I must admit that in some ways I just don’t get social media. For all the people jumping up and down tweeting, liking and in effect shouting a message, are there really people out there that want to listen to that message? It just seems to me that there are a ton of people all shouting and it is getting harder and harder to hear anything meaningful.
But, frankly, I am starting to understand that I am wrong. Here is the story about how I have come to that conclusion and what linkages helped in coming to that conclusion.
At Softchoice we have been doing a lot of investigation on Brand recently. What makes a great brand? How do we identify our brand? How do we support the communication of the brand that we think is right? We began working with a company called Level 5 recently and one of the key insights that they were promoting is that more than 50% of buying decisions are emotional but for the most part human beings have a tough time expressing emotions using words. So, if you ask someone to tell you why they buy a particular brand you get a pretty muddy answer.
Let me be clear – social media doesn’t give you brand clarity but if you have brand confusion you can expect social media to amplify the confusion.
In some businesses like ours the main product of the company is service. And, service is built and delivered by people. There may be systems behind the service – both computerized and processes but at the end of the day people deliver the service. It strikes me that service is a large part of the brand for these companies. That is, great service dependably delivered creates a particular kind of brand. For those of us that manufacture only a customer experience service reliably delivered is paramount to our success – a reason for people to come back for more.
Our work with Level 5 has already provided insight. In our business it is important to be knowledgeable and trustworthy but those are table stakes if you are architecting a new datacenter. What differentiates us is that we have a ton of smart people who are thought leaders in our industry.
Connecting Brand to Culture
In fact, we want to create a Culture of customer service which is so much a part of the company’s DNA that it shows up in the way that customers regularly experience our company. We also want to identify ourselves as a company that is insightful and sometimes provocative. We have identified that in the industry we work in there are lots of companies selling the products we sell. And, absence any other attributes the purchasing criteria can easily be price. But, technology is changing so quickly that the buying criteria should include advice and insight into making the right decisions. Helping customers make informed and right choices is critical to our success.
So, the culture of a company drives the way that customers experience the brand. But, what drives the culture? We have been working with AchieveBlue for many years assessing the cultures of companies we were considering buying. The cultural clash of mergers and acquisitions is often one of the big reasons that mergers fail. We have come to learn that culture, not surprisingly is driven by the leaders of a company and supported or diverted by individual managers and leaders.
It turns out that the actions and behaviors of leaders create company culture. All the talk in the world does not create any change in culture. It is the actions that speak volumes more than the words. Culture is the stories we tell each other about our environment based on the behaviors we see around us.
At Softchoice we are proud of the smart people we employ. We believe that we are different and focused on the tough challenges that our customers face in a world of dramatic change. And, we believe the best way to connect with our customers and prospective customers is to create visibility for the unique approaches and thought leading ideas we have about how technology can be used or managed.
We have created a blog (blogs.softchoice.com) that houses the best ideas from the best of our people. And not just about technology. We share information about our corporate social responsibility initiative. We share insight in the culture we create. And of course we encourage our people to share the insights that come from meeting with thousands of customers each month.
What I was Missing!
The aha! moment for me was that if we don’t track who is reading, or where our blogs and other properties are being used then we are missing a big opportunity. If I write what I think is a really cool blog on an innovative use of technology but no one reads it does it support our brand? Yes, but so what? Therefore, we have to create the insightful material and then we have to promote it so that the right people are able to find it. With 500 sales people on our side I think it is entirely possible that LinkedIn, Twitter or communities of interest like Spiceworks for example, would be a great place to create visibility for our brand.
Social media is not just a broadcasting tool. It is more importantly a listening tool. We can listen to our customers more effectively – staying close to their challenges. Customers can listen to trusted sources for great information and insight that helps them to navigate the challenges facing them. Wow! What an important ecosystem!
In a related aha moment I shifted my perspective from blogs being something that are great to write to being something that should be part of hundreds of our people’s performance reviews. If we believe that we are smart and insightful then our people should write great articles and we should be able to see them being read in the blogosphere hundreds if not thousands of times. That would be the evidence that our thought on our brand positioning and the reality were not dramatically different.
So, strangely, this has come full circle. In order to transform our brand I had to transform my own beliefs about social media. I had to change so that my expectations would change. And, my actions would change. My changing behaviors will over time change the culture of Softchoice which in turn will create a new reality of the way that our customers experience the brand that is Softchoice.
I for one, am turning over a new leaf and writing this article and will tweet, like! and forward this – not for my benefit but because it is my way of representing the Softchoice Brand and showing the way with actions not words.
My Challenge to You
I challenge you to find the link between your company Brand and your company Culture. Embedded in that challenge is the challenge to see your external behaviors as being driven by your internal behaviors. Be honest with yourself – YOUR beliefs drive your actions, which drives your culture, ultimately represented in your Brand. Believe it!