What I have learnt about Social Media in business

Over the past few months I have been immersed in the world of Social Media, with a leaning towards its use in the business and enterprise space. This has been driven by two key factors. Firstly I am studying a Social Media in Business paper at Massey University. The second is the organisation I work for has a desire to explore Social Media for engaging with families. From all the literature I have had to read for my studies, plus the optional books I have digested there are several themes or key points that keep coming up for me.

1. ROI. Two definite schools of thought on ROI seem to have developed. One says Social Media is all about engagement and ROI should be considered as a nice bonus. The other says it is all about ROI and it needs to be treated like any other marketing tool. I personally sit somewhere in the middle, but leaning more towards the engagement side. Why? Well for me Social Media allows multi-directional conversations to take part. The risk as I see it of focusing on the return on investment in the first instance is that it will become just another way for the sales & marketing teams to push their message out. I think that if you take part in the conversations and build up relationships that the sales side will look after itself in the longer term. And that’s the key. Longer term. You cannot jump into social media and expect immediate returns. You have to commit for the long haul.

2. Keep it real! Keep it authentic. The online world will sniff out a phoney and you will be roasted! If you start making comments posing as a consumer expect back-lash. And remember to be human. Your consumers and followers are human, treat them as such. Don’t try & be someone or something that you aren’t. And if someone posts a comment that you don’t like, don’t remove it. Respond to it, engage the poster and help them. Who knows, they could end up being your greatest advocate.

3. Park the sales talk. One immediate turn-off for me is companies that push the bog-standard sales pitch through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the other social mediums. I want you to be my partner. Woo me. Seduce me. Don’t force yourself onto me. I used to follow a number of travel companies. One used to send sales and promo information and that was all. The other sent me information about the destinations I could go to, and what I could do there and encouraged people to share their experiences. One forced themselves on me. The other made an emotional connection. Guess which I still follow and click through to find out how they can get me there!

4. Everyone’s an expert. Okay so that isn’t exactly true, but it seems everywhere I turn there is someone else proclaiming to be the leading light in Social Media. Yet to see any real evidence to back up these claim’s. In fairness there are a number of people that are recognised as ‘experts’, are accepted as such by the general population and appear in numerous articles, white papers and the like, but I still smile when I see a random person that I have never heard of pop up and declare they are a Social Media god! They may use the tools, but that doesn’t make them a craftsman!

Am I way off the mark or does this pretty much sum it up?

Cooperation makes it happen

We are now half-way through looking at how Niall Cooks 4C’s of social media can be applied in the Enterprise. Having cover the two models with low interaction (Communication and Connection) we now look at Cooperation.

So what do we mean by Cooperation?

According to Cook, applications that fall into here are high in interactivity but still pretty casual. Here we find social search, media sharing and social bookmarking and cataloguing. Its about sharing what you find useful with others and enabling colleagues to search for knowledge based on the collective search histories and bookmarking.

In an enterprise, sharing documents, pictures and video can add substantial value through the ideas they can generate. The price of storage is always dropping (floods in Thailand aside) so there is no real reason for businesses to prevent this cooperation from happening. In fact, if IT departments DON’T provide the framework, employees will circumvent them and upload the material to sites like You Tube, Flickr and Dropbox.

Social bookmarking is such a simple concept, yet when you mention it to people they initially looked puzzled then they get that ‘aha’ moment on their faces when they realise how powerful sharing links to web pages can be. So much time can be saved by staff sharing sites they find of value. I was in a meeting today and mentioned this concept and the amount of chatter it generated once the people in the room realised how often they all search for the same information and how much time would be saved by sharing pages they find.

Below is a really good video explaining the concept further, using the website del.icio.us as an example of social bookmarking. To see a real-world example of del.icio.us, check out my links page here.

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So can you see a place for these tools in your business? Have you already used some? Let me know in the comments below your experiences with these and other tools to support cooperation! Hat-tip to Sesame St for the title of this post.

Someday we’ll find it, the corporate connection… the workers, the dreamers and me.

In this post we will continue looking at Niall Cook’s 4Cs. Last time we looked at ‘Communication’ and how it can be used in an Enterprise sense. Today we will look Connection. It has the same level of interaction but in a more formal setting. Here we see functions such as tagging, mash-ups and social networking. So what do all these things actually mean to a business owner or professional? What value can these consumer ‘toys’ possibly add?

Lets start with tagging. We already see this in Knowledge Management (KM) systems and it has been around for a while. The internal owner of the system will create a taxonomy that is meaningful and tag these keywords onto the records to aid in the retrieval of documents, files or other items. What we quite often see though is a set of words that hold meaning for the creator and maybe a handful of other people only. The average employee doesn’t necessarily relate to the chosen tags. When we post items to say del.icio.us or flickr in our private lives we get to choose the tags that mean something to us right so why not in our work lives too. We are now starting to see this trend emerge in social KM systems. Known as folksonomy, its sits in tandem with the traditional ‘top-down’ taxonomy and allows users to tag records with words that mean something to them. I use SharePoint Server 2007  in my professional life and one of the big drivers for me to upgrade to SharePoint 2010 is the ability for users to create their own tags. The desire to search and locate knowledge easily based on what they relate to the item as has been a loud and constant message from the staff – I say lets move them from search and allow discovery with folksonomy tagging.

So what about mash-ups. Generally speaking a mash-up is as the name suggests a coming together of disparate or loosely-linked data sources into one that has added value. For example if I am a national sales manager I can access my sales volume from my CRM system in a number of different ways. I can also access the Statistics NZ website and get population densities across cities or regions. Both sources of information are valuable in their own right, but if I mash them together and visually show on a map the population AND the sales I can immediately see areas of opportunities or areas of concern. John Crupi over at TechNewsWorld sums up Enterprise mashups really well

Like anything that wants to have the moniker of “Web 2.0,” mashups are about the user and by the user. Mashups allow users to self-connect the proverbial data dots to create information that answers their questions.

Finally Social networking. The two words that are likely to send CEOs running to secure the firewall. When you mention Social Media, this is what people think of. Yes, this is the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. So what place do they have in an organisation? The same place they have outside it. Its all about connecting people with people and giving them a place to share ideas. Companies such as Social Text, Yammer and even Microsoft with SharePoint 2010 have created these ‘Facebook-like’ applications that sit inside an organisation, can be secured by IT policy and managed like any other Enterprise-grade platform. With them people can micro-blog, share photos, status updates and connect with like-minded colleagues.

 I  am a strong advocate for these platforms as I believe it gives a safe entrance into using the same type of technology externally for extremely risk-adverse businesses. Love to hear your thoughts on how you see them working inside an organisation, or why you think they have no place being deployed.