I write about digital strategies and communications — and their intersection with culture, politics, journalism and social activism.


Strategy! Not Technology


The title of this MIT Sloan Management and Deloitte study says what's needed — Strategy, not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation.

The 2015 Digital Business Global Executive Study and Research Project by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte "identifies strategy, not technology, as the key driver of success in the digital arena."

In general it found:

(T)hat maturing digital businesses are focused on integrating digital technologies, such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud, in the service of transforming how their businesses work. Less-mature digital businesses are focused on solving discrete business problems with individual digital technologies.

The conclusion is as true of the way organizations manage social media strategies as it is for the wholesale digital transformation of processes and business systems — strategy trumps technology, in this case social platforms.

In my social media classes at various universities and colleges, I have to talk about the mechanics of posting and engaging on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope etc., things like platform differentiation with respect to target audiences and behaviours and techniques for improving the use of the various tools ("How to Optimize Your Facebook Posts With Facebook Audience Insights").

These are some of the 'need-to-knows' for a digital practitioner.

But the technology nuts and bolts are like the focus on solving discrete business problems with individual digital technologies mentioned in this study.

They are not the knowledge backbone an organization needs to have a social program that works.

That's about theory — how social networks manoeuvre, flow and change; what influencers do in these networks; how influencers can be influenced; what makes content sharable; how social objectives map to specific business objectives; the dialectic between traditional media and social channels as pathways to information.

Solid digital theory generates mature strategies which lead to transformational social media programs, whether to sell a product, sway a constituency, or activate donors.

Photo credit: Conclusion via photopin (license)


UPDATED: It's Not Your Turf Reddit

This version of the previous post was edited on Saturday at the request of LinkedIn — on which it was cross-posted — based on the announcement of Ms Ellen Pao's resignation on July 10, 2015.)

The drumbeat simply got too loud. After a week or so of outrage and invective — some of it admittedly racist and sexist — against Reddit, Inc. interim CEO Ellen Pao, the embattled executive resigned late Friday afternoon

In their report of her resignation, Mike Isaac and David Streitfeld of the NYT positioned it as a victory for the darker side of the web. But it seems it was thousands of angry members of the Reddit community, many of them moderators of the site's user-generated news and entertainment content, who shouted loudly enough about their discontent over the management of a community they see as theirs to push her out.    

Online communities are built on the passion of their members. They succeed on the energy of individuals who care . . . and often volunteer their time and skills to manage them.

In this context, the reasons are obvious for the anger that met Reddit's firing (for reasons still unknown by the way) the apparently popular and respected executive Victoria Taylor. Subreddits were closed by their moderators, news reports pointed to Reddit's business missteps, and a change.org petition calling for the resignation of the CEO had a 215,000 signatures in just a few days.

In a fierce article in the New York Times on July 9, 2015, two Reddit moderators reminded the company that it is the volunteer work of moderators like them — many with demanding day jobs — that keep the popular subreddit 'Ask Me Anything' feature hopping for example. 

People assemble themselves in subreddits out of love for the topic, idea or interaction that the community makes possible. 

They don't join because they love the Reddit, Inc. corporate entity or the technology architecture of the community platform (well maybe a little); their allegiance is about a passion, whether for purses, art, games, politics, films, literature or celebrities.  

A community is a group of people with unique shared values, behaviors and artifacts. People in the community share a common interest and a sense of purpose, fate and need. A word cloud about 'community' would include such words as devotion, purpose, discussions, affinity, empathy, collaboration and alignment.

So, successful organizations put the needs of the community above their own interests.

From what I've read it's not evident this is the case with Reddit, Inc.

There's a lesson here for marketers as well. 

As they try to wring dollars out of the brand neighborhoods assembled around their products or services, marketers need to keep in mind people move into the 'hood' to share a passion for whatever (purses, shoes, ideas, movies) with others like them . . . not to hook up with a 'brand'.

As Reddit learned quickly, there is danger in taking 'your' turf for granted.