How to Change the Entire Social Media Culture of a Company in Less than 48 Hours

by Marcus Sheridan

social media team workI’ve written quite a few posts espousing the value of social media and inbound marketing over the past 18 months, but I honestly feel this one today may be one of my most important, and you’ll understand why if you read until the end.

Going About It All Wrong

When it comes to the social media cultures of most companies, almost every business I’ve ever seen is doing it completely and totally wrong. And because businesses are going about this thing called social media/content creation the wrong way, they fail. Yep, with a big, fat “F”.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. There isn’t complete buy-in from ALL employees (top to bottom).

2. Employees don’t share similar understandings nor visions of what great content can do for the company and individuals as a whole.

3. Employees don’t understand how to use their own skills to produce valuable content.

4. Everyone expects ‘the marketing director’ to be the blog, the voice, the everything.

Change is Needed

I could seriously list possibly 100 more reasons why most companies fail when it comes to social media, but I’ll just stop there. You get the point. Everyone has seen this. Stuff has got to change.

But I’m happy to say ‘change’ is what this article is all about. Personally, I’m tired of hearing ‘gurus’ tell me how content creation and social media are for ‘experts’ with ‘certain skills’ and they must have ‘xyz talents’ and blah, blah, blah.

It’s total bull. All of it.

Here’s what qualifies an employee to help a company’s social media efforts:

If any employee of a company has ever answered a customer question, then they’re qualified.

Don’t believe me? Just keep reading…

How to Change an Entire Culture in 48 Hours or Less

Two weeks ago I flew to Michigan to help a company of 60 employees catch the vision of content/inbound marketing. I knew it was going to be a daunting task, mainly because we had a lot to cover in a short amount of time, yet we needed results immediately. Like many business in this economy, Company X (we’ll call them that for privacy reasons) has had a rough go at it lately. They sell a product, quite high-end I might add, all over the world. But the sales just haven’t been sufficient. They need results, BIG results. And they need them soon.

So their head of marketing and I got together and planned a two day event that would literally (we hoped) ignite a fire and vision within the entire organization and enable them to quickly dominate their industry through the power of inbound marketing. Here’s how the schedule went, and whatever you do, make sure you read the final results of our efforts, shown at the bottom:

Day 1:

8am: The CEO welcomed his entire staff and implored them to give their best over the next 48 hours. He explained how he had ‘bought it’ to content marketing and in order for this to work, everyone else would need to step up as well.

8:20am-11:30am:  For the next 130 minutes, I gave the group a complete introduction to inbound and content marketing, in a way that anyone and everyone could fully ‘get it’. I also showed its impact on my swimming pool company’s bottom line, how it had saved our business, and exactly the how each and every one of them could utilize their own skills and talents, within their area of expertise, to produce content as well.

12:30-230: Time for phase two. This section was all about giving the group, especially the sales department; the vision of how content is literally the greatest sales tool on earth. As in the previous segment, there was much Q and A, and the conversation was in constant flow.

3:30-5pm: Final education session of the day. I discussed ‘personalization’ with the employees, and talked about the need for each to share more of themselves on the company website so as to form stronger relationships with their clients and customers (personal branding). We also dove into video and the power of You Tube in this class. I showed some of my most successful videos of all time and once again, the Q and A was excellent.

Day 2: (Note: I just stayed for the first day and the marketing director lead the effort on day 2)

AM: A full review of the previous day with more questions and answers. Afterwards, the employees were divided up into teams to see who could come up with the most blog article ideas, using the same technique we had discussed for ‘content ideas’ the day before.

Afternoon: Video time. Employee teams now produced their own videos (again, using teachings from previous day). Some were more humor based, others more serious, but everyone joined in, and it was huge hit.

PM: Employees reviewed the day’s activities and watched everyone’s videos. Laughs were shared, stronger bonds were formed, and the social media retreat had come to an end.

The Results

The following week, I received this letter from the head of marketing. Please understand that I’m not sharing this note to brag about myself and say, ‘Look at me, I’m awesome.’ Rather, I want companies to realize just how much their social media culture can change in less than 48 hours. Here’s the letter, word for word:

Hi Marcus,

Well, mission accomplished my new dear friend! I am so proud of you and all that you did to rock the entire organization into a new reality. They definitely “got it” after hearing you speak. It was better than I dared imagine. Thank you so much for helping them all understand inbound/content marketing in a new and awesome way. And the coolest part is, not only do they get it… they are EXCITED!

I have been getting text messages, email notes and IMs ever since the retreat from the most unlikely people thanking me. Even the biggest skeptics have made a point to reach out and tell me how much they enjoyed you as a speaker and that they have all these ideas now. It is going to be so very powerful having this many people unified with the same vision and equipped to make it happen.

The full report on Day 2…

Before we could even start on the workshops I was really surprised at all of questions from the audience. I took it as a good sign that people had been ruminating on your content all night and were chomping at the bit for application. So that was cool.

Then the blog title brainstorm contest was the perfect activity to follow-up. All combined, the teams came up with more than 700 blog titles!! (not sure how many duplicates are in there but who cares… over 7-stinking-hundred!!) Ha!

As for the rest of the day, people were wayyyy more into the personal branding exercise than I expected and the videos that people made were hi-larious! Some of them are actually worth keeping and sharing on our website. Matter of fact, Jason C’s was how to fix <insert equipment piece here> simply by changing out the batteries and he had his 6 yr old daughter demonstrate (much like your video of your son demonstrating how to clean a pool). Now he’s going to work on a related blog post so that we can embed the video.

I’m going to follow-up with Josh N again about the pictures tomorrow. I hope to get you something right away!


p.s. I forgot to tell you that the real lasting proof of a successful retreat was the fact that I had 8 blog posts in my inbox by lunch today and many more on the way.

Your Challenge

So there you have it folks. Yes, it can be done. And you can be rest-assured that I will be showing a follow-up to this post in 6 months. But the key here was the fact that the company, instead of segmenting blogging and social media into a small section of employees, decided to start everyone off on the same page, sharing the same vision (see Steve Jobs), and making sure they all understood their importance to such a campaign.

As a poker player would say, they’re All In.

Your Turn:

Great conversation opportunity here folks. First, do you think companies should take the time to have complete buy-in from their employees when it comes to social media? Also, should every employee be involved or should it be more ‘specialized’ and ‘segmented’? And finally, what mistakes have you made/seen in terms of companies embracing the power of social media and content marketing? Fire away my friends. Whether you agree or disagree, your voice needs to be heard.

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