The strategy is designed to move us from here to there. It's the charted course to an imagined destination.
Where we trip all over ourselves when discussing social media is that we want very much to paint a picture of where we should be at that distant future point. We spend a LOT of time talking about the destination itself - what it looks like, what it'll be like when we get there, why we should care about the trip in the first place - but the proverbial and oft-cited journey is far more important than we give it credit for.
While it's incredibly valuable to understand where we ultimately want to be, goals are aspirations more than final destinations, and as we do and build more, that end point will and should always move further away from us.
Where we need to spend more time is in understanding where we are now, and and envisioning the next stage, not just that elusive end goal. We're really misunderstanding what it means to experience social business success at this stage of the game.
Here's what I mean.
Most businesses start simply, and while we support the idea of baby steps, we're actually rather lousy at accepting them as they happen.
We all have fundamental, core issues in our businesses that are hindering our progress toward being more social. Culture. Systems and processes. Communication. Resources. The first step is taking the time to define what those things are, so we can understand what our strategy is intended to address.
Diagnosing those things can sometimes be through use of blunt objects, like starting a Twitter account that does it all wrong and feeling the wrath (or the silence). Giving social media to the intern and finding that it needs a heck of a lot more help than that. Starting a crappy blog that gets no comments. Trying to convince the boss and failing. All the things we decry as social media mistakes.
Some of them are simply ill-informed decisions. Others are experiments based on basic and limited knowledge. Still others are simply the tools someone is permitted to work with. It's all about starting somewhere.
If we're smart about looking at our strategy based on our current spot and the next stop down the line, we'll stop and say "Huh. Ok, we're trying that and it's not exactly getting us forward momentum." Or we'll note that it's working better than we could have imagined, and then ask why. Or we'll identify gaps in our framework that need closing before we can move ahead.
We'll change or adjust a few things. Add something, take something away. Try a different tool. Throw other things at the wall to see what sticks. Get comfortable with letting go of the ones that don't.
This is where we might create a social media team or department. Get the help of an agency or a consultant. Put together a steering committee, or hire a community manager, or whatever helps put someone at the steering wheel. It's not unlike a tandem jump in skydiving; you never take the first jump alone. So, you gather some folks around, make it a focus, and spend some time working out the kinks. It's all about commitment and refinement.
We all want to be here.
Sailing along, a brilliantly integrated social business with elements of social in every aspect of our work rather than dedicated roles or departments. We'll bask in our sophisticated tracking and measurement and understanding of the impact on our business and bottom line. We'll have scores of loyal customers, a happy and productive workforce that's dripping with innovative ideas and progressive communication, and leadership that understands the pace and demands that are on business today and guides us with wisdom and alacrity.
Of course we do. But this is the aspiration. We will *always and forever* be working toward this as long as we're in business.
The character of a social business isn't a static ideal state, but rather a system of continuous assessment and improvement.
I may not have told you anything here that you don't inherently understand, but we don't accept it well, nor do we design our expectations and planning accordingly. We want to and do build our business cases, our proposals, our client pitches around what we'll (or they'll) look like in that idyllic state.
But here's the rub.
You must accept that successful adoption and adaptation of any kind is progressive, not absolute. We must be willing to sell in the value of progress itself.
We love maturity models because we all want to picture ourselves on that glorious last box on the chart. We do audits so that we can understand our current state and how big the gap is between where we are now, and that shiny tape at the finish line.
But we would all find more success, less overwhelmed paralysis - and dare I say more progress and accomplishment - if we could practice seeing and aiming for the incremental step instead of the grand design. And we might - just might - rethink our definitions of what characterizes continued social media success.