Saturday, July 17, 2010

How to use Social Media for collaboration

If the idea of scrolling through reams of Twitter posts doesn't excite you, then you're not following the right people. I typically spend about 15 minutes a day scouring my Twitter feed and Facebook for fodder, ideas and ways to connect my company and clients with like minded people and spark creativity for the team.

No man is an island. Locked inside our heads and working in silos limits our ability to expand. Collaboration is the best way to foster creativity and results. Personally, I thrive in a collaborative environment with one idea sparking another...guided by the objectives and goals of a project, and, of course the budget. Often, the real learnings come from the post-project reviews. "If only we hads" and "look what they dids" are not failures, they are the inspiration for the next great campaign.

We are now experiencing some impressive uses of social media. The Old Spice guy is turning up the heat in a very creative and clearly social way. I love this story and yes, I will be buying the product. And, as this post in the Globe and Mail points out, it is the authenticity, bravery and consistency that makes it a great experience. Hats off to the Harold B. Lee Library for catching the wave with their parody. It's obvious the Old Spice formula is sparking even more creative collaboration. I know it has me thinking...and smiling.

What's your take? Has the "Summer of Old Spice" got you thinking?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Does your social media tail wag the dog?

I think it's safe to say that social media isn't going away and businesses need to incorporate it into their delivery model. As the internal "maven" of the medium, I'm seeing a shift toward more practical approaches and it makes me happy.

The general consensus is that to effectively integrate social media into an organization you first need to
1. monitor - find out where you are being talked about
2. respond - answer questions and provide customer service
3. engage - ask questions and begin conversations online
4. integrate - use social media to transport your message

That's great advice and helps businesses hold back and not jump in too quickly without a strategy that's tied to business objectives. I also love this article, Fire Your Social Media Manager, because it leads to another important point, it's not one person who needs to do the social media-ing.

What I would recommend further, and this is from experience, is that social media become part of your core. Make it part of how you develop business, respond, and provide customer service. Once you have established that social media works for your clients and you have a community, then it's time to start marketing to them through this channel.

Using social media as a marketing tactic first without an established internal competency is the tail wagging the dog. Eventually the tail gets tired and ROI diminishes.

Social media plays many roles. Yes, it's a marketing platform and has changed the way we tell our stories, but it's just as effective for customer service and growing your business. Perhaps the most successful approach is to start there.

Without a doubt, the Net Generation will walk through your door with an inherent competency in the medium. You can use this to your advantage.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Top 4 social media ideas for businesses

Here's a top 4 list for businesses looking for a good start on implementing social media or digital communication into their organization.

1. Location, location, location. Where are you customers? Search through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook (to start) and see if communities already exist. Most importantly, monitor to see where your organization or your competition is being talked about.

2. Take time to develop a strategy. Figure out what you want to achieve: customer service, thought leadership, promotion, brand awareness, lead generation. Set your metrics and measure your ROI. Every business will be different. The number of followers will be important if your goal is to build brand awareness. Engagement will be a KPI, if you are looking to provide customer service.

3. Empower employees to join the conversation and be brand ambassadors. Don't screen your interaction behind the communications department. Although, you may want to start there, get it right and then mobilize it throughout the organization with clear guidelines and lessons learned.

4. When you do start communicating digitally, make sure your information is useful, relevant and entertaining enough for people to talk about and share. You don't need to be controversial, just interesting enough to stand out.

That's enough to get started. What's your top 4?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Basic Human Need

The third element on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is love and belonging, right after safety and our physiological requirements for being alive.

What I'm seeing with the mass use of online social communication is the expression of the third element. It's a new way to connect with people; not unlike the telephone or email. The reason it's so popular is because it feeds a basic human need to connect and belong and this, in turn, brings us joy.

In my opinion, social connections are simply the next iteration of communication and whether we like it or not, it will seep into the business world as a tool to reach customers.

That's why I don't understand companies that shut down social sites. It's not a technology problem if too much frivolous time is being spent online, it's a management problem. My suggestion is to turn it around. Let staff use the sites, but ask them to submit 3 new ideas a week. Even without interacting on behalf of your organization they can find ways to connect with customers, uncover intelligence about a client from being connected to their Facebook Page, listen to what is being said about your organization, find leads from LinkedIn communities or come up with ideas to generate brand awareness.

Make no mistake, if you have clients that have a Facebook page and Twitter account and you're not following them, you're missing a huge opportunity to anticipate their needs and be the first to offer a solution.

The time has come for companies to update their confidentiality policies and codes of conduct to include social interaction. The resistance I hear is that management is afraid of what staff might say or do online; but yet, they trust their staff to be brand ambassadors on the phone, in person and through email communications.

Embracing, not restricting social interaction is more forward thinking. Not to mention, staff won't be denied a basic human need.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How do you like that?

Things change in social media on a daily basis. Just today, Facebook announced some pretty sweet features that will no doubt change the way we experience the web. As a social media leader for my organization, it's important for me to stay on top of the developments, recommend and implement where and when it makes sense.

I believe it's important for organizations to think about how social media will work best for their bottom line and implement only those tactics that have the ability to generate ROI. This will reduce the likelihood of getting thrown off track trying to introduce every new idea without a way to measure its effectiveness.

One way to stay focused and implement meaningful tactics is to integrate social media into the roll out of your business plan. Look at what you want to achieve and set a plan that includes connecting in a measurable way.

Applying this approach to your social media strategy makes it easier to defend. I "like" that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Get comfortable with it

The jury is out on whether it's better to manage your social media from within your organization or outsource to an agency. I've heard both sides.

My personal feeling is that developing an internal competency is necessary. Radian6 refers to their engagement console as the "social phone" and I can see a day when social media is simply part of the tool set we use to connect. (I remember the days before email.)

One thing is for sure: the sooner you empower employees to "get comfortable" the more connected you'll be to your audiences.

What's your opinion on the best approach to managing social media?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Social Discretion

We know social medial is one big word-of-mouth machine, so here's a tricky one. You offer a service that requires discretion. I'm not talking about an illegal profession of any sort, but your clientèle are not likely to wave a flag saying they use your services.

Do you include social media as a tactic for brand engagement? I think you do but in different ways. Creating a Facebook fan page or group (even a secret one) probably wouldn't be your best shot. This tactic is way too public. You could use Facebook, however, to advertise to your target markets.

Twitter, on the surface, seems too public as well. But, if you have an interesting CEO with stellar thought-leadership ideas, or a philanthropic or humorous side, it's a good brand awareness tool.

LinkedIn is another tool where you can join discussions about your services.

A great Youtube video describing your services is always useful.

A blog is another good tactic for sharing ideas and building your online presence.

A members only area on your website can be used for customer service inquiries.

The balance is finding the right way to promote your business while maintaining client trust. Social media isn't really in the discretion game, but used properly can return real benefits.

Any other ideas?