NOTE: This post originally posted at IntranetExperience.com in April, 2010 and is still on-target today! I have updated the post below to include some additional resources and images.
About a year ago, I had a conversation with a then SocialMedia-phobe who tried to convince me that social media was a fad that had no future in the workplace. His argument was that Facebook was too personal and Twitter too truncated to ever offer any value to business culture.
I tried to convince him that, like all emerging technologies, social media was still finding its place in the workplace, but it was slowly, almost imperceptibly changing the way we communicate. His response was to try to dissuade me by saying “it’s just a bunch of people talking about what they ate for breakfast” and that he “didn’t have a clue about all these new social media terms”.
Sometimes, the language of social media can be a little confusing.
I can’t completely blame him, though. The rate of change in digital marketing has increased exponentially as new social networks are created and adopted. For those “old school” marketer, I get that the new digital world can be daunting.
Heack, as I look back the amazing strides social media has taken over the years, even I’m amazed.
The importance of short, meaningful messages has become a huge part of our daily news cycle as major news outlets like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC base entire report segments on tweets from celebrities and politicians. Additionally, YouTube has become the second largest search engine in the world (arguably the largest content engine) and Facebook continues to grow at astonishing rates, becoming one of the largest photo repositories on the Web.
Add to that the fact that social networks like Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, and Discord are being adopted by new generations, creating even more opportunity to connect with each other via our mobile devices or desktops.
I get it…social media communication can be confusing and, sometimes, disconcerting.
Even with the sometimes-confusing communications, the fact of the matter is social media is not a trend and is not going to “go away”. Nevertheless, there are some corporate executives who continue to ignore social media, hoping that it will disappear like fax machines.
Some of these social media ostriches bury their heads in the sand, arguing that Social Media is a “B to C” (business-to-consumer) activity, meaning that businesses can only use it to market directly to consumers. They argue that companies selling “B to B” (business-to-business) can’t effectively leverage social media, because it’s the wrong market and businesses don’t pay attention to social media.
Little do they understand that businesses are not faceless organisms that make decisions without human input. On the contrary, business decisions are influenced by people and made by people, making old-school, traditional “B to B” marketing almost irrelevant in a world where social media dominates the conversation.
Other ostriches try to make social media “go away” by creating policies banning the use of social media inside the organization or on company assets. To get around this, employees simply use their personal devices, making the policies useless.
Executives need to understand that consumers of all type rely on product advice gained from other consumers, and the value of marketing Web sites that expound on the value of their product is diminishing.
Need more convincing?
Take a look at the answers section of Quora and you’ll find thousands of professionals (working for businesses) asking for recommendations on ECM, CRM, Intranet, and back office software. Yes…they even ask for advice on what blogging and social media platforms to use.
A shining example of a “B to B” corporate executive leveraging social media is Carolyn Douglas, the CEO of Intranet Connections. Her passion about Intranets, collaboration, best practices, and social media are evident in her blogs and tweets.
Her thought leadership in the Intranet industry influences her peers, colleagues and customers on a daily basis. She demonstrates that although her business is technically “B to B”, her social media communication is aimed at interacting with people.
Great examples of executive leadership can be found in the “B to C” markets, as well.
Just look at leaders like Marc Cenedella of TheLadders.com or Bill Marriot of Marriot Hotels. Each has established a meaningful blog and/or twitter presence that educates the public on topics ranging from interviewing tips to downtown revitalization efforts.
Both activities are ancillary to their business, but provide meaning to their readers. The effect of the trust they earn from their readers is often carried over to the brand the represent.
And product marketing is just the tip of the iceberg when looking for social media opportunity. The value of collaborative activities inside your organization can justify an investment relatively quickly.
You see, your employees are people, and people like to share. They share their stories, experiences, and knowledge.
They talk around the water cooler, at the coffee pot, and at their cubes. At work, they feel valued and important when another employee is able to use a past experience to solve a problem. They get frustrated when they discover that the knowledge in their head could have been useful to another employee in a previous experience.
It’s the age-old knowledge management problem. How do you get the knowledge out of your employees heads and into a media that can be shared and leveraged by other employees?
The answer is social media.
Give your employees and platform and they will share. Sure, they’ll share personal information, too…but mixed in with stories about their weekends, cats, Pinterest boards, and Fortnite are valuable nuggets of corporate knowledge that can help you solve problems, produce new products, and deliver a higher level of customer and employee satisfaction.
It’s up to you to find ways to filter or segment that information to uncover that which is valuable to your business, but once you do…you’ve unlocked the potential of your employees.
In summary, social media is not about people eating oatmeal.
Well…actually it is.
But it’s also about people solving problems and people serving customers and people buying products. Social media is about your employees and your customers. It’s about your friends and colleagues. It’s about what they want, and what they want to offer.
It’s a valuable tool that will provide insight to markets, products, and ways of doing business that you probably never thought about. It’s up to you to get involved and show leadership. Good luck!
Have experiences with social media “ostriches” or organizations who are failing to embrace social media in their customer engagement? Definitely share your experiences in a comment!