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Enterprise social media marketers face the apathetic and the unruly

The most memorable line from decades of Pogo comic strips by Walt Kelley (OK, I am really old), was “We have met the enemy and they are us.” As a digital marketer in a medium-to-large company, you can be excused for thinking that line was written to describe your job. The most exciting thing that has happened in marketing in the last 20 years is that marketers can now use their entire company to do their marketing. The most horrifying thing that has happened in the last 20 years is that marketers must now work with their entire company to get anything done. For the most part, when it comes to social media, enterprise marketers get to work with two groups of people: the apathetic and the unruly. One group doesn’t do anything and the other does whatever it wants.

Walt Kelly's Pogo
Photo credit: mabith

This was all brought to mind for me while interacting with a potential client over the last few months. She’s been talking to me off and on about whether she needs my help as she fights her way through the political thickets to get social media guidelines approved. She seems to be making progress, but until recently I hadn’t had the heart to tell her that she is fighting gamely in this, the easiest battle of the whole social media war.

Once the guidelines are approved, and happy execs hold the kickoff meeting to our new initiative as a social business, and those same execs retreat to their cloistered window offices to do the same things they were doing the day before the announcement, a terrible thing happens. Most employees do the same exact thing.

These folks are terribly annoying to you, the social media marketer. After all, you have religion. You know this is important. You just spent the last nine months beating your corporation about the face and body politic to get this launched. And now, seemingly no one cares. All these people out there, and nothing but apathy. Everyone is doing today the same dumb things they did yesterday. You start to lay awake nights wondering how you can wake everyone else from their stupor. Social media is important and my company just doesn’t get it.

But then you start to see activity. And you are immediately thrilled. Somebody does get it. after all. Someone out there–no seven someones (but who’s counting)–are tweeting and blogging and video-ing (work with me here) and starting to actually do stuff. But your excitement is short-lived, because you notice that some of them–no wait, ALL of them–are violating these lovely corporate social media guidelines that you just announced. Welcome to your job–ruling the unruly.

Now what?

You’ve slaved away at those guidelines and what has it brought you? The great majority of the company don’t do anything in social media (which means that your program is failing) and the active few do whatever they want (which means that your guidelines are failing). What’s a poor enterprise marketer to do?

You first need to recognize that rules are the easy part. Motivating the apathetic to take action requires overcoming huge inertia and is not for the faint of heart. If you can launch a huge evangelism campaign built around the value of social media, great. If you can persuade even one exec to participate in social media, even if you must hold his hand, even better. If you can get training and mentoring funded so that people can be guided in what to do (not just guided in what not do do), excellent! If you can get those execs to linger a few minutes longer at the announcement to explain that this is required and that managers now evaluate performance in part on social participation, you’re there!

But what about that vanguard of early adopters that flout those beautiful guidelines you crafted? Your goal is to rein them in, not turn them off. So instead of hitting their hands with rulers (OK, I am getting even older as I write this), you must reach out to them and teach them. Remember, there won’t be that many of them. Mentor them. Learn from them. Get them to help you recruit others to participate. Make them your insurgents and your allies. These are the people that get it and you must enlist them as your advance troops. Help them to become the teachers and mentors of the rest of their teams. Arm them with the facts that help them increase participation in social media in their group.

Whatever you do, don’t retreat into your office lamenting how no one is doing anything and no one is following the rules. If you want social media to work, you had better be social, you had better think through the media that reaches your constituents, and you had better work on your marketing–not to your customers but to your employees.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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