A week ago today I attended the Blogwell Conference  in Minneapolis, MN.  It was a wonderful event packed full of great content but after the 4 hours my head was spinning!  I since have had time to process the event a little bit further and I have discovered three key insights:

  1. Try, Try Again, and Keep Trying
  2. Small Business Advantage
  3. Authentic Conversations

 Try, Try Again, and Keep Trying

The Blogwell Conference was geared towards larger corporations and the lessons they have learned thus far in implementing and embracing social media.  One of the presentations I attended was by McDonald’s.  The key insight I walked away with from their presentation was to try something and if it does not work revise and try again, and if that does not work, revise, and keep on trying. They were persistent in their social media efforts.  In an organization that is as large as McDonald’s, that includes a layer of franchises in the business model, this equates to an interesting dilemma on how to use social media.  The utilization of social media has taken on a tailored and customized approach, not only for their customers, but for the employees as well. The interaction with their customers is from the approach of, “Once we’ve created the relationships, it’s all about cultivating them so that eventually, hopefully, they will become key brand ambassadors for us,” said Heather Oldani.  They went out and did some research on what their employees would like in a web based community.  Station M was created with their input and, “the whole idea of which is to give the crew a place to come and engage with each other,” stated Steve Wilson.

Small Business Advantage

The surprise insight was that big business may have the overwhelming brand recognition and large consumer base but small businesses in general have the social media advantage.  The Lantern Group, Inc. is considered a small business and as we have been implementing various social media solutions it had never occurred to me the advantages we had with social media.  The layers of bureaucracy within large organizations can stifle or shut down any social media project.  The social media advocate within the large organization may spend more time selling the benefits of social media than actually getting started on the implementation and utilization of social media.  This is a key advantage for small businesses. As a small business there was a bit of investigating, selling and cost benefit analysis before we implemented any social media tools but this process took less than two months.  The surprising thing was that although there is a learning curve to social media tools, setting them up was fairly quick and user friendly.  But like Mc Donald’s we have tried things, revised, and tried again as we are continuously learning and growing about what works, what our customers want, and the best way to deliver the information.

Authentic Conversations

This reflective insight came from the last blog post I wrote on Monday, (Blogwell Unleashes Your Brain), where I discussed the authenticity of the conference attendees and how social media can bring out authentic conversations.  Some big and small businesses may struggle with social media because of their inability or fear of being authentic in their communication and actions.  Think about it, when is the last time any conversation on authenticity took place in the average cubicle dwellers workplace or for that matter in the local Chamber of Commerce meetings for small businesses?  The industrial age thinking of when you walk into your place of work you are no longer ‘you’ with your own voice, opinions, and perspectives you are now part of the organization and thus must think, act, and behave according to their rules. The industrial age mindset is still a part of many organizations and like any change this mindset will collide against those individuals within the organization that want to engage in authentic conversations.  There is hope, listening to the many presenters at the Blogwell Conference showed that there are engaged and visionary leaders in larger organizations who are trying to figure out social media. I believe it is not a coincidence that companies who have embraced innovation throughout their history are also embracing social media, i.e. General Mills.

Social Media will continue to evolve and change how we communicate with our customers and our employees. My hope is that one day all of the cubicle dwellers and the Chamber of Commerce attendees will become engaged in the incredible conversations and share their authentic voice.

Susan Stone