“It’s Not Just About Social Media”–An Introduction to Social Communication

“It’s Not Just About Social Media–An Introduction to Social Communication” is a new presentation that outlines the core of my approach to communication strategy–to focus on the informal social groups and networks (tribes) in organizations and communities, alongside a focus on traditional channels, hierarchies and organization charts.

While social media can make these informal networks and tribes more visible and easier to influence and harness, I see it as a mistake to collapse the underlying theory and mechanics of a social communication strategy with the arrival or use of technology which may or not be acceptable within a given organization.

Indeed, the only software required to run an effective social communication program is an Excel spreadsheet–to identify key members in the community and the formal and informal groups to which they belong.

The only hardware required is a telephone–to allow for ongoing and regular communication with the key informal leaders within your area of responsibility.

Social Communications is grounded in timeless practice: it has a lineage dating back at least to 1840, when Abraham Lincoln articulated his “Lincoln Rules” for running successful political campaigns.

Social Communication approaches work well in internal communication situations–and particularly well in change programs which involve smaller core groups along with an extended network into the organization.

They also can be easily applied in external communication situations where the community of interest is well defined, for instance in a niche market or around regulatory or legislative issues.

The presentation can be found here: http://slidesha.re/cmSQEn.  If you would like to discuss with me, please email me at mklein818@yahoo.com

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  1. Very good points, Mike! I do want to plea for more technology than a telephone though. I HATE talking on the phone & I know there are others like me. We need to acknowledge that people’s preferred tools vary. And as much as possible, we should try to accommodate them as the conversation will be richer the more we inclusive we are.

  2. Hi Liz…

    Phone and spreadsheet were given as lowest-common-denominator examples, to illustrate that one doesn’t need elaborate technologies and the elaborate organizational permissions that go with putting those technologies into place.

    Could you use email, Yammer or carrier pigeon as the core means of communication? Sure.

    Could you use an access database or internal facebook as the list-management tool? Absolutely, and probably even a card file with a good color coding system.

    Main thing is not about which technology you use–its that you don’t need to get permission to use technology that’s already available, which means you don’t need permission to start using social communication strategies.

  3. I very much like your presentation. This reminds me of the ongoing debate whether Enterprise Architecture is about IT. You can “design” an entire organisation based on paper and phone of course, but it would be wrong to conclude that technology does not influence that at all.
    I have the hope that technology supporting the creation of loose groups and communication “tribes” as you call it leads to a different approach to corporate communications, which is less top-down.

  4. Hi Milan…

    Thanks for your note. Two things:

    1) Organizational communication is already less top-down than it appears, but organizations rarely actively harness or influence the lateral communication that does take place (and is often more important)

    2) The use of spreadsheet and phone is really about being able to identify which people belong to which teams and tribes, and the phone for having an optimal number of conversations with those who have the most influence within and across tribal boundaries. More elaborate technologies (eg Yammer) allow for much more spread and velocity, but they aren’t required.

    This is not a design exercise–this is an integrated communication approach that increases credibility and speed while reducing friction.

  5. Great stuff, Mike. To echo a Debbie Hinton response on one of my recent posts, “Can you hear me singing the hallelujah chorus?!”

    If you haven’t already, you should pick up the phone [:-)] and talk to Tim Blezsynski and Eb Banful over at New Brand Tribalism. They’d be really interested in this and might even be able to chuck some work your way.

    Better yet, just drop Eb a line via LinkedIn – he’s already joined the fold of our very own CommScrum tribe.

    All the best from sunny Riyadh,


  6. Mike — we communicators do tend to have a bipolar disposition with technology. On the one hand, it’s collective ADHD, (“ooh, shiny!”) and on the other, Eyore syndrome (“it’ll never work…!)

    You’re correct that regardless of the tool, dialogue and discussion that leads to relationships IS the main point of public relations — the “public” has been part of our practice for years, despite what Brian Solis says.

  7. Exactly, Sean–and what Social Communication is about is the ability to identify and manage each relationship (whether active or not) that an organization engages in.

    Indeed, that’s what gets me irritated about the social media charlatans who urge communicators to “just jump in”–even though it is possible to identify and manage potential relationships before initiating them, “just jumping in” forces one either to be on the receiving end of seemingly random conversations, or to “piss into the wind” and engage lots of people and actors irrelevant to their objectives.

    Social Communication offers the more coherent, effective, and powerful approach–because, as you say–it’s about relationships, not just blather for blather’s sake.

  1. 2010 in review | Mike Klein–The Intersection

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