A Thousand Little Cuts of Social Media – A Kaizen Approach

You’ve probably heard the phrase “The best way to accomplish a large goal is to break down into small manageable tasks.” The idea holds water, or soda or a Belvedere vodka if your like me.  Essentially its an idea  “catch phrase” born from the Kaizen approach. Maybe you are familiar with the Kaizen method to change. If you aren’t – hold on to your shorts boys and girls you about to get a quick 101. THEN, I’m going to tell you why its relevant to social media.

Both US’s and Japan’s employed this methodology during their respectively most challenging times. The Kaizen method evolved from management training created by the US government to ramp up American manufacturing for WW2 involvement. There was no time for large scale innovation, manufacturing plants at that time had to work with the tools and time frame they were given (sound familiar?) After the war, General MacArthur introduced this concept to the Japanese to help rebuild their country. The Japanese coined the term “Kaizen” which roughly means “improvement” or “change for the better.” The tenants of Kaizen’s small steps are asking small questions, visualizing small success and taking small actions. Essentially, the Kaizen method is the process of small steps equaling big change, by taking small steps, the process essentially ignores the brain mechanism which triggers fear. Fear is so often the reason we do nothing, isn’t it? By the way, in business-speak the term for “fear” is “concern.” Think about it, next time someone uses their sterny-serious face to describe their “concerns” replace that word with “fear” and just try and tell me it doesn’t work.   The reason I dig Kaizen is that for an ADD-Creative like myself, its truly  manageable way to implement ideas, processes and concepts.

How does Kaizen relate to social media?

Consider the fear most businesses (yours?) have when beginning a social media program. If we’re honest with ourselves, the only reason businesses today don’t employ social media already is because they are afraid. Afraid that they don’t know how to do it.  Afraid of the time it takes. Afraid of the technology. Afraid of what they will learn. Afraid of what will and won’t happen.  FEAR. Useless fear.

Kaizen encourages us to ask simple questions of ourselves, our employees and within the context of social media, I would add customers. Start by asking your employees simple questions about social media. Why don’t you start with “why should we do it?” and see what you get back. Then you could ask them “where should we have a social media presence?” Give every employee’s voice equal weight, no matter if they are your VP of marketing or the janitor. You never know where revolution will take place…huh, just like some where else: social media. Now start asking your customers simple questions: “what is one thing we could do better?” that’s it. One question. See what you get. Its likely to inspire you to take action, even if that action is small, you’ve just harnessed social media using Kaizen. Once you get in the habit of asking questions, you’ll see how exciting the answers can be – and how simple ideas can take a mediocre situation and make it amazing. YAY!! YAY!! You’d like that, wouldn’t you?!

Let’s begin with the smallest of steps for starting a successful social media program for your business.

1) If you don’t already: jump on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and create an account for yourself (not your business, not yet).

2) For all the social media platforms you created an account for, find 1 interesting person or business a day to follow. Could be a competitor. Could be a famous person you are interested in. Anything. Indulge your curiosity. Do this for a week.

3) Spend 30 seconds everyday checking into the account and seeing what’s new, seeing what others are saying or doing. Do this for a week.

Pat yourself on the back, you’ve just started the first step in the most important part of social media: listening.

Before going to step 4, ask yourself “what type information did I most like seeing from people?”

4) Now, with these accounts, continue to use them as your personal testing ground. Spend an additional 30 seconds interacting with the people and businesses you follow. You might send them a comment, “like” something they said, ask a business a question. Ask a guru a question. Share information you think is interesting. Could be anything, a business article, a picture of your dog. Anything. Imagine rather than restrain.

5) Now, spend 30 additional seconds a day thanking people for commenting on your tweets, or passing them on.

Congratulations, you have just started the second most important tenant of social media: engaging.

Now, ask yourself: “How did it feel when someone responded to my question? How did it feel when someone thanked me?”

You now have the basic tenants down of social media: everything you need to know about social media you learned in Kindergarten.

But the really interesting idea of the Kaizen approach with social media is how well it scales. The more time you spend on your small steps, the bigger your change will be. Social media works the exact same way, you get what you give and a thousand small actions lead to big effects. Social media is rarely about “viral” its usually more about the day to day. Its rarely about tens of thousands of followers, usually its more about the 100 or so who communicate with you regularly.  But with social media your day to day reaches ever increasing potential. The more you follow and repeat the above steps for your business, the more you expand upon them, the more success you will have.

Now get outta here and start asking small questions and start taking small actions! Have fun.