Teaching old dogs new ‘clicks’

I just spent an hour with my 20-year old daughter on the receiving end of a tutorial for a new Snapchat feature she thought I needed. As a specialist in social media with my company Weapons of Mass Discussion®, I consider myself pretty savvy about the latest apps and social media platforms. But despite this cockiness, I was suddenly reminded that, like anything involving physical or mental conditioning for 60-somethings, it only takes a week or so to get out of shape.

It was relatively easy to understand the new features and filters on this app. In fact, in many cases they were ridiculously simple in a way that Snapchatters will readily understand. But the exercise reminded me that knowing how to use social apps is much different than knowing how to apply and scale a variety of apps in a multigenerational business context.

Enterprises face a number of challenges related to digital transformation (cringe as I write those words). These range from understanding where the organizational center of gravity resides to determining an ROI on the effort, to optimizing content for social media channels on multiple devices. But recent experiences tell me that one of the greatest challenges is to get “more mature” employees to engage with social and conversational media in some meaningful way.

Now I’d like to immediately clarify that “meaningful” does not imply becoming a power poster, Tweeter or Snapchatter. It does refer to becoming a serial social voyeur, one that can observe and internalize the ways various social platforms are being used in communications by OTHER people.

At this point in the blog, enterprise IT leaders may be thinking, “Well we don’t really execute social communications programs. That belongs to marketing.” To which I will again warn that such an attitude is a recipe for corporate irrelevance and disintermediation.

In all fairness, I give this same warning to C-level executives and managers in every department. For example, social supply chain has become a very important part of manufacturing that business leaders must be aware of. Who would have thought?!

“Old” CEOs need to learn new tricks — and clicks — simply because their constituencies live in a digital world. The average user spends almost 2 hours a day and 27 percent of their overall online time on social media platforms. Even the most casual observer might argue that those numbers seem lower than they should be considering the ever-present use of smartphones in public places.

“Old” CIOs need to learn new clicks because building the “brand called IT” requires not only an ability to communicate effectively with outside customers, but more importantly, an ability to develop contemporary communications strategies for internal business relationship management purposes. Brands, including internal IT departments, now reside on smartphone apps.

“Old help-desk dogs” need to learn new clicks because issue resolution is increasingly done using social media models that leverage peer-to-peer communications. This happens before the issue escalates to professional technical support staff. Imagine the cost reductions and efficiency increases that social networks bring to this mission-critical function.

And one more reason for old dogs to learn these new clicks: Mature professionals have some distinct advantages in this sphere.

Most of the young technocrats running businesses today tell me that one of their challenges is finding “seasoned” management professionals with a deep understanding of multi-channel communications, developed with an independent perspective. They have no problem finding millennials who live for metrics such as followers and likes. But these leaders admit that massive metrics can create the illusion of a developed social media strategy.

The old dogs become incredibly valuable when they can apply even the most basic marketing principles to these new social channels. Indeed, one of  the most powerful double-deep skill sets today is an ability to effectively align and merge old-world strategies with 21st century digital tools.

The young turks may actually have a disadvantage in this regard in that it’s easier to take the time machine into the future than to put it in reverse. The real winners will find a way to morph some of the ageless “Mad Men” skills of the 20th century into today’s social scene.


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