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Transformational Change

How to create synergies between stakeholder analysis and social media strategies.

This collaboration paper between Hagi Fuentes, M.A., a business consultant at Think Differently LLC, and Abraham M. Gutsioglou, Ph.D., a change management expert. Together, they highlight the synergy between Stakeholder Analysis and Social Media to positively influence the outcome of change impacts in failing projects. 

Mr. Fuentes opens with a stakeholder analysis narrative. 

Dr. Gutsioglou covers how social media can be leveraged to drive momentum to recover a failing initiative within leveraging change impact work. 

The Importance of Stakeholders and Social Media: By Hagi Fuentes, M.A. 

What is the first thing you think of when you hear, “Social Media?” Yup, Millennials! 

No, this article is not about Millennials, but it is about social media and how we can pair its benefits with key stakeholders to drive behavioral change. I will share some lessons and tips on creating synergies between stakeholders and social media. 

Tip #1:

Conducting a stakeholder analysis is a critical component of a change management initiative. It is a process that will help you immensely if you do it to the highest degree of detail. Projects tend to fail because this part of the process is neglected. To avoid that - this means you should have a deep and rich understanding of your stakeholder needs, interests, level of influence, expectations, and commitments. Keep in mind that understanding these variables is important, however, knowing how to pair social media techniques with stakeholder management is even more powerful. This is especially true when a project is starting to go bad. As it helps you to leverage their influence to create effective communication campaigns that can bring positive results. Social media enables people to connect from anywhere; it also allows for real-time news to be pushed, which in the business world, is real-time opportunities for success.

In the context of stakeholder management, it means you have a prime opportunity to create fluid and continuous community engagement. Traditional communication plans are driven by key milestones, whereas, social media plans are based on continuous asynchronous sharing. It means creating a relationship with the people and enhancing the perception of leadership accessibility. 

Start by making sure your stakeholders are equipped with a tool that they can use to directly impact your communication campaign (think corporate social media). If your company allows it, utilize any social media platform you can get your hands on to encourage stakeholders to think differently about the way that they communicate and impact the conversation of change. Often times a simple tweet, Instagram post, or Facebook update from stakeholders can create a ripple effect throughout the organization to promote change and keep the transformation conversation going. Social media can help keep the change strategy salient and will bolster your communication campaign.

Tip #2: Combine Stakeholders with Social Media to Drive Change

Use social media to create a series, a campaign, and plenty of content to communicate the story and every step of your journey – yes, that means sharing the good and the bad with everyone involved. Sharing the “bad” doesn’t mean you have to let it define the project nor does it mean that it’s over – it just means it is a bump along the way, but together you will overcome it. A great way to use social media to drive change from a crisis is to leverage it as a sense of urgency to do things differently (e.g., let’s rally around the change we are striving to create). Utilizing social media allows your key communicator to scale their presence and expand their reach.

Social media is an avenue that allows key stakeholders to openly, consistently, and continuously voice support. This can be a valuable tool for change agents because it can be used to mitigate resistance. It can also be used to remind the community of “why” the change is important. To say it another way, use social media and stakeholder influence/reputation to pivot resistance into a realigned purpose. Remember, social media platforms exist to help you drive continuous conversations and feedback loops with impacted employees. 

Social Media + Social Cognitive Theory = Change Impact Momentum: By Dr. Gutsioglou

It is important to start with calling-out that we are talking about organizational (people-focused) change. In which, we naturally observe emotional reactions, attitude shifts, behavior modification, barrier creations (psychological/emotional/behavioral), and how people respond to changes created within an organization. 

Over the years, behavior theory has informed us that humans use the world around them to make judgments, absorb societal norms, and create rules of how they will engage with the world (i.e., how they want to interact and how they want to be seen by others). More specifically, Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 2001), tells us that people will make “informed” decisions of how they will behave, the things they will say or publicly support by the level of control they believe they have over the decision. We know these ideas are formed by what people see “working” or “not working” – think of the latest social media fad to cut 10 pounds in one week without going to the gym. Most of the time a social media influencer is promoting the benefits and realistic outcomes of drinking tea, attending a class, or joining a club. 

Let’s assume that you know exactly who your impacted audience is and everyone involved in the process of change (e.g., stakeholder analysis). The next thing you need to do is have a clear roster of potential influencers – I mean influencers within your corporate structure. These are the people you can leverage to create a promo video or campaign to push the value of your change initiative. 

Here is the creative part – you need to use basic psychology behavior principles to drive impact momentum (this part is key to recover a failing project). To do this, have influencers create a support video, then have social butterflies (these are people within your organization who love to connect with others) to be the source of content sharing, finally, you need “media relaters” to informally convey the story of your change (these folks are sharing through traditional pathways – water cooler, lunchroom, etc.). When you bring it all together, the outcome is momentum in change (or recovery) – you will find that receivers of a message will use the world around them to help them make an “informed” decision of how and when they will support (or resist) the impact of the change. 

Give these tips a try, we hope that you find them useful in your practice!

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