Social Media – Learning, Innovation, Communication and Collaboration

I was speaking to a client today about the curious case of social media and how his business could really do with thinking about it seriously – cue the sideways glances and skeptical looks.

Why do people get so afraid of something that is destined to become an everyday work tool in more ways than we can imagine, today in 2012?

I guess it’s something to with change.

In the strange case of, get-onto-it-or-get-left-behind, we checked to see just how many of his company’s competitors were using social media – all of them were.

So what’s the point of social media for business?

After all, it’s for teenagers right?

We don’t have time for that?

We spoke about using Twitter, LinkedIn and having a blog to connect and engage with his clients but also to find distributors in countries that they wanted to break into.

Why not try YouTube to showcase new machines and technical advances in the industry.

However, the company’s firewall blocks all of these, including anything WordPress, but actively encourages its people to have their Blackberry on at all times and reply to mails in the evening at at weekends …

They also recognise the negative and ‘distancing’ aspects of emails, but still do nothing to alleviate the ever-growing volume of mails that their people have to filter and manage daily.

So we spoke, whilst I tried desperately to eliminate any hint of an evangelical tone in my voice.

Personally I can see (in 2012) two principal ways of looking at, what we term, Social Media, and the main uses that it can be put to (if you can add to this list please do in the comments) :

Internal

  • Create bridges across the organization in ways that we just don’t do today – getting departments communicating, sharing, collaborating and learning together.
  • Formal knowledge management using Wikis, FAQs etc.
  • Create clear replicable processes
  • Find ‘experts’ in places you didn’t know existed, within the organization.
  • Spread News about innovation / new contracts signed etc.
  • Stop rumours by targeting information throughout the company.
  • Share resources
  • Share ‘useful’ documents / templates etc.
  • Reduce time and expense of email
  • ‘Host’ learning materials / courses / refreshers
  • Create repositories of frequently used information
External
  • Communicate and reach out to a wider audience
  • Marketing
  • Create a digital brand
  • Recrutement – attract talent to the organization
  • Share good news / innovation
  • Hear what others are saying about your brand
  • Get ‘happy’ clients marketing for you
  • Positioning as a ‘thought leader’ in your field

I’ve probably missed a few ideas above, but basically, Social Media is a huge resource pool, either happening or waiting to happen in a business near you.

Most think that it will take up, and waste too much time, although this is because they consider using the existing tools alongside social media, which is illogical.

However, there will be a transition period, things won’t change overnight, that needs to be planned for and managed.

It is taken as read, that we know who we want to be communicating with, audience identification – although some are later discovered serendipitously, which is a positive thing.

We suggest going about things in a logical and methodic way:

1. First by considering the objectives of what you want to achieve – set objectives – have a plan.

2. From the plan, create a strategy to implement over a clear time period.

3. Do a “Social Media Audit” to ensure that a Plan and a strategy can be implemented, for example ensure that top management is firmly behind the implementation and are ready to become “Social Media Champions”.

4. Choose, customise and install the tools that will be necessary for the campaign – Blog, Twitter account, LinkedIn account, Internal Social media platform.

5. Ensure that the Consultants implementing the tools are shadowed from the outset by the future community management team.

6. Train the Community Management team in the use of the tools.

7. Create business champions in different departments across the organization who will take up the flame when the go-live starts.

8. Map goals, how will success /  failure be measured? Set up a clear time-frame – possibly in 90 day chunks, before adjusting / tuning the next chunk.

9. Lessons learnt – what did we learn and what do we need to do next?

Many think that social media is free, much as Open Source software is considered to be freeware – ask anyone who has implemented Moodle. This, in essence is true, but any serious Social Media campaign that stands any chance of a return on investment WILL cost money.

If a company considers that it’s a cheap way of marketing, then you can be sure that the results will be just that – cheap.

By the same token, any professional who perceives social media as a cheap and quick, or free and quick way of replacing their existing efforts may find that they shoot a bullet directly in the foot.

So what can social media do for an industrial company, based in a tiny village in France?

Frankly lots.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

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