Where Does the Social in Social Media Come From, Boss?

imageHave you been asked that question lately?

In business, it’s akin to children asking their parents where babies come from.  That awkward moment, you hope, is during a quiet moment at home free from grandparents and neighbors. You know it’s coming. You just don’t know when.

Many business leaders know a similar moment is coming. It is when they are asked  “Where does social in social media come from, Boss?” They just hope that moment comes with no one around, in their  office free from agencies and co-workers, vendors and partners.

So where does the social in social media come from?

For some businesses, they wish an agency would drop a social media campaign on their company. Like storks dropping a baby in the night on unsuspecting parents. These businesses wish an agency would drop a  social media bundle, neatly tied with a bow, on their desk one morning.

The agency, like the stork, flies away having conducted its business and picked up its check.

And the social media campaign remains on the desk. Over time its cooing becomes an annoyance, an interruption in the day. A distraction.  And the pretty colors, the conversations and tweets, comments and communities, profiles and videos soon are abandoned and grow silent. Everyone walks away.

Or the kid, you know the intern, who’s all over Facebook and MySpace and can text one hundred words a minute (in a secret language only their friends understand…) can do this social media thing….They can. With their friends. Who aren’t your clients, your employees, your prospects.

Social media. See. Social comes first in social media.  Too much is spent discussing the media and forgetting the social of social media.

Social  doesn’t come from agencies or Twitter/Facebook/YouTube, even. Social in social media comes from conversations. In-person. One-to-one. The conversations you inspire or instigate with co-workers and colleagues, family and friends.  In business it comes from the conversations you can create and spur, and most importantly allow,  among ALL your stakeholders. Employees and customers, partners and vendors.  These are unscripted, spontaneous, digressions and debates, arguments and collaborations, celebrations and setbacks.

Organizations whose cultures allow their stakeholders, all of them, to engage in these social interactions, organizations whose leaders listen as much if not more than they talk are where you will find the social in social media.

So. Before you wish for an agency to bequeath you a social media something (program, campaign, strategy) or think you can do it on the cheap with an enthusiastic entry-level employee…ask yourself if your organization answers, every day in every way,  Where does the social in social media come from?