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08/04/2009 Business Culture and the Social Media Subversive

We hear a lot about how social media helps companies gain authenticity; how it enables people throughout the organization to make decisions; how it allows employees to connect directly with customers and solve their problems.

Well, what if your organization or business doesn't work that way? What happens if your culture is one of making sure the boss Okays everything? How can companies engage in social media if they haven't empowered people to take initiatives without second guessing them constantly?

I'm sure some of you will say that in today's world those questions lack relevance. But I've seen this in action. It's usually the case with a strong executive, sometimes the company's founder. While the organization might be quite successful, it's a very much command and control culture.

So if social media authentically reflects you, and your reflection isn't a good one, maybe your business should just forget about social media. PRSarahEvans made a great point at the social media breakfast yesterday when someone asked her about what to do when a company is afraid to jump into social media. She answered that companies should take a look internally about what causes the fear and start to address it before doing anything. (I think she'd make a great coach, by the way).

I think the companies who have this command and control culture are the ones who pop up in social media and then disappear after a few months. There's no commitment to the process or patience with building relationships. It's probably the same inside the company. And since cultures like these HATE hearing anything negative about themselves, they'd rather ignore the negative comments than address them.

Bolshevik Do you recognize yourself in one of these organizations? If you do, and you feel frustrated by this, I think you should become a Social Media Subversive. Start the revolution baby!

Only you'll have to do it surreptitiously. Set up your secret listening posts about your brand and category. Create your accounts and engage people who talk about you. Build a relationship that leads to a sale or inquiry, and keep doing it.

Probably someone at work will get mad at you, but if you have results, what's the problem? They probably won't find out until you reveal your success (since they're not monitoring anything). Take a page from the military: Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Of course you could risk your job for insubordination. But if you do, even after your success, why would you want to work at a place like that? And you can take your social media success and market it to other companies.

The worst case would be that the success makes others jealous and they take the social media duties away and give them to someone else, someone with the "right" credentials who doesn't really get social media and drives this right into the ground.

Even if this happens, you'll still have a great story to tell.

Does anyone know of companies with this command and control culture where social media has flourished? I'd love to know...


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