The social media world is a scary place and unfortunately it’s scaring away the professionals and organisations who need it the most. How do you embrace today’s internet culture and use it to your advantage?
The Procurious London CPO Roundtable was sponsored by Basware.
Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined YouTube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for YouTube, in order to understand the social media space.
It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs.
A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms, connecting with huge audiences across the globe and finding fame.
Perhaps the most successful YouTuber in this space was Justin Bieber, who’s YouTube performances were discovered by chance by record label manager, Scooter Braun.
Others, to this day, rack up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in, or had the chance to be!
Take 7-year-old Ryan as an example of this in action. His YouTube channel “Ryan ToysReview” where he (you guessed it!) reviews the latest and greatest in children’s toys has seen him become one of the richest YouTubers ever and a multimillionaire.
Or there’s Lindsey Stirling, an American violinist, dancer, and composer…
Youtube ultimately offers us the opportunity to be heard, and some people have seized the opportunity with both hands.
Building trust on the internet
Elizabeth Linder is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust.
Clearly “The People” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out.
The problem is that so many of the worlds experts; that is the professionals, the politicians, the press, have really struggled to figure out exactly where they fit in. And that’s why so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust.
All too often, as Elizabeth points out, we focus on the sinister corners of the internet, only promoting the negative effects social media is having on our society.
When governments, the press and businesses perpetuate this idea they fail to acknowledge the value and importance that online conversations can bring, and the huge impact they can have.
The public’s use of social media is way more sophisticated than what we see in most professional bodies and businesses across the globe.
That means, as professionals, we’re on the back foot.
And it’s time to change!
At last month’s Procurious roundtable, sponsored by Basware, Elizabeth Linder provided three key pieces of advice to procurement pros who want to start, and win, conversations online.
1. Go at your own pace
Leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture.
Elizabeth stressed that it’s crucial to take things at your own pace as long as you let people into your thought processes.
A politician in the throws of a disaster situation can’t be expected to have all the answers or all the solutions. But what they can do is keep the public posted on the events as they unfold, maintain a constant dialogue and reassure people that they are doing everything they can.
As a business leader, it’s ok to communicate that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!
You don’t have to speed up because the internet is speedy. It’s just a different kind of dialogue.
When United Airlines hit the headlines for forcibly dragging a passenger off one of their planes, it took them so long to figure out their communications strategy, that they made things a whole lot worse.
They didn’t need a strategy.
They just needed to say something!
2. Believe in the power of primary
We need to believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do.
Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication.
If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say. And that’s because you don’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!
The opportunity to speak directly to your audience is an amazing opportunity for leaders and professionals but it’s taken, particularly western, leaders a long time to grab this space and run with it. Perhaps this is because it demands a greater bravery and vulnerability compared with hiding behind a newspaper column or official statements from your organisation. But the pay off is worth it.
The 2011 London riots were a big wake up moment for the London Police force, who had to figure out how to communicate directly, and effectively with the general public.
And in the UK county of Staffordshire, the police have invested in real authenticity and conversation on social media, building a strong community relationship.
3. Embrace the hacker culture
Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key.
EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making.
Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter, and create as they go.
In the early days of Facebook your profile photo was meant to be one photo of yourself. The idea was that you uploaded it and you kept it.
But Facebook engineers watched a trend emerging of members rapidly changing their profile picture; every time they went to a party, every time they went on holiday. They realised that users wanted to ability to share their photo albums on Facebook and so built in the functionality to do that. Simply by following the patterns of behaviour.
travel business is struggling with this right now – they used to be able to invite critics to review a hotel/ stay somewhere and write up a review – now all it takes is one guest to write a terrible review about crappy plumbing and it can go around the world- feeling of being out of control is prevalent in leadership circles.
Top tips for getting started online
- Involve people, whether it’s colleagues, clients, customers or the wider community in the early building stages of your online presence. What do they want to hear from you? What’s useful and what’s not?
- Keep a consistency and truthful tone to anything you post online. Post things that represent you or you organisation because it’s so much better to be yourself rather than a contrived version of yourself. If you’re not funny don’t try to be. If you’re earnest be earnest!
- Don’t let your voice become part of the PR machinery. The UK lost count of the number of times they heard Theresa May’s Brexit was going to be Strong and Stable – it was a meaningless consultant’s phrase.
- Be honest! If you don’t know, say you don’t know! It’s much easier to do this online than it is live on TV.
Pick the right people to communicate with your audience. Your business might have a clear hierarchy but it’s important to consider who should be the spokesperson vs who will be the best spokesperson. The Estonian parliament Facebook page asked their maintenance man to run the page, and he’s become a local celebrity, and great PR for the government.
Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”
Procurious are hosting CPO roundtables on 30th May, 19th September and 14th November. If you’re a CPO and would like to attend one of our roundtables in person please contact Olga Luscombe via [email protected] to request an invitation.