Are you being social with your co-workers?

In the last post we looked at social media from an externally facing perspective using things like You Tube, Facebook and Twitter to engage with external consumers. But what about your internal consumers? Are you being as sociable with them as you can (or should) be?

Communications within an organisation tend to be asynchronous and often top-down – the CEO sending a ‘proclamation from the ivory tower’ to the minions announcing a decision or a strategy is all-too-common. Michael Fauscette commented on the phenomenon of information overload where employees do not have proper collaborative tools and how traditional information systems were designed for information capture, not sharing. Think about the file structure of a network drive. A network server will have folders that are shared, but unless you have permission you cannot access the files contained in them. Sure there are things the general workforce should not see such as payroll information but a large amount of other content may benefit from a more collaborative approach.

There are a number of tools that organisations can deploy internally, such as Microsoft Sharepoint, Yammer and Ning all with funny names that make it a hard sell to CFOs and CEOs but that can deliver value to a business. Aristocrat are an organisation that have realised the power that social media can bring, deploying Yammer globally and now seeing people in the company that ordinarily would not contribute engaging and collaborating. Dion Hinchcliffe over at ZDNet has an interesting series on Enterprise 2.0 success stories that are well worth a read and they highlight how powerful the openness of social media can be.

The only thing that seems to be stopping wider adoption of social media in organisations is culture, more specifically a culture that sees power in knowledge ownership, of control of the information flow. Staff engagement seems to be a hot topic at the moment, with a number of companies I have spoken to highlighting it as a focus for the year. The consensus is getting staff engaged with the business is key to growth. How do we expect them to get engaged if we filter and block their access to the business through out-dated attitudes and risk-maps.The infographics below is from David Armano’s blog about the weaving of social into the organisations DNA and for me sums up what needs to occur for mainstream adoption.

Social Media cannot be an ‘IT-thing’ or a ‘Marketing-thing’. It needs to be seen not as a gimmick but as a value-adding platform that enhances the workplace and allows staff to be engaged. Imagine if there was a way to remove the workplace silos, where everyone had an equal voice and could share their problems and ideas. Who knows, little Mary the intern in finance may just have the next big product idea. Tom in HR might just have the solution to a budgeting issue or an ad placement. If only they knew there was a problem in the first place….

Time for the old guard determined to maintain a top-down command-and-control attitude to leave? I think so.

Social Media success stories, truth or fiction?

Do a Google search for ‘Social Media success stories’ and you will get about 277 million hits. Can websites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest really be the making of a successful business? And if they are, it’s only for the big global companies right?

If you answered ‘no’ and ‘absolutely’ then you have probably been living in a cave for the past 10 years. A study by comCast in 2010 suggests that users of social media spend on average 1.5 times the amount online than those that are not connected. Opponents to businesses using social media say it is a waste of time, that it is a fad, and from my professional experience, staff will spend all day on Farmville and we cannot work out a Return on Investment (ROI) on it so we won’t do it.

I read recently a quote that in my opinion nicely countered this argument. To paraphrase it said that when the telephone was invented people said it was a waste of time, a fad, it wouldn’t catch on… when the fax machine appeared people said it was a waste of time, a fad, it won’t catch on… when email came along people said it’s a waste of time, a….¬† you get the idea. Social Media is a disruptive technology just like email before it, the fax before that and so on.

As for the ROI, calculating the return on investment for a telephone or email is difficult yet they are perceived to be a necessity of modern business. Companies that do embrace social media have found a way to connect with customers that is richer and promotes collaboration and two-way dialog. I think that the secret to doing this social media ‘thing’ well is remembering that it is a communications tool to connect people to people, not a tool to sell more widgets. Yes a financially quantifiable ROI is important, but maybe social media needs to be measured against a different metric such as customer engagement, what do you think?

KLM Airlines did an experiment with their passengers who used Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare and received 1,000,000 tweets about it, what price can you put on exposure like that? Watch the video below, do you think Air New Zealand would receive similar engagement if they did a similar campaign?
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Small and medium sized business can now reach out through the power of social media and engage with literally the whole planet like never before and connect with potential consumers regardless of geographic location. Linda Coles describes the process in her book ‘Learn Marketing with Social Media in 7 Days‘ as this:

  • Engage your customers
  • Listen to your customers
  • Build your business network
  • Find your cheerleaders
  • Do it all over and over again

and guess what, social media lets you do that easily and cost-effectively 24/7/365, yes even in your pajamas! This is of course only part of the contribution to business success that social media offers. There are internal a tools as well that promote connecting, collaborating, communicating and co-operating, but that’s another¬† posting.

For now I will leave the last word on social media ROI to Hitler, enjoy.

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