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Over two days, 20 industry leaders shared their views on the state of the social media industry at the Social Media Monitoring, Measurement & ROI Forum in Sydney: where we’re heading; what the key barriers are; and, importantly, how we can overcome this chasm that exists between business leaders and practitioners. They sought to answer the central question: how do you improve how your organisation delivers value from ‘social’?

As chair, I felt the speakers did a sensational job of being real and highlighting the challenges, while also providing practical advice to shape next steps for those still seeking answers. Yet, after two insight-filled days, I looked around the room of 100+ social media practitioners as we closed and felt the spark of encouragement had been stifled by the weight of responsibility. Eyes and faces that almost said: ‘Where to from here?’

Do leaders want to see social fail?

There is a circular challenge within the social media industry. Organisations know they need to consider the role of social, but are generally unwilling to put too much skin in the game at the outset. But rather than carving out time and space for an individual or team to address the opportunity properly, responsibility falls to someone already managing existing workloads. Or, worse still, the youngest person in the marketing team. (I wish I was joking or writing this in 2010, but I’m sadly quite serious.)

What happens as a result? Those responsible either don’t have the capacity or capability to surface the real value and opportunities in social, and consequently leaders pass judgement and further reinforce their assumptions that ‘social’ won’t deliver value for their organisation. Of course, ‘social’ itself shoulders the blame, not the operating structure that guaranteed its reduced performance. It’s like planting a seed under a rock in the shade, then dismissing it when an impressive oak fails to emerge.

But there continue to be small glimpses of success, perhaps internally or across industry – just enough to keep the pilot light of interest burning, but without extinguishing the barrier of scepticism surrounding it. And the cycle continues where leaders need more proof to justify investment based on these influences, yet remain reluctant to properly commit. Naturally, they remain sceptical. It takes very capable, strong-minded individuals to overcome this challenge on their own.

Demonstrating the value of social capabilities

If you want evidence of the potential value of social capabilities, and a reason to invest, start here. It shouldn’t still be a question within Australian organisations but, if it is, it’s likely due either to existing leadership perceptions or the inability to communicate up the potential business value at hand. I’ve no doubt this responsibility is shared.

So to help practitioners and specialists trying to find their way and prove value within many of our organisations, I’ve summarised the views of our 20 expert speakers and found the five key steps that will help improve the way organisations view and derive value from social initiatives and investments.

  1. Bridge the leadership disconnect: Find out what matters to your organisation – goals, ambitions, metrics, pain points, opportunities – and demonstrate how and where you can add value in terms relevant to the organisation.
  2. Prove your value with evidence: Find the data that will help tell your story effectively. Once you know what matters and how you can play a role, work out what data you need to make your case.
  3. Build familiarity among leaders: Find soft or simple ways to connect with and educate your senior leaders. A common communication forum where you can contribute data of interest to them, or even a line on an email as one speaker shared. Start small.
  4. Build your network: Find industry friends, allies or colleagues who can help you on your journey. Yes, inside your organisation, but also externally as their experiences and learnings will help you fast-track development.
  5. Build your confidence and resilience: Finally, stop, look in the mirror, and recognise the opportunities awaiting the person staring back at you. Yes, this is a challenging time to be pioneering new ways of thinking, communicating and collaborating internally, but very few others have the potential to impact the way organisations and industries operate today. You do. Gather yourself and give it your best shot, and don’t worry if you get knocked down. You’ll never create anything new if you remain fearful of failure.

How Propel is tackling the leadership disconnect with social

I’ve spoken with a number of the industry leaders from the conference and agreed there is a gap in practical resources and inspiration for practitioners and those taking these steps inside organisations. In response, Propel will partner with experts from organisations like Transport for NSW, the University of Sydney and the Social Media Marketing Institute over the coming months via a Q&A Expert Series, highlighting their experiences, insights and advice for those tackling their own challenges.

Feel free to subscribe to our eNewsletter if you’re likely to benefit from this series, or drop me an email if you or someone you know would like to contribute – we’re always open to new thinking that improves the way organisations unlock the potential of social capabilities.

* Image via Jenny Devine (@devine_jenny) taken at the Social Media Monitoring, Measurement & ROI Forum.

Author: Roger Christie

Roger Christie is Founder and Managing Director of Propel. He understands the importance and value of a customer-centric approach to business, and has worked with a range of public and private sector organisations to help them leverage data, technology and operational change to deliver practical business solutions. Over the past decade, Roger has advised boards and executive teams across government departments and ASX top ten corporations, and understands the challenges facing organisations looking to excel and remain viable in an increasingly competitive, discerning marketplace. You can connect with Roger on LinkedIn and Twitter, and follow his thoughts on Medium.

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