Let’s start with Germs
Here we are in the midst of a full blown flu season. And cold season. And how many people do you know have bronchitis or pneumonia? It’s ugly out there.
Still, even in the midst of news stories about this diseased and sometimes deadly season, people seem to be in denial about the existence of germs. As if they will be immune to their effects because they can’t see them. Crawling all over their phone. Which they hold right up to their faces, their mouths, and breathe into. Our phones get handed to our kids to play with. They get put on all sorts of public surfaces in all sorts of public places (think: workplace restroom). And it isn’t like germs are a new phenomenon that we just realized cause disease even though we can’t see them with the naked eye. I mean, I could understand if we were living in the 17th century or something, before Louis Pasteur introduced this crazy idea of tiny little monsters that can wreak havoc on our bodies…and our dairy products. But we are living in the 21st century, where we can go to Costco and buy a jumbo 4-pack of Clorox wet wipes and de-germ our entire lives for under $15.
And it isn’t like these things that seem invisible cannot be measured. They can. And have been. Thanks to some really helpful research, we know that cell phones are truly cesspools of germs. And the really gross kind. Fecal germs. EW.
We have a “protocol” at our house (since the hubs isn’t really into “rules” as such): you wipe down your phone once a day. With antibacterial wipes. And lest you think I’m only concerned about germs on phones, there are protocols about shoes in the house (no), and luggage (wiped down after every trip, wheels especially), among other yuck.
And Germs relate to Social Media HOW?
But enough about germs. You get the point: they may be invisible but they are VERY, VERY REAL. Okay, so the article about germs got me thinking about this conference I spoke at last week. I was asked to be a guest speaker at a conference on the topic of social media. Now, I’m not going to tell you which conference (although if you follow me on twitter, it wouldn’t be too hard to find out), but it was a group of professionals in the agricultural industry.
Now, before I go any further, this is an important bit: These guys are business savvy and their industry is technology heavy, from engineered seeds to multi million dollar tractors that can plant straight rows from a GPS satellite feed with nary a farmer behind the wheel. So when I tell you that the majority of these guys honestly believe that social media and social technologies aren’t really applicable to their business, I’m telling it to you in a “shake-my-head-in-disbelief” tone of voice mixed with a bit of “OMG, I’ve just discovered the last industry on earth that hasn’t adopted social media for marketing and sales” look on my face.
A lot like germs, these guys just don’t SEE that social media has an impact on them (ah HAH! there IS a connection to the germ rant!). And even after the social analytics slides provided by my friend Erick Watson who works for Metavana, these guys were like, “yeah, people in our industry don’t use social media.” And while I hate to bring up this site where people complain all over the place about the farm equipment from every manufacturer, they should know that even if they aren’t part of the online conversation, people ARE talking about them..and just like germs, that negative social talk can have negative effects.
I talked to one woman in the room of about 200+ who told me that her boss is afraid of the negative side of social media–that being in the social conversation will open up all sorts of negativity. I was pretty clear with her: the negative stuff is already being said, but since you aren’t there to speak to it, the negativity is going unrefuted and unaddressed–and that is sending a loud and clear message to your customers that you just don’t care. And while that may not be true–you DO actually care–, not caring is what gets conveyed through your silence online. Burying your head in the sand and saying “we didn’t know” doesn’t make people like you more. You need to be in the social conversations to engage your customers, to build positive and transparent relationships, to answer their concerns.
One owner told me they already text their customers, thus taking care of the issue of communication. It’s direct to their customers (and not a shot gun approach, like the guys doing print ads), and also two-way, since their customers could text back. “Okay,” I said, “but are you getting a ‘network effect’ from your texting? And how are you able to measure the impact of the texting campaigns?” These were just two of the questions I asked, but really there are a ton of responses to why texting is not as powerful as social media. (And if you want to give your two cents to this conversation regarding texting versus social media, please comment below!)
There were others who wanted me to come and work with them, and a few in the audience who are using social media for lead generation…but there is little adoption, much less sophistication, in the approach. While it wasn’t my job to convince these guys that social media can be tied to direct KPI’s and indirect benefits, it was my job to show them that the world of social media hasn’t been about the donuts that you ate for breakfast for a really long time…
But I guess some people need to get the flu before they start wiping down their phones. Still, my best advice to those guys is to google social analytics and call me when they’re ready to see how a social media strategy can give them an ROI with their KPI’s. I’m easy to find in the socialsphere.
Seriously, Germs and Employee Engagement?
Yeah, and then there’s another area of business which is near and dear to my heart: the people! And while many companies understand that engaged employees means higher productivity and greater profitability, there are a few still out there who aren’t convinced. I was recently working with a company that had high turnover and couldn’t understand why. When I mentioned measuring employee engagement, it was met with some skepticism. What will that tell us? Why does that matter? Much like the Ag guys with social media, these clients couldn’t see how employee engagement mattered to them. But much like germs, if disengaged employees are left to hang out in their respective departments too long, they not only have reduced productivity of their own, they begin to reduce the productivity of the employees around them–and soon enough you’ve got a disease in your company.
Employee engagement is an indicator of corporate health, since there are few companies that can exist, much less thrive, without people. People are the backbone of your company…your internal customers, so to speak. And if you aren’t engaging them in the place and process you are paying them to be a part of, then your backbone will crumble and so will your company. Was that blunt enough? We know that the flu can kill you, but a company is like a living thing, and a disease in the talent ranks can kill it, too.
The crazy part of corporate health is that there isn’t a regular flu season–the germs of dissatisfaction can invade your talent pool at any time. What’s the vaccination? Gauge your employee engagement on a regular basis. Use the feedback to foster engagement–and make some healthy changes.
Just because you can’t see it…doesn’t mean you can’t measure it
So, the lesson that comes from all this germ-ridden talk is that just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. And if it IS there, it can probably be measured. (As a social scientist, I love quantifying things.) The number of germs on your cell phone can be measured. The sentiment about your brand and your business can be quantified. The engagement of your employees can be gauged. Don’t turn away from something just because you can’t readily see how it might impact you…because that invisible thing might just be the bug that bites you…and do you really wanna be sick? An ounce of prevention, my friend…an ounce of prevention…