Let me tell you about three organizations I worked for and whose business culture has definitely influenced their social media efforts. I consider their respective audience and communications skills critical factors in explaining the nature and extent of their social media efforts.

  • Radio-Canada Information (RCI):  serves an audience of Canadians hungry for general and immediate information.  To serve this audience:  a bunch of speedy extroverts, running full time, sharing bits of information until they have a complete story to tell and wrap-up for the day.  They live in the moment, share whatever they collect and tell their story in 140 characters, 140 times a day.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA):   every now and then, their panicked audience asks them if their food is safe. To provide the information, the CFIA has brainy scientists living at opposite ends of the communicators spectrum.   At the verbose end, the vets and the agronomists with extensive experience talking to farmers, and at the silent end, chemists and microbiologists who have themselves and rats for an audience.
  • The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC):  Canadians hardly want to know about convicted criminals, but when they do, they have two options.    Stoic and controlling prison guards, whose favorite word is “No” (and second favorite is “Cuz”) or conditional release officers whose job is to talk toughies into behaving.  But most of the times, security requires discretion.

The three examples above certainly illustrate two factors of corporate culture (audience and communications skills)  which differ between organizations (audiences) and even within organizations (comm skills).  In this latter case, you can expect various degrees of willingness/ability in each  internal subgroups to participate in communications efforts, including their social media efforts. Social media use in the three organization clearly tells the story.

  • RCI has 140 social media platforms (on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Daily Motion) and 80 blogs;  half of those blogs and platforms are dedicated to information and they generate plenty of engagement.  And this does not take into account the fact that hundreds of reporters do tweet.
  • CFIA has a total of 14 platforms.   Two Twitter accounts (9500 and 1350 followers), RSS, email and widgets to 10 social media.  A review of the two Twitter acccounts over the last 3 months shows NO-ZIP-ZERO engagement.
  • CSC has a Twitter feed (2300 followers), and a YouTube channel with 8 videos.  Commissioner Don Head also has been tweeting for 2 years (1600 followers). Over the last 3 months, the Commissioner’s Twitter account shows one engagement.

Based on those observations, how do we address the question of how does the business culture of an organization affect its social media efforts? My take is that the audience/clientele drives the corporate culture.  And that corporate culture drives employees communications skills.  Not that it makes employees good (social media) communicators;  it actually retains those who are good/interested in communications because it makes them feel  relevant, competent and appreciated.

I have found a very interesting conversation on which comes first (corporate culture or social media)  between two social media gurus : Mitch Joel and Mark W. Shaefer, who take opposing views on which determines which:  corporate culture or  social media success.  Their views on the following links have generated lots of enlightened comments.