Long, long ago, way back in 2010, Altimeter's Jeremiah Owyang gave a talk in which he uttered the immortal words, "social media doesn't scale."
I've found that out through my work with ZEDO, the San Francisco-based platform partner for publishers. ZEDO started with one person doing its social media almost two years ago: me. But the company is growing rapidly, and it has a globally distributed work force in many different time zones. This year, my challenge is to inspire my colleagues to help me with the social media so we CAN scale it better.
I'm fortunate, ZEDO is still relatively small -- about 250 employees. But suppose you are a public company, or even a very large private company with a distributed global work force? How will you control your brand? How do you respond to Twitter complaints in a manner that meets the expectations of customers who tweet out their troubles expecting someone to be there listening? And how do you use social media to help you attract talent?
Listening platforms like Radian 6 help. But they're just a beginning. After all, they're just listening and monitoring. They're not sharing information.
Ideally, we'd like to turn our best customers (our fans) into advocates or at least into customer service reps. SocialToaster purports to do this for fans, and forums do this online if you have the patience to consult them. But those are relatively minor efforts that still don't solve the problem.
And most customers don't want to be bothered. They can't be depended on to be there when you need them, 24x7x365. Who else can help?
Maybe it's the people whose paychecks we sign.
Because of the scope and magnitude of the "Big Shift" to customer control from vendor control, we must engage and enlist every employee to help, whether two or 200,000. IBM figured this out a while ago, and has been singing this song as loudly as it can, including walking its talk by empowering its own employees. IBM even has created an enterprise platform for this.
But the platform is not the most important part: it's the education, engagement, and empowerment of the employees that's critical.
I had this discussion with Marcus Nelson, formerly of UserVoice and Salesforce, about 9 months ago, and I angel invested in the company he started to solve this problem: -- Addvocate. Addvocate is moving right along through its beta, but it is only able to work with companies that are already enlightened.
Most companies are not. First, someone must have the discussion with the C-suite. Why is it necessary (rather than just nice) to have employees who are empowered, with the ability and tools to respond socially? How do you engage those employees, incentivize them, and educate them so they can really help the company deliver the right messages at the right time with the right results?
As usual, I'll be the person who starts the discussion and takes the arrows. In the next couple of months, I'm going to speak to a large company that has a unique set of challenges in this area. And I plan to speak many more times, until I help complete the transition to a more social, responsive, business environment for all of us.