Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The fool walks into the swamp with eyes shut

The fool walks into the swamp with eyes shut. The wise man takes a map - and a stick.

So stop. Stand still. Pause. Every organisation and business engaged in any form of social media activity... halt! The swamp is undiscovered territory. Fraught with risk for the ill-prepared. Stand still for a moment.

There are few areas of business life where we go to tactics - plunge headlong into the swamp - without knowing the strategic landscape.

Fewer still where we buy a map only to find we don't understand what it tells us - and carry on buying the updates without complaint.

Yet when it comes to social media it seems firms are happy to go tactical before they think strategic. And it's costing them millions and casting a shadow of fail over the social landscape. (Image courtesy jstephenconn )
"I stepped into the swamp and sank/got bit". Really? Who's surprised here?

They may conclude the swamp is somewhere they should never go again: Which is a little like giving up on attempts to find The New World because a fishing boat went down off the coast of Portugal - to mix my exploration metaphors.

Worse still, there are those who provide (and charge for) heaps and heaps of social monitoring data - without insight. It's the equivalent of the surveying guys with the theodolites giving you their scribbled latitude and longitude notes but failing to draw you a map.

"Ah - so this bit here is 29°16' N, 94°49' W. Er. Ok. So where do I go next?" you may well ask.

It's time the approach to social media strategy grew up.

And that means mapping the community landscape as it applies to you (understanding who is talking about what's relevant to you, where, how, who is influencing who in those conversations, where they sit in your purchase cycle even). That gives you the strategic landscape on which to deploy tactics.

And it also means auditing for and understanding the opportunities and blockages presented by your own organisation, your customers and other key stakeholders. From this you will develop a strategy and tactical plan for creating best value from social.

Do all this and I guarantee your action plan won't start and end at Start a Facebook Page.

It will deliver the transformational improvements required to make the org and its products and services the best (read most efficient and effective) fit with the networked world - with its customers and their needs.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?