Sunday, October 25, 2009

Managing Change With(in) Social Media

Change, as I like to say, is the only constant.

Things change fast these days - just as soon as you've adapted to one thing, the circumstances change and you're thrown off...again.

If we look at our business without delusion, we will see that *technology* constantly changes...but solid business strategies don't really change. The key to managing change in your business can be found within Social Media.

Social Media is talking with people.

Social Media is not where or how you talk with people - it's any place or method by which you talk with them. Social Media is the name we choose for the tools we use.

Let's take Facebook as our example today. If you have a Facebook account, you know what I mean about change. It seems like every month they are moving things, changing the look, the functions, the features, everything. And *every* time they make a change, the first thing that happens is someone creates a group calling for a return to the old format!

This post isn't about Facebook as a Social Media tool - it's about Facebook as a teaching tool.

When I joined Facebook, the page was oriented horizontally. They switched that to vertical orientation and people flipped out. Why? The buttons were all still there - they all worked the same way as before. It's really very simple - people are not comfortable with change. Facebook had guides and tutorials for the new format, but the bottom line is - people do not want to bother learning new things...but they will always adapt.

This week, Facebook switched again, offering a "live news feed" and predictably, people flipped out, wondering what it was, and why it was there. Facebook could have made a better effort at explaining what the changes were meant to accomplish. (I would have suggested a popup box upon rollover that had a one-sentence explanation, if they had asked.) The problem isn't really with the specific changes, just that anything changed at all.

The faster things change, the harder people cling to keeping things the way they were.

Now, let's apply this to your business.

If you've been around for longer than a few years, you've seen a LOT of changes. Cel and smart phones, check cards, music players, Internet access, ATMs even. (Remember when you couldn't access your money from Friday night until Monday morning?) Most of these changes have made your business easier - but chances are you resisted those changes at first.

Look at your business honestly. What changes have you made that have expanded your business and what active changes have you made that have not grown your business? My guess is that technology is almost always on the "plus" side. It may not have been your choice at the time, but market pressure made you accept those changes.

Now - go to a website that you feel is "old-fashioned" or "stale." Take a long look at it. What about it makes you feel that way? Is there a lack of interactivity, or no sense of movement or change? Write down three things about that site that make you feel that it is stale.

Then go to a social media platform that has made you feel uncomfortable . It could be a closed community, like a forum you registered for, or Facebook, which changes too often to ever be comfortable. Write three things down that make you feel it's not a comfortable fit.

Take those two lists and apply them to your own business.

Does your site have a sense of change and growth? Do you shift things around in the store too often for people to be comfortable? It doesn't matter if your business is on or offline - people have one set of criteria for change. They hate it. Yes, they will accept it eventually, but you may lose people along the way. Look critically at your business. Do you make it *easy* for people to find what they want when you change things, or do you make changes and leave them to figure it out? Remember how you feel when you visited a site that's changed too much. Apply that to your online site - or your offline store.

Do yourself a favor - get a Facebook account. It can be a personal one, or for your business. It really doesn't matter. The exercise is in accepting and understanding change. Watch what they do when they change things - watch people's reaction to those changes.

Learn to accept and embrace change using Social Media, then apply those lessons to your business.

The tools may change over time, but the lessons and the strategies will always be the same.
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