So why take Social Tech Strategy development seriously in 2014? If you don’t, failure to do so will be abundantly clear to the world around you, unacceptably so in 2015 and beyond. Think about it. Today, right now, if a CEO of an enterprise told you, “We don’t have a Web site,” what would be the first few thoughts that cross your brain? Would they be positive or negative in nature? Now apply that same thinking to your Social Tech outposts – Blogs, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. Ten years ago, it would have never occurred to someone that a mature Web site would be ‘table stakes’ for anything. It is today. Tomorrow it will be a mature Blog, a savvy Twitter feed, an active YouTube channel. Keyword: mature.

So if you don’t think a strategy is necessary, close this page and move on. But if you are starting to tune into the value of a mature strategy, let’s continue the convo. In this section, let’s discuss these three items:

  1. Interdepartmental, cross-functional
  2. What’s the right amount of time to develop a strategy? 3 months? A year?
  3. Who champions the strategy development effort?

1. Why Interdepartmental and cross-functional:

First, avoid like the plague the notion that, “Social Tech is a Marketing thing.” That’s like saying phones are a customer service thing. “Yeah, I don’t use the phone. I’ve got people that do that.” or “Yeah, I don’t use email. I’ve got people that do that.” Epic Fail.

WE ALL NEED TO UNDERSTAND AND USE SOCIAL.

As the oh-so-savvy Ken Hittel correctly noted in his comment on the previous post, one thing that characterizes insurance companies is “silo’s”, aka, fiefdom’s. We all know they exist. And we also all know that they cause problems, dysfunction, and ultimately organizational failure, or best-case, suboptimal performance.

Collaboration

Enter Social Tech and a sincere desire to move towards Social Business. More than one of my clients have expressed a desire to break down silo’s and improve culture “along the way.” Stated or unstated, the hope of senior leadership is that by bringing together a cross-functional team to do meaningful work on enterprise-wide Social Tech strategy and implementation, silo’s would be turned into collaboration engines. Thus the utility of an interdepartmental and cross-functional Social Tech Team. Hey, I guess we could also call it “intersilo” or “cross-silo”. Ha! That’s callin’ it like it is.

2. What’s the right amount of time to develop a strategy?

Great question, especially in the context of insurance companies that traditionally have three speeds: slow, extremely slow, and just barely moving.

Clearly you can throw out the extremes. Three months is way too fast, unless you’re a startup. Two years is too long. Heck, in two years the entire business landscape will change. So somewhere between six and twelve months seems to be ideal. I recommend shooting for six months with the understanding that it will likely be 12 months before the strategy is fully developed, digested, and deployed. In the case of a recent client, it took three months to schedule the first Boot Camp for the leadership team, another two months to organize the cross-functional Social Tech team and schedule the kick-off Boot Camp replay, eight months to work through the 12 step process, and two months to finalize the strategy – 13 months. That’s a reasonable pace.

12-Step Process

12-Step Process

Side note: It will take another 12 months or so to fully implement the associated 3-5 Pilot Projects. It won’t be until that Phase is deployed – in  competent manner – that I would classify the enterprise as a Social Business. Doing the math, it’s not hard to see that the 2-year lead over the competition is a real-deal metric, assuming of course that the competition stays in paralysis mode.

Who champions the strategy development effort?

In my experience, anything short of the CEO will prove to be, best case, a waste of time. Worst case, with the level of effort required to develop the strategy, it will be a disaster for the enterprise – on several levels.

Remember that in most insurance organizations, the newer, perhaps younger, perhaps savvier and more creative staff have a pent-up demand for Social Tech. So when word starts sweeping around that a team is working on the Social Tech strategy, there will invariably be great hope and enthusiasm. If all that work then doesn’t get funded or advanced at the moment of truth, you can only imagine the backlash.

Remember also that along the way, as the team works through the process, at least when I do it, the real deal on Social Tech is communicated to the Social Tech Team in a deep and meaningful way. Lunch-and-Learn sessions on Advanced Linkedin concepts, Twitter and Hashtags for Events and Rivers of Information, of course Blogs and their impact on SEO and Organizational Voice, and certainly Facebook and YouTube best practices. Invariably, at the end of a day working through 2 Steps of the 12 Step Process, plus adding a training session on a Social Network, plus all the ancillary ideas for practical application derived from discussion around the table, and you’ve got a pretty energized and newly Social Tech-savvy group of people.

If the CEO and/or the leadership team pulls the plug after all that, you can see why, worse case, it would be an unmitigated disaster.

So I’ll say it again as I’ve said it before. The process has to start with a Boot Camp for the Senior Leadership Team. They MUST see the big picture. They MUST be able to chew on the concepts amongst themselves, in a safe place, assisted by solid examples and case studies, facilitated by a subject matter expert. Anything short of that and you could literally create more problems than you solve.

What are your comments? Do you have any stories to share that complement, or contradict these concepts. Hey, this is all new for everyone. So the more sharing the better. Pause, reflect, and add to the convo. Thanks.