The Social Media Culture Chasm
Tools, Process and Culture…Oh My!
Tools, Process and Culture…Oh My!

Everywhere I go and speak, I ask the same two questions before I start my presentation.  The first question I ask is, “How many of you trust social media as a data source to make business decision?  Please raise your hand if you do.”  You know how many people’s hands go up after I ask this question?  About 5-10% of the room.  And when I ask this question, the room is filled with at a minimum 100 people all the way to 500 people.  After asking this question, I follow it with a second one.  I ask, “Ok, so when you are thinking of buying a new electronic device or appliance or picking a restaurant to make a decision, how many of you go to the web first to collect information to make your decision?”  Now everyone’s hand goes up.  Well at least 98% of them…the other 2% are sleeping.

To me this is what I call businesses’ social media cultural conundrum and it is very real.  Simply put, as consumers, we are hooked on trusting what others say to make decisions in our personal lives, but as companies and professionals we are extremely reluctant to use this same data to more quickly and efficiently make business decisions.  Below is an illustration of this behavior to help you frame it up if you are slapping your forehead right now.


Posts that discuss corporate culture and social media often fall on deaf ears.

Why do I bring this up?  Because as companies continue to explore the idea of social media analytics and how they take on this concept, there needs to be some reality in how they think about it.  I often write about the social media analytics market on my blog (  What I find quite interesting is what people like to read.  In my 3 years of writing about social media, I am finding the people want to hear about concrete things like use cases and product features, but less about the means by which they convince their organizations to adopt this new business methodology.  In fact, my posts that discuss corporate culture and social media often fall on deaf ears.  This is simply the fact that people are wedded to ROI and the tangible more often then what drives real innovation; people.  The other day, I was talking to my friend and former colleague.  Even though I left the company two years ago, my job as Global VP of Innovation focused on getting 80 teams of people working inside the organization to collaborate effectively as a cohesive unit.  It was a cool gig and it taught me how to think about driving tangible change in a large corporate culture.   As we spoke, we often reminisce about my time there, and he said something to me.  He said, “everyone can focus on the operational side of driving business, but too few people think about the human side of creating business value.”  It was one of the greatest compliments I ever received.  And to boot, Jim is a VP of finance, a role filled by ROI dynamos.  So how does this pertain to social?



Let’s talk about that…

When implementing change, particularly when it comes to technology, there are three simple pieces:  Tools, Process and Culture.   Below is an illustration of that idea with some key questions to think about.  The main point is this; you can’t simply spend your time picking a tool and have no real plan.  It is kind of like spending all your time deciding whether you want children and never stopping to think about how long it might take to get pregnant as a couple.

Success in your program is dependent on your ability to successfully align all three of these.  You need great tools working in a great process with a corporate culture that is ready to say yes to a new way of doing things.  That being said, what opened my mind recently is bring my past experience with culture into my thoughts about the social media tools market.  For the last several months, I have been espousing the importance of how to think about the tools as you think about buying them.


If you are only focused on picking from the litany of tools out there, you are missing way more than you realize.  It is why I call this Technology Fantasia.  Many people machinate over the smallest details trying to worry about a certain feature they think is imperative or if they can get all the data (never mind if it is good data). If I could tell you the war stories from the field of people worrying about the wrong things when looking at technology, you might cry.  I often do, quietly, because I know what awaits them beyond Technology Fantasia; reality.

Why do I say this?  Because getting your system chosen is only the first step.  Now the real work begins.  Is it your job?  Are you going to commit the needed amount of time to learn your new system?  Will the system evolve from where it is today so it can work as you learn?  Do you have an idea of how it will integrate into the business?  Are you trying to pushing water uphill with a slotted spoon?  I can go on and on.

You need to start thinking about the process for applying those tools.

There is so much more to having a successful social media analytics program than the tool you choose.  You need to start thinking about the process for applying those tools.  What use cases are you thinking about understanding? What are the right metrics within those use cases to know you are moving the needle?  Who actually cares about the insights/learnings you can create from your social analytics program.  Again, these are just some of the things you should ask yourself.

But the last part is the whopper…your company’s culture.  This is the squishy thing that everyone deals with but no one talks about.  It may not have quantifiable ROI, but it is certainly the thing that is keeping you from making a decision.  It is the part of your success that most quickly kills the ROI of what you invest in.  So why not acknowledge it?  Being concerned about the human side of driving the business is where all success and failure lies.  Let’s make it easier by saying you sell your products to your customers and the consumer insight you need to get them interested to buy isn’t really that much different from saying you are hitting as many consumers as you can in a culturally scalable way (ok behavioral is more appropriate but you get my point).

I lay the gauntlet down here;  if you are only bickering about whether your social media analytics system can measure demographics, has engagement, can show you the chart a certain way, and is perfectly easy to use, then you will FAIL!  Wake up and be more holistic about your program.  Don’t worry about getting the best value on spending for a tool and…

  • DO begin to think about how that tool can create processes that fit into the way you company does things.
  • BE willing to break some glass or sidle up to the right allies who understand that things need to be different.
  • KNOW that change is hard and the journey is long, because you will face obstacles way harder then patting yourself on the back for picking the right tool

I wag my finger at those who like to read about tools, but ignore my pleas about the cultural component…it is real and very tangible.  Why? Because culture makes you fail.  And culture is not politics, it is a silent wall that kills innovation.

As I always like to say… change is my business and business is good.


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About the Author

Malcolm De Leo
Malcolm, Chief Evangelist at NetBase Solutions, Inc.,  is a subject matter expert in the area of applying social media in an effort to build the marketplace for this powerful new consumer data source. Previously, Malcolm was the Global Vice President of Innovation at Daymon Worldwide and prior to that Malcolm spent 10 years at the Clorox Company managing partnerships with technology companies, developing innovation processes and building new innovation infrastructure.

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