In Tokyo, I had the privilege of meeting Oliver Reichenstein, founder of iA (Information Architecture) and we had the utmost delightful chat. Aside from his charm and brilliance, the way he approaches design really stuck with me. As a graduate of philosophical studies, he looks at problems a bit differently than most, and I was glued to his every word.
To explain how he begins looking at websites, he used the analogy of messaging tubes. That imagery was so vivid and effective, I think the same framework can be applied to social marketing, too.
To back up, the messaging tubes he spoke of, are pneumatic tubes from the 1800s. It’s the system where messages are delivered in this capsule like canister and delivered, shot through a tube to the appropriate department or individual. Like this:
I vaguely recall in cartoons or on a random television show the highly exaggerated versions, where tens of canisters holding messages, fly through different tubes at once — almost in a frenzy. The operator at the receiving end is sending and catching the canisters while they continue flying above, below and around his head.
This inefficient disaster is how I see the current state of corporate social media.
In my experiences working with brands — small and large across all genres — I noticed a commonality. When it comes to social media efforts, there are directives coming from all over the place. The social media manager becomes a gatekeeper, if you will, and controls what goes out on Facebook, Twitter…and Pinterest and Instagram and Tumblr and [insert whatever hot social network]. There is usually close to zero structure and the people tasked with social media responsibilities, ends up drowning in day to day deliverables.
To a lot of organizations, the social element is still an afterthought and I am very familiar with the: “Can you Tweet x now?” or “Will you post y on Facebook?” requests. Those email requests are the 2013 version of messages tucked into canisters and quickly shot through the tube — except in 2013, the canisters are emails. Those messages don’t come from one person or team. They come from multiple people and multiple teams.
The ideal solution is working with colleagues in order to understand each others’ job duties and more importantly, infusing a native digital mind-set with social elements already incorporated into marketing initiatives… but let’s be real. It’s not that simple. I know. I’ve been there.
Organizational changes start from the top down and it takes a lot of time to see change. (If you’re interested in helping change your org, Jeremiah Owyang at Altimeter has tons of case studies on social media management that are extremely helpful here.)
While long-term strategy is being built and shaped, I’ve found short-term solutions help those in charge of social. A lot.
I first start with helping colleagues understand what a social marketer actually does all day. We know that our jobs are more than sitting around Tweeting or Facebooking, but a lot of people usually don’t.
Once a mutual understanding is established, I try to make sense of the madness and put a stop to disorgnization. I mean. It’s our jobs. A marketer should always distribute marketing messages with an objective — especially now in 2013, as it may tarnish your brand. You don’t want to be that brand known for social media fails.
It is also the marketer’s duty, to ask the questions a lot of people tend to forget:
1. what goals are we trying to meet?
2. how are we measuring the success?
3. what did we do right or wrong in the past and how can we best apply those learning lessons to what we are trying to accomplish?
In doing so, it will make your work load easier to manage and more often times than not, prevents unnecessary communication frustrations.
Try it. I dare you.