In the footsteps of Yahoo and Google Hackathons - P&G gathered a group of social web companies, geeks, marketers, agencies and P&G folks to Cincinnati this week for one night. The goal? To demonstrate and learn about the power of networks and the impact of the digital world as it relates to marketing. The press, madison avenue, and some bloggers [see complete list below] have written and focused on the the tactics of the event - using twitter and other online tools to promote & market a cause. In my mind there is also a larger point and challenge.
How do you teach a large, process driven organization to be innovative, work organically and think socially?
The hurdles to "getting digital" are not a technical understanding of the tools - they are cultural and organizational. There are basic principles at play on the social web that need to be understood before one can jump in.
Some principles and dynamics to think about:
- Opening up & loss of control
- The collaborative & organic nature of the medium
- The power and dynamics of network effects
- The importance of constancy and participation vs big grand gestures
- The personal intimate nature of the medium
- The importance of trust and relationship
- The always on - 24/7 nature of the web
The only way one can understand and learn these attributes is by DOING. For those of us who live and breath this space, unpacking this etiquette seems stilted - we take the basics for granted. To learn how to be a good "digital citizen" you need to understand the rules of the road. Heck - even those of us who have grown up in this space can't keep up and continue to reinvent the rules.
The evening was chaotic and energetic. There were plenty of learning's on "both sides". In full disclosuse [as many of you are aware] I have been working with P&G for the last year and a half as a "social web sherpa" of sorts, so it was exciting to get a good chunk of the digital ecosystem in a room to hash out and demonstrate some of these issues in real time. I was not consulted on how the experiment was set up. I probably would have eliminated the competitive nature and spent a bit more time on strategy and set-up ahead of time, but overall it was interesting to see the dynamics at play.
Here are some of my quick learning take a ways:
- Many of the P&G folks' thought the first task was to figure out the messaging of the campaign, where as the external folks just dived right in in plain English.
- The social web folks jumped on their networks first without necessary realizing the impact and focused on a long tail one-to-one approach figuring that network effects would take over.
- The P&G folks understood the need to identify where to get the biggest bang for their buck.
- The speed nature of the exercise brought out some incredible creativity. I had a sense that this freedom was very liberating for the P&G folks once they got into it. Some of my teammates quickly brainstormed a quick rap [yeah-it's dorky, but they did it without planning or thinking about it too much. We even got the team at Pandora to write a catchy little ditty. [Thanks Tim. It arrived a bit late, but kudos to them for jumping in. Compare that to the month long planning cycles most companies go through.
- The P&G folks were often very process oriented and the invitees where comfortable with more chaos - meeting somewhere in the middle brought out the best.
- Even the "digerati" who understand the principles of the social web stepped over the line a bit in the exuberance of the moment - to me this is a cautionary tale about the future of "influencers" and everyone's personal understanding of their relationships, networks and personal brand. Just as in the real world you are judged by your actions - so too are you judged online. Remember - Google is now the long tail of reputation.
- The need for a different set of skills and expertise - teams needed a human connector to bring it all together and a catalyst to kick it off. I see this as a growing skill set in business as a result of the social web. Think Community Manager meets Senior Executive.
In the end this was not about cause marketing - it was about demonstrating and learning the importance of the new principles and culture of the social web. It is easy to say the big guys don't get it and walk away. You only learn by doing. I have a big cynical side, but I I have more faith in the social web and people. I think that bad behavior will ultimately NOT be rewarded and I would rather educate and teach those who don't get it the rules of the road upfront. We want big companies to take risks and experiment - let's not slap em too hard when they put a toe in the water.
Other event-related posts [thanks Peter]:
- Everything Typepad: Get A Cool Shirt, Save The World