Last week I wrote about why PR departments should lose control of social media publishing. At the recent CeBit conference Harper Reed explained how the Obama campaign raised average $65 each from 2.6 million donors on-line and won the election by targeting 15 million persuadable voters in the marginal states. This took hundreds of staff and thousands of volunteers who tweeted, blogged, face-booked, tele-marketed and door-knocked their way to victory. Somehow they managed the conversations and messages effectively, filtering out bad team comments and fixing occasional meltdowns before they went viral.
Closer to home, within the Salvation Army in Australia, posting and tweeting is not restricted to a few PR specialists. Officers use Facebook widely to run day-to-day church operations and even to co-ordinate disaster response. It seems the organisation at large has learnt to work effectively under HQ guidelines on roles, responsibilities and restrictions for all officers, employees and volunteers when using Social Media to specifically communicate Salvation Army messages.
Generation X & Y run their lives via Facebook and Instagram rather than telephone or email. You would think companies selling to them would learn to speak their social media language. Obviously there are skills, training and governance issues here but, when it all boils down, businesses have not confronted the training and internal accountability required to meet their customer’s preferences. My sense is that nimbler on-line businesses will accept this challenge and we will see rapid generational change, as customers desert hide-bound companies and engage where they can be heard in their favourite medium. We need to look more closely at the success of community organisations to find templates of effective social media engagement.