Social Media Is it a Distraction?

As you know one of the main aims for me is to help you become more collaborative.  Whether that is working internally with colleagues or externally with supply chain partners or your customers.  Collaboration takes many forms and more recently Social Media is now one of the most widely used collaboration platforms.  It has certainly engaged and been adopted by people on a personal level, but how is it being utilised in businesses?  How are you utilising it and do you have a strategy? 

As part of bringing you current information and the latest trends, I have subscribed to the Social Media Success Summit 2011, which is a series of online sessions running over a period of 4 weeks.  I intend to share with you what I have learnt so you can start to understand and decide if Social Media is a distraction or is it something that we all need to be aware of and how do we go about using it productively.  The first presentation was given by Jeremiah Owyang from a a company called Altimeter Group.  This looked at The Future of Social Media and would like to acknowledge Jeremiah as a primary source for this post, coupled along with my observations and views.

Clearly a good start is to develop your Social Media Strategy.  This is something that I have started to create within sharpcloud and will be sharing it with you in the coming weeks.  Social Media has not been around that long – about two and half years and yet it has taken off at an incredible rate.  However, there have been a few organisations/people who have been actively engaged in Social Media for over 5 years.  I do not recall Social Media being discussed 5 years ago.

What Jerimiah has found is that 5 key models have emerged:

  • Decentralised Model
  • Centralised Model
  • Hub & Spoke
  • Multiple Hub &Spoke
  • Honeycomb – Holistic

As you would imagine, there are a lot of us who are in the Novice to Intermediate (77%) programs while there are the advanced programs making up the remaining 23%.  With regards to Strategy there appears to be two paths that people take.  These are:

  • Path 1 – Reactive
  • Path 2 – Proactive

The Path 1 Strategy has no real strategy except people just become reactive to the situations.  There are various models being used and are heading to what was called the Social Media Help Desk strategy.  This is not  a place you want to be going!  The key observations here were:

  • Customers become accustomed to “yelling” in public
  • Business units adopt “social media fever” and deploy on their own 

The Path 2 Strategy is clearly a more thought out and proactive approach as recommended by Jerimiah.  In the first instance the recommended model to adopt is the Hub and Spoke Model.  This allows you to provide Governance, Processes and Education such that you can create a CoE (Center of Excellence) and there fore you become an enabler/facilitator for the business.

The basic point that has hit home with me is the word Social.  Businesses are basically just models but it is people who make it happen.  There fore we need to develop a relationship with the people and not the businesses – we need to be social.  This is why I personally prefer using the phrase Business Social Networking when talking about Social Media in a business context.

For a business, your Social Strategy needs to be having a conversation with your customers at every part of the Marketing, Pre and Post Sales process.  This means having meaningful, informative, interesting and sociable conversations with your customers, peers and supply chain partners – definitely not yelling!  During these conversations and over time a relationship will develop, people will either Like or Dislike you – this becomes very powerful and viral.  You also realise you no longer control your brand – your customers do.

Here are some of the key points in the strategy

  1. Need to refer to the models but you need to get into the Hub and Spoke model.  Companies such as Adobe, eBay and Intel have this model.
  2. Scale up (1:1 does not work) with peer-to-peer communities.  Best Buy (like a Comet/PC World) get their customers to answer questions.
  3. Integrate socially – as mentioned above this is about being sociable across the complete customer life-cycle
  4. Customer Advocacy Programs  – Walmart for example are using Mums/Moms to talk about their products.  This basically gets the community, the people to do the work.
  5. Need to implement Social Media Management Tools.  I agree with this!  I use Seesmic and that has helped me to manage all my social feeds/channels by having them all in one place.
  6. Test – you need to be able to measure otherwise how do you know what the ROI is.  This goes for all marketing.

Finally, getting organised internally and learning from your current “conversations” will help you to start strategizing collaboratively so that you can co create a Social Media Strategy that is appropriate for you needs and more importantly, your customers.  Doing it on a 1:1 will not work and you need to consider the integration of your social media with your other marketing and sales initiatives and processes within your strategy. And remember it is social which means it is about creating and developing trusting relationships through “Networking” and “Notworking”

Clearly there is a lot of collaboration tools, processes and ideas to consider, especially in the area of Sales and Marketing.  My key advice is not to be solely dependant and reliant on Social Media for your business. especially if it is communicating with your customers.  After all relying on just one of anything is is never a good idea.

Finally the way that I look at Social Media is that it is just another form of conversation – which needs to be open and honest.

Keep on collaborating.

Jason

jason.hier@roelto.com

Here is Jeremiah email jeremiah@altimetergroup.com

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