It is All About Relationships!

My friends Christina Forsgård and Juha Frey have written an interesting book about social media, and how it is inevitably changing the leadership/management, marketing and communication. I’ve discussed this book in Finnish, here are few points I translated into English. The name of the book is SUHDE, which means Relationship in Finnish.

First, a confession: I am somewhat biased in the topic of social media. I do already believe that we’re in the middle of the paradigm shift when it comes to communication and the way we work. Christina’s & Juha’s book have a strong message to C-level, “this is something you have to understand as it affects on your entire organization”.

The book describes and crystallizes the on-going change:

This is not a social media tool exercise; this is about a fundamental change in the way we communicate and work.

Unfortunately the public discussion in Finland has reduced social media into Facebook only. This reminds me of my favorite quotes from Sirkku Peltola’s play (my translation):

Poor you, carefully watching the tiny candle on the table while the entire mansion is burning behind your back!

I very much like the clarity by which Christina and Juha have identified the key areas of change, and managed to draw the big picture for the leaders – including the threats. Ignoring social media is a big risk, your mansion will burn, (and your bonuses too).

It’s Management Responsibility. The power of social media will be realized only if the management is active part of the game. The success requires new kind of leadership and a supporting organizational structure. In ‘Silo Organizations’ with high power distance between the management and personnel, acting in a collaborative, social way is not familiar inside the organization, and therefore double as hard if not impossible, outside of it. Collaborative, social way of working is not a responsibility of the communication or marketing department, but the management’s!

All the Moomins in the Valley? In the cosy launch event of the book Juha Frey compared collaborative, social way of working to the Moomin Valley and its lovely inhabitants. If the personnel of the organization acts impersonally and by too strict rules when communicating with its various stakeholders (blogging, tweeting and discussing) – it will be experienced as not genuine but fake. Successful utilization of social media requires personalities, or at least a personal touch!

Companies should build their social media presence as a joint effort, with passion and authenticity. In case where social media activities are mechanic and not interactive, or the activities are outsourced to an external Social Media Guru – there’s no way to become ‘digi-mature’ (Juha’s word referring to organization’s maturity with social media), not even ‘digi-teenager’.

Marketing Communication Professionals must unite. Juha’s and Christina’s message to every communication and marketing professional is clear: stop complaining and defending your responsibility area, start the work to find suitable roles, and finally explore your own attitude towards the new way of working:

  • Customers and partners are not passive targets for your activities but active players in the same equation.
  • Social media is primarily not sales and marketing channel, but a channel and tool for the new kind of PR/work on the relationships.
  • It’s time to leave the illusion of control. The discussion about your brand is no longer possible to control – but you can, and you should, participate in that discussion.

The book very vividly describes how the mechanisms of influence have changed, and further how good social media strategy and activities, and relationships based on trust, lead to a more stable and long-lived customer and partner relationships. It’s all about the relationships!

One of the wisest moves the writers have made is to leave the tools discussion out of the scope: various tool set instructions get old at the moment they are written. I would like to call SUHDE book as “A Handbook of Understanding the Collaborative, Social Way of Working”. There are many important themes in the book, which I did not touched now. I will certainly come back to these later on. A recommended read (if you can Finnish).

Move your focus away from the tiny candle – it does not warm up for a long time.


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