How Social Media Can Kill or Enhance Your Deals

At Lax Sebenius, we’ve been building on our groundbreaking 3D Negotiation™ approach to incorporate a deep understanding of social media network structures, native digital fluency and rigorous data analytics that can help improve deal outcomes at every level.

The disruptive effects of social media have been felt around the world, as digital technologies introduce new capabilities and dynamics that touch business, diplomacy, and politics. Yet while a growing number of dealmakers worry about the potentially adverse effects of social media on their deals, the negotiations community has given this topic little attention. Neither scholars nor experienced practitioners have a good handle on how to use of social media most effectively and ethically as part of negotiation strategy and tactics.

In effort to address this surprising gap, we recently explored a series of case studies in how social media can kill, enhance, derail or save your most important deals. First, we examined a global company in a huge city in a politically charged negotiation that drew international attention — analyzed through Twitter and network visualization techniques. Second, we studied a medium-sized hospital in a tough union organizing negotiation in a major city  analyzed in terms of the growth and strategic use of a personal blog. Third, we investigated an early stage company in small town negotiating potential bankruptcy from a local controversy — analyzed using Facebook, Instagram, and several different open-source intelligence tools.

Together, these examples demonstrate the vast amount of potentially game-changing information that can be gleaned from social media data, when properly analyzed using the wide set of tools that we’ve begun customizing to meet the needs of sophisticated negotiators. Across each these sessions, we found that social media can boost the odds of reaching a target deal in four key ways:

  1. Learning much more about the parties to a negotiation, from your immediate counterparts to potentially impactful external groups
  2. Wielding more effective influence, both directly (at the table) and indirectly (away from the table)
  3. Working to mobilize potential supporters and/or
  4. Deterring and neutralizing key opponents
Recordings for each of these case studies are embedded below, with the full webinars and Q&A available here. We hope you enjoy – and as ever, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to hear from you.

At our first webinar on the topic, DavidJim and Ben showed how a series of graphical analyses of the Twitter traffic before and during an ultra high-profile negotiation process could help uncover:

  • How a small band of digerati using social media formed a hostile blocking coalition that derailed Amazon’s plans for a New York headquarters – despite the plan’s ardent support by Governor “Amazon” Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and over 70% of the city’s residents.
  • How sophisticated modern analysis tools and open source data from social media could have helped Amazon learn about and influence events both before and in real time during this contentious process… including spotting parties who had almost no interest in this project but ended up having a major impact on the outcome.
  • How a different strategy could have mobilized supporters and neutralized opponents to produce a negotiated outcome that would have been great for virtually all stakeholders. 

In this second presentation,  DavidJim and Isaac showed how our very own Paul Levy embraced an early form of social media, a personal blog, and proactively built a digital following that proved pivotal in fending off a multimillion-dollar unionization drive. They outlined:

  • How a powerful union sought to organize a major Boston-area medical center that was just emerging from a deep financial crisis via a “corporate campaign” designed to damage its relationships with its patients, doctors, nurses, staff, board, donors, politicians, media, and others as well as launching regulatory and legal attacks.  
  • How Paul had earlier invested heavily in a blog, built up extensive readership among the hospital’s internal and external stakeholders, and developed high credibility through “radical transparency” about potentially sensitive issues. 
  • How Paul strategically utilized this digital tool to mobilize supporters and neutralize opponents to block a dangerous negotiation by repeatedly inoculating stakeholders against likely union attacks and by consistently defending the values of free discussion by all sides and democratic union elections.

In our final session, DavidJim and Ben explored how data that is made freely available on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and community forums can help inform negotiation strategy in virtually any setting.

Showcasing different social media platforms and a new suite of tools, this case study focused on a much smaller, more ‘in-close’ setting, and analyzed how these sophisticated tools could help a legal cannabis company negotiating a potential bankruptcy threat from unexpectedly adverse actions by its host, a small New England town. We showed:

  • How open-source data from social media might have helped our protagonist learn more about a crucial counterpart’s motivations, interests and personality;
  • How similar analysis might have been employed to better influence her position by using language, imagery and arguments borrowed from trusted sources to change her perception of the target deal;
  • How scanning through local media outlets and community forum groups could have helped identify a crucial latent supporter with a strong interest in the outcome and a potentially pivotal local network to mobilize; and
  • How low-cost actions on the part of our protagonist might have helped to neutralize a key hostile blocking coalition using wedge issues to divide a group with the ear of influential local leaders.

To learn more about how we’re incorporating social media intelligence into our groundbreaking 3D Negotiation™ approach or to find out what these tools and techniques can mean for your business navigating your most important or challenging deals, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.