.   Companies should evaluate what option would work best for their culture and strategy, and begin to enable the broader employee population.

I envision this challenge getting easier in the future as employees begin to embrace social media for their personal lives.   This is a long journey ... and one that companies need to focus on and reward/recognize behaviors.