What happens when innovation bangs up against policy? Nothing good, usually. Marketing departments considering social media tools need to be ready for the effort associated with selling the IT department on the plan. While it may seem like an annoyance to have to sell IT on something that’s good for the company, there are good reasons for doing so. Take the time to work with your IT department to make sure that your social media marketing environment will be robust and effective, without inviting unnecessary risk into your organization.
Part of the problem that many marketers have in dealing with IT is a lack of understanding – which is a challenge on both sides of the table, frankly. They don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and you don’t understand what drives their behavior. Rather than meet in the middle, both sides try to win… which means that everyone usually winds up losing.
When you get to the point in your social media marketing plan where IT comes into play, keep the following in mind. You’ll have a more positive experience and shorten the time to go-live.
1. Policy: IT policy (a) exists for a reason, (b) isn’t set by the people you’re dealing with and (c) won’t go away simply because you want it to. Early in your social media marketing progress, talk to IT about the policy constraints that are in place, and ask for advice on how to launch your initiative without running afoul of them. Work together. You may find that an IT professional who seems anti-social media is really just anti-IT policy violation. Try to find ways to launch that respect the rules in place.
2. Risk management: the IT department is actually looking out for you and the company. What happens if the server hosting your corporate blog goes down… right after you’ve sent a press release to wire? You want your technology to be up, functioning and performing well. Otherwise, you invite brand risk.
3. Operational control: okay, this is a tough one. Nobody likes having someone poking around on his turf. In some cases, there’s a good reason for this. Talk to your IT department about what kind of control they need and why. You might be able to address this by bringing someone from IT into your vendor relationships.
4. Bandwidth and capacity: once you have realistic traffic projections, you’ll be able to get a sense of the demands it will place on your infrastructure. You may not know what sort of muscle your company has in the datacenter, but the IT department will. Work with the experts to make sure your existing infrastructure can handle the initiative you’re planning.
5. Heterogeneous technology: there’s a reason for IT standardization – and it’s not laziness. The fact that skill sets and equipment can be consolidated around platform means that this approach is actually cheaper. When you introduce new technology into your company’s datacenter, you also introduce complexity and cost. Your burning desire for WordPress could wind up creating a lot of work for someone else. How would you respond if the tables were turned? Exactly.
6. Skill sets: you’re hot for WordPress. Or Tumblr. Or Yammer. But, your IT department is pushing back because it doesn’t have the right skills in house. You want to go hire a college kid and push ahead anyway. This is a recipe for disaster. While your IT department may not be able to ramp up on the relevant skills quickly enough, they can help you understand what to look for in a vendor. Ask about the performance metrics that govern the IT department, and see if you can apply them to any external talent you engage.
7. Priorities: don’t forget that, like you, the IT department is measured against specific performance metrics. You might have to fill the pipeline, generate measurable reach or drive sales. They will have to maintain a certain amount of up-time, comply with relevant regulations (such as Sarbanes-Oxley) and manage an aggressive portfolio of technology projects. If your plans introduce too much risk or challenge into the IT environment, you’re essentially asking them to make your objectives a higher priority than theirs. Show some sensitivity around this. After all, would you scrap your plans (and maybe your bonus) to help someone else complete theirs?
Getting your social media marketing program through the IT department doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Approach the team early, and keep it engaged throughout your project. Ask, don’t dictate. Make sure you understand the reasons for the IT team’s resistance on certain issues, and get these folks involved in the solution. You’ll get to market faster and easier – and you’ll have a better solution in place.