I had the privilege of joining an illustrious group of some of Toronto's best digital folk last night for a "kitchen table"/salon chat on what makes social media tick in Canada (#SoMeNite if following on Twitter) .
Big kudos to Laurie Dillon-Schalk @ldillonschalk and Melanie Reiffenstein @MelanieReiff of JWT @JWTCanada for ringleading such an intelligent and diverse group and an equal thumbs up to Rick Wolfe @rickwolfe of Poststone for moderating the serendipitous discussion so effectively.
Very tough to corral an audience that included: 1 media planner, 1 anthropologist, 1 analytics guru, 1 print agency, 1 software dudes, 2 media boutiques, 1 social media producer, 1 creative, 1 PR flack, 2 big agency gurus, 2 entrepreneurs, 2 strat planners and 1 HR consultant. Not only did the diversity improve the discussion but also underscored how difficult it is for a client to assuage all these competing social interests. In fact, the melting pot (or is that a Canadian mosaic) motivated me enough to kick my personal blog out of it's slumber and provide a summary of the discourse.
Beyond a smart roadmap for social media implementation in the enterprise (the key 6 steps below) here are my 11 takeaways from the discussion:
1) Bridging Chasms is Needed - we don't need as many visionaries in the business of social anymore. As David Jones @doctorjones of Proximity WW mused - CMOs pretty much appreciate by now the impact of social for their business -it's no longer "the why", it's more "the how" and "the what" that are the stumbling blocks.
And as Sara Chi @infosara indicated the biggest social hurdle and what we really need are "crusaders" that can bridge the distances between customer and companies, experts and the mainstream, the grassroots and the top ranks. Donna Papacosta @donnapapacosta mentioned one of her most effective meetings was having a simple "lifting of the veil" discussion with a CEO to educate and subsequently push social initiatives forward.
2) Social Media as a Discipline and Behaviour vs. a Tool/Tactic - David Jones @doctorjones and David Bradfield @dbradfield of Sapient Nitro emphasized too much effort is spent on how social media can be bought, traded and commerced vs. treating it as a core practice in companies that's inescapable to avoid in a connected economy. Hessie Jones @hessiejones of Due North mentioned the difficulty to accept this paradigm within the media planning and buying industry who have historically viewed media as transactional.
3) The Experts are the Cobbler's Children - the intellectual horsepower in the room was genuinely digital MENSA-level. They get it, and I'm sure could do great work for all their clients if given the full chance to roam. But as Jill Fagan @jillpfagan mentioned, as an industry we are horrible internal communicators and sellers. Bigger effort and thinking needs to be made on how to get clients to "yes" , appreciate the value of what social brings overall to their business and establishing some paradigm on who gets to work on what as agencies, startups, software companies and consultants stumble over each other fighting for digital nickels. Wise cautions by @johnsaydam - this is not free and @ldillonschalk - don't pitch until they are ready.
4) Tension between Emotion/Creative and Analytics - the credibility to push social media forward exists on two opposite poles - as John Saydam @johnsaydam mentioned through his RIM example - the best stuff in social resonates emotionally but as David Bradfield @dbradfield supported - the institutionalization of social media as a practice requires sound analytics. I guess the perfect mind for social media is an equally balanced left brain/right brain.
5) Is Social Media the new CRM or new Dot.com? - Rick Wolfe @rickwolfe and John Reeves of Kyp interjected their years of experience and wisdom by pointing to the slow and steady progression and eventual maturation of the CRM industry from the '90s frontier mentality to the now well-established multi-billion dollar collossus. I'm of two minds here -
On the yes side " it does have CRM-esque similarities" -
- the progression of technology has been swift
- it's moving toward essentialness
- a small group of experts exists within a slower-to-adopt mainstream marketplace
- a lot of bad money is being spent in its early heydays
- each has and/or will go through Gartner's Hype Cycle
-the glossary and behaviour is difficult to understand for the traditional world (sometimes intentionally so) and
- it's potential to build business value and operationalize business processes is huge.
On the no side "this social thing is a much different beast than we've seen before" -
- the pace of change is so swift here and continues to progress that as Jill Rosenberg @girlfrommars mentioned "current digital will always be this fast moving, somewhat awkward, teenager" and that a full social eveolution here may only be 5-10 years here before we move onto the next big thing (most guesses were mobile)
- norms are more difficult to establish in order to standardize industry given multiple players, mutiple technology interests and swifter-moving environment
- the power of socializing business has much more far reaching implications than the CRMing of business and
- whereas previously web building and CRM programs could be compartmentalized, social business is a cultural corporate, operational and branding concern.
So which side of this fence are you on?
6) Don't Overreach and Be Too Eager - as evidenced by Nicole McKinney @bcadgroup and David Bradfield's @dbradfield examples - a comfort zone needs to be established with a client before they are willing to fry bigger fish. Most digital people are quick decison makers and early adopters by instinct, they have less regard for the "large cruise ship" ecosystem that exists within a corporation to get them to take even a few degrees of turn in the right direction.
7) Listening and Being Aware is the First Step - I'm not too sure if social media adoption is a 6-step program (as proposed below) or a 12 step one akin to Alcoholics Anonymous but there is general agreement that one of the best things agencies can do for their clients is make them aware of what's happening in the digital world at large and their immediate industry. Perhaps not the best reason to move, but I think there was some consensus (with a notable exception by @sarasepehri)that competitive steps forward also lead to reappraisal and steps forward on the client front.
8) What of Canada? - David Jones @doctorjones made a great point of the lack of dynamic Canadian client personalities that are lightning rods and role models for their peers. Whereas Scott Monty (Ford), @scottmonty , Lionel Mencacha (Dell) @lionelatdell and Shiv Singh (Pepsi) @shivsingh are passionate flagbearers for US corporate adoption and senior-level understanding of social media, who speaks for Canada?
9) The Lag Effect in Canada - there was some noise about Canada's reticence to use digital and social media. There are two key distinctions here. On a user/cosnumer front, Canada is the #1 user of technology and digital media in the world (for proof here is one of my recent Wikibrands' posts "Canada Rules the Roost When It Comes to Digital"). Perhaps we use the web more as a life appliance then the sexy accessory in our wardrobe, but average Canadians have flocked to digital based on high education levels, technology appetite, high urbanization and quite frankly winter (what else you going to do when it's -30 in Winnipeg?). What is the bigger travesty and almost a crime is the risk aversion, branch plant mentality that local corporations have employed who happily operate 2-3 years behind their customers (sins put forward - lack of executive awareness of even the simple stuff, only 17% of Canadian companies measuring and non-mobile friendly sites) ?
Maybe it's Rick Wolfe's humble Canadian-ness that stops us from promoting our successes in bright lights. A great idea for a future Social Media Nite is how the industry pushes the credibility and acceleration of its efforts as a whole forward (e.g. government leadership, petition, comprehensive training, CEOs for Social Club, putting teeth into a NxNe summit, inviting top 10 most popular twitterers to a TedXNorthTweets?).
10) Simple, Simple, Simple - as Melanie Reiffenstein @melaniereiff , Daniel Berkal @danielberkal of Palmerston Group and Noel Geer of Ngage Media emphasized - the best stuff that comes out of the web is basic, with very few moving parts and a core central focus. Data junkies, consultants, planners and pitch people need to stop debating the nuances, creating unnecessary noise and the feeling amongst their less tech-adept stakeholders that somehow they are the disgrace of the industry by not wading into the deep thickets of digital game. Let's agree on the fundamentals (don't worry - yes, you can charge for the additional features) and start embracing the needs that really count - the customer (as Laurie Dillon-Schalk @ldillonschalk so eloquently reiterated).
11) If It Wasn't Tough, Everybody Would be Doing It - when you get together with any digital posse, it's tempting to have a gripe session and we had a bit of that last night. And that's okay. It's tribal and creates a social bond between people with like experiences and a "we vs. them" zeal to change the world. But staying crabby is a dead end street. To end on a positive outtake from discussion, I'll lean on Jill Fagan's soliloquy - this is an incredible time to be a buisness person, change agent and digital expert. The shifts in business value, methods of operation and opportunities for innovation are larger than they've ever been. And as people who live and breathe this work, we are most poised to benefit disproportionately from this evolution to digitizing business, socializing culture and changing the way people live, work and play. So chill out, enjoy the ride and remember every time an executive utters "what's Twitter?" that's secretly an extra premium in your pocket.
Without giving any secrets away - the 6 steps to Social Media Maturity put forward:
Step 1 - Look & Listen
Step 2- Establish a Social Footprint
Step 3 - Engage
Step 4 - Increase Your Social Currency
Step 5 - Build Your Community
Step 6 - Aim for Social Sophistication
And the Three Star tweets of the night,
le troisieme etoile/the third star - @dbradfield "For true success in social, companies need to move away from control models to release models"...
le deuxieme etoile/the second star - @doctorjones "My sister from another mother @hessiejones is depressing me" - I have no idea what this means but interesting
le premiere etoile/the first star - @dbradfield (what can I say he had his iPad open all night) "When social becomes a discipline, it's shared across an organization and not the domain of an individual"
Thanks again to the folks at JWT Canada, Laurie Dillon-Schalk, Rick Wolfe, Melanie Reiffenstein, Hessie Jones, Dainel Berkal, Noel Geer, 'Sarah Sephera, Jill Rosenberg, John Saydam, Sarah Chi, Bruce Runyan, John Reeves, Jill Fagan, Nicole Mckinney, David Bradfield, Donna Pappacosta, David Jones for the discussion. I look forward to the sequel .
Sean Moffitt @seanmoffitt