It was the fall of 2006, we sat around table at Rudy’s BBQ one evening and the Dell cafeteria during the day with Andy Sernovitz, Stan Joosten (P&G), Scott Wilder (with Intuit at the time) and the Dell community and conversation team, as it was known then. The blog council which became Socialmedia.org was created — a community for business leaders responsible for social efforts. We were talking about how people in companies needed a “safe haven” to share best practices, get advice from colleagues on lessons learned and how to break through log jams that are often obstacles in large companies.
A Trip Down Memory Lane: Eight years later, the original Dell team ( Bob Pearson, John Pope, Lionel Menchaca, Caroline Dietz and Bruce Eric Anderson ) had a mini reunion in Dallas to talk about the beginnings with Socialmedia.org members at their meeting. I proudly stole a Red Council ribbon for my nametag, even though I am no longer a member, given the value and importance of Socialmedia.org as a “brands only” organization. Since “what is said in the Council, stays in the council,” I cant and wont share the specific stories. However, the stories flooded back — good and bad.
And, who knew that Lionel Menchaca, who has become one of my best friends, has been holding back on me for more than 8 years. For the first time, Lionel tells John Pope and I “that when you guys got the assignment to go out and start responding to bloggers and engage to find a path forward in the online world, I thought it was a “suicide mission”.
Some Thoughts About Lesson’s Learned: The trip down memory lane reminded me of some general thoughts that may still be applicable to other businesses and those charged with moving social efforts forward:
- Acting is what moved us forward. Not power points. Experimenting, dipping toes in the water of blogs and forums all across the Web (there was no Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or [insert name of the shiny app of the day here]).
- We had no idea what we were doing. There was no roadmap. It was on-the-job “training” and innovation by trial and error — at both its worst and best. To succeed, meant living on an edge, testing boundaries and finding ways to “bend” the rules a little– even in a large company, or perhaps especially in a large company.
- We learned to “fail” and get up again for another day….those lessons were important and valuable. So was the “aircover” we had to make them. We learned to rely on each other for moral and professional support.
- The Dell Customer Advocate team’s tech and customer support resolution expertise was critical to quickly solving customer problems– they provided amazing ground cover for us.
- We re-learned the value that to fail is human and that ultimately the social Web was about being human.
- As communications folks, we all re-imagined what it is like to communicate with people — individuals who cared enough about our company to talk about it — positively or negatively. We learned that those people-to-people connections, with customers and other business stakeholders, could take place “directly” on the Web and not just through media. And, we saw the power of those human connections for our business, including in crisis mode.
- That the human connectivity of social tools is as important inside the organization as outside, as any business moves from command and control email to the dialogue of more open communications “forums” with employees — and this too takes shifting mindsets and nurturing.
- That internal readiness and external connectivity can be a really tough balancing act.
- Finally, and partially alluded to in the panel discussion, but think it is interesting to note, these efforts were spear-headed by a group of seasoned and professional Communicators. There was no social media marketing as we know it today….just a thought, not about the “where” should social be housed but because of the value of communications in the overall equation.
Socialmedia.org: For the members of socialmedia.org perhaps some of our “old” war stories provided you with different lessons or at least interesting context. Whatever the case might be, I hope those stories and challenges were of some benefit to you in your work every day.
Socialmedia.org ‘s origins and its purpose today, I believe and as I stated in the meeting, is to be that place for you and your peers to connect and share with each other. I noted that about CrowdCompanies too here. For the members, I say: “use it and dont be afraid. It is your safe-haven created for and by you…you are all in the journey together and your colleagues in other companies are there to support you, as you can support them”
Also a BIG thanks to socialmedia.org for the chance to have the reunion and tell and reflect on some life experiences from 2006. To my former colleagues, Bob, John, Bruce, Lionel, Caroline I say, “wow, what a team and time that was. Oh my goodness….it was fun. 🙂 ”