Gini Dietrich

Change Your Culture to Invite Social Media Use

By: Gini Dietrich | February 27, 2012 | 

Last week, we talked about social media use at work.

I wrote it about first for my weekly column in Crain’s, the Chicago business journal because so many of the audience members when I speak are now shifting and asking, “How do I get my employees to use social media for work?”

There wasn’t much direct conversation on the article, but I had a few private emails from readers.

The conversation that ensued in the comments here were just as vocal, but different from the emails I received.

You see, most people who read Spin Sucks are PR and marketing professionals. And, most of the Crain’s readers are entrepreneurs or business leaders.

What I discovered is there is a gigantic gap between the two audiences.

While the recommendations I provided last week will work if you’re embarking on social media, they won’t work if you have a culture problem to support the added communication channels.

Most of you said last week, “This is great, but our bosses still won’t let us use the Internet at work.”

If that’s the case, I want you to either pay very close attention because you are the boss or I want you find a way to get this to your executive team.

Executives, shame on you!

It’s ridiculous to think a) your employees aren’t using the web from their phones, if you don’t allow it from their computers; and b) you can get them excited to help you if you won’t help them…even if they are being paid.

Unless you’re running a business where computer work isn’t necessary, it’s time to change the culture.

Oh I know. Changing the culture is like turning the Titanic before it hit the iceberg. But it is possible…especially if you want to enter the 21st Century and gain new business from using the Internet.

According to Chris Edmonds, the man who co-wrote Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard, there are three things you have to do:

  1. Senior leaders (of the organization/department/team) must champion the culture change. The responsibility for proactive management of team culture cannot be delegated to any other player or role. Only senior leaders can change expectations, structure, policies, and procedures to support the desired culture.
  2. Senior leaders must create measurable, behavioralized values. You have to define what it means to use social media for business purposes. What does success look like? How will internal brand ambassadors act? What will they say and do online?
  3. Senior leaders hold themselves and all staff accountable for both performance standards and values expectations. Once valued behaviors are published, leaders at all levels are “under the microscope.” Employees will be observing leaders’ plans, decisions, and actions closely to see if they “walk the values talk.” Only when leaders demonstrate desired valued behaviors will the employee population embrace those behaviors. Which means you have to use social media. Yes, I know. You don’t have time. But, if you want it to work (and it does work), you have to demonstrate you’re willing to carve out some time each day to participate online. You have to demonstrate the online behavior you want from your team.

Social media is not going to go away. You can either keep your head in the sand and hope you don’t have to deal with it before you retire. Or you can begin to change your culture and see significant business results from using the web to generate, cultivate, and convert leads.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • More and more I find that this is the message I find myself telling business owners on a regular basis: it’s the culture, stupid.  Very often there is a grassroots effort to change the culture from the bottom up,and that may work on a larger, external scale, but inside a business there needs to be buy-in across the board, and it must be evident from the top down. 
    Sadly,  it often takes a mishap or negative event to finally convince them of this, otherwise, they are more than happy to ride it out.

    • ginidietrich

       @KenMueller I know. It makes me sad. But it’s becoming more and more evident leaders WANT to change. They just don’t have the tools to do so and it feels like they’re adding one more thing to their already full plates. I keep explaining it won’t happen overnight. But alas…some do and some don’t.

      •  @ginidietrich The overnight thing is a big one. I’m not sure why everyone expects fast results. Changing a culture takes time. Social is not an overnight proposition. I explain that over and over again, and people are just impatient.

        • ginidietrich

           @KenMueller I always tell them there is no such thing as overnight success. Not in social media. Not in culture change. Not in business. Nowhere.

      • @ginidietrich@KenMueller
        I blame the Ivy League Schools. Too many leaders are given roles because of their degree. And it is hard to get into Ivy League Schools but really hard to fail out and they have the worst grade inflation of any schools. Give me someone with a 3.5 from a state university who had to scrap for everything. But if you look at the fortune 500 almost all the CEOs are from elite schools where you are rubber stamped a degree because daddy or mommy or the family was someone. You can even become President this way and George Jr proved.
        runs and hides from all the Yale grad participation here at Spin Sucks

        • ginidietrich

           @HowieSPM  I was accepted to Harvard. It was my lifelong dream to go to school there. When I got the acceptance letter, my dad said, “Well, I don’t know how you’re going to go there. We can’t afford to send you.” I had a full-ride academic scholarship to Creighton and I couldn’t get the proper funding to go to Harvard. Guess which one I chose? I also had to keep a 3.875 GPA through college. It was really, really hard work, but I did it. Some days I don’t feel like I earned my CEO title (I mean, I own the joint so it’s automatically given to me), but then I look at some of my peers and I think you’re right….

        • Byron Fernandez

           @ginidietrich  @HowieSPM Entitlement and lack of perspective often encapsulate the Legacy privilege. However, there is still the minority (myself among them) who Loved to Learn, and by the merits of their perseverance and passion earned an education. On their own. On scholarship or full-ride. Believed internally when everything or everyone else dissolved around them.
          Though mine was in the liberal arts, state; Ivy — who cares; end of day it’s a piece of newfangled paper. It’s the work that counts! 
          I love how Paul (Roetzer) says that intelligence is secondary to Effort in the agency world. 

  • This is a great post @ginidietrich it is why I stopped following Zappos on Twitter and used them as an example of a company that changed their culture after initial success. When I joined Twitter and opened my business account I quickly followed a bunch of brands to observe how they used Twitter. Zappos was being praised in summer 2009 as the king of social. Well fall 2009 rolls around and the only tweets from the corporate account were for Tony H pitching his book non-stop and there was one tweet for a video showing a lunch room event with a pot luck based on who can make the food that is the worst for you. It took them a long time to get their twitter mojo back. And all I could think of was 1 million followers now going to waste.
    This just proves this is a top down role for upper management. If I worked there at that time I would of had no problem posting my EBay offerings on the Twitter during work hours.

    • ginidietrich

       @HowieSPM I think part of their mojo was lost when they sold to Amazon. Suddenly Tony wasn’t in control of his own time. And, unfortunately, when you’re reporting to a board, Twitter is one of the first to go.

  • Very good Gini.  Seeing this more and more.  Trying to do better at it myself.  A lot of it is, the old dogs don’t want to learn new tricks, but what they don’t understand is they either change and adapt, or simply lose and eventually, go out of business. Thanks for another great reminder.  Hope your trip to south Fla. was a success. Talk soon ? Yeah, right.  Luv ya !

    • ginidietrich

       @Al Smith My trip wasn’t so great. I ended up with food poisoning. I was violently ill. And it’s 1,000 degrees down there. I don’t like it!

      • Sorry honey.  That sucks.  yeah, you have to get used to the humidity.  Hope you are feeling better.  Miss you. Take CARE.

  • ToddBartlett

    Hey Gini,
    Sorry it has been so long since I last commented on your blog but life has been crazy. I love this article. Too many people forget the importance of organizational culture. As you have noted, it can play a huge role in the success or failure of a social media program.

    • ginidietrich

       @ToddBartlett OMG Todd! No apologies necessary. I totally know how it goes. But good to see you back!

  • Social media isn’t going away? Damn.
    At least that gives me content for my blog forever.

    • ginidietrich

       @JayDolan I just recommended your blog as one of my favorite marketing blogs. I hope the person is shocked when they arrive!

  • ketanraval

    @GiseleNMendez how many social media sites u regularly use?

    • GiseleNMendez

      Here you’ll find the answer » (add Chill) RT @ketanraval: @GiseleNMendez how many social media sites u regularly use?

      • ketanraval

        @GiseleNMendez r u sure u !?! These many?!?

        • GiseleNMendez

          @ketanraval Yeahp, pretty sure 🙂

  • Byron Fernandez

    Amen sister, times 7000.
    “Social media is not going to go away. You can either keep your head in the sand and hope you don’t have to deal with it before you retire. Or you can begin to change your culture and see significant business results from using the web to generate, cultivate, and convert leads”
    Once again, there are too many marketers out there squawking about how scintillating and sexy this “transmedia,” new media, integrated yada tada bofada stuff is. But their inaction, lack of commitment or participation speaks so loudly I can’t hear what they’re saying…
    We are officially Stork Startlers (cough, MSchechter  ; )
    Happy Monday Gini D! 

    • ginidietrich

       @Byron Fernandez  Happy Monday to you!

  • Well, I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t write about me again, but I guess you have other crazies to entertain. Amen to this though Gini because when have my own company, it’s going to be uber Social media friendly. I still don’t understand why companies still aren’t adopting to Social Media and promoting it the way they should. It’s gonna be another Darwinian like analogy – survival of the socialest!

    And lastly, thank you for giving inspiration to a new fictitious character to make fun of – The Social Media Ostrich… To bad they won’t be to see or hear our bird calls!

    • ginidietrich

       @SociallyGenius I was on the phone when I saw this pop up and it made me choke because I had to stifle a laugh. Very funny! I think the difference is…we’re not Baby Boomers. I just had someone say that to me the other day, “Yeah. Well, you’re young. That’s why you get this.” Oy.

      •  @ginidietrich Hey, @GiniDietrich and @SociallyGenius, I’m a leading edge baby boomer and I’m social!  
        Open minded/closed minded, curious/know it all, wanting better ways to communicate, market and learn/set in your ways, etc., etc. – these are the variables that I see in social media interest and use.  I think age is an excuse from those who just don’t want to be bothered or from some Gen X, millenials, Gen Z who find it easy to stereotype rather than see underlying texture.  
        I’ve had this conversation face-to-face and on Twitter with Erik Qualman @equalman when he spoke a few months ago at the House of Blues on his “Digital Leader” book tour and took at shot by saying “your parents don’t get it.”  I threatened to start a “Your Father’s on Social Media” blog.  
        Some of us do get it…

        • ginidietrich

           @leepublish  Hi Lee! I agree…there definitely are some Baby Boomers who get it and are moving their companies forward. I spoke to a group a few weeks ago where the business leaders in the audience were very progressive and were saying, “So we’re doing this, but we can’t get our employees to join us.” This was so opposite of what I normally hear (I don’t have time – it’s for my kids), that I thought I’d write a few blog posts around it. But you are definitely in the minority.

  • I really think a big problem is the time element. Solopreneurs can set their own rules and time parameters. PR firms and marketing professionals are always on SM. But I think the big elephant in the room is CEO’s and owners fear of heavy online posting as opposed to doing the task at hand. Without completing the “must do’s” for the day to run the business, the business has no shot. SM is looked at as more of a “to do”. If customer service or shipments decline due to lack of attention, brand will suffer more then not posting. However, what needs to be understood by CEO’s, is if a slip occurs, they could spring into action by hearing about it and address it faster. Need to address their pain reduction….show examples of success stories AND horror stories gone viral due to lack of engagment. More powerful then you gotta be or your head is in the sand. Maybe not wide open where everyone near a computer should be on twitter. But, bet they figure out a way to carve some time to get a SM person in house to get it done.

    • ginidietrich

       @barrykahan There are plenty of great CEOs who are using it well – Zappos, the Miami Heat owner, Mark Cuban…etc. It’s just that most don’t know how they’re going to fit it in their day. If it’s important enough, they will. If not, well, I’ll always have a job teaching them how to do it.

  • I blame it all on the millenials. They wrecked it all for the rest of us. Damn kids and their funny Farmiville games and need to post pictures of drunken orgies and the like.
    We could have had all sorts of fun posting about stodgy old stuff and now the bosses fear we’ll waste time online.
    Oh well, back to shooting each other with paper clips.

    • ginidietrich

       @TheJackB We have a client who still shoots one another with paper clips. Every time I visit, I have to remember to wear my sunglasses so I don’t get hit in the eye!

      • @ginidietrich @TheJackB I’ve seen all this jibber jabber about this cult called the millenials. What’s the official timeline range for this group? Thinkin I missed em by a few years!

  • ginidietrich

    @SociallyGenius I wish I’d used that photo! LOL!

    • SociallyGenius

      @ginidietrich Thought it was fitting, LOL.. But it probably took away from your link, oops. Did you get some skiing in this weekend?

      • skypulsemedia

        @sociallygenius psst @ginidietrich doesn’t ski she is an Ice Fisher.

        • SociallyGenius

          @skypulsemedia I’ll play along and betray my ability to read… So @ginidietrich did ya catch any big ones?

      • ginidietrich

        @SociallyGenius No skiing. 🙁 I flew to FL, spoke, flew home, got food poisoing

      • ginidietrich

        @SociallyGenius And poisoning too

        • SociallyGenius

          @ginidietrich ughh, that’s too bad – and you still managed to pump out a great post 😉 hope you’re feeling better!

  • ginidietrich

    @leepublish Thanks!

  • rdopping

    Wow, this is so bang on for me right now. I hope you have time for this SHORT story. First off, that @TheJackB character is a funny, funny guy. Not necessarily a friend YET but give it time. Sense of humour and all.
    Anywhooo, I work at an Architecture firm (national CDN guys) and we just started with social media in ernest. About 18months ago when I started everything was choked – no twitter, no FB, no blogs, no nothing. Can you say 180? It’s sooooo good. BUT. Your point about Sr. Mgmt (like me old stodgy paperclip flinger myself) have to embrace it first. AGREED! Accountability is huge in this setting but we also need to remember to treat our team members like the adults that they are. It is surprising how people respond.
    It amazes me the companies that are so afraid to allow social media tools because they don’t understand them. We are just getting there and for such a leading edge firm in all other aspects of the industry it is about DAMN time. With such an inclusionary social culture the firms Principles finally woke up to reality. Thank GAWD! Took them long enough.

    • @rdopping Some solid points there. Also, what qualifications are you seeking for your open friend position? I’d like an application, please.

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  • KCOrion

    @ginidietrich Maybe we should start taking advice from you. @patrickreyes is smart but not as smart as you.

    • ginidietrich

      @KCOrion And I’m better looking than @patrickreyes too!

      • patrickreyes

        @ginidietrich Hey! Wait a minute! Be nice to me. My birthday is coming! @KCOrion

        • ginidietrich

          @patrickreyes We don’t have to be nice to you until your birthday! @KCOrion

        • KCOrion

          @ginidietrich Hahahahaha @patrickreyes nice try.

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  • MZazeela

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Gini. Studies have shown that companies that allow their employees to use SoMe at work (on a limited basis) have happier and more productive employees.

  • MZazeela

    Embracing social media in the workplace. RT @ginidietrich