By Allan Maurer
Businesses are rushing to get into the social media game whether they are ready for it or not, and that poses significant risks says social media trainer Steve Nicholls, author of “Social Media in Business.”
Nicholls believes that the greatest risk of all is not to embrace social media because your competitors will be, but too many firms are taking a narrow view of it.
Take a broader view
“Lots of companies are hiring social media managers, but on a low level, usually in marketing.
“There is a lot of work to be done at that level, things that need to be done. But I take a much broader view. How does it affect your business strategy? How do you systematically make sure it is integrated across your business so that it does not undermine what you’re doing?”
There is not one blueprint for doing that, he adds. “It’s different for every organization.”
You need a clear picture
To get started, he suggests, “You need a clear picture of what it is you are trying to do and that has to be tied to your business goals. It may not be about how many fans you have. It might be perfect for your business, but for a lot of people it doesn’t do anything at all.”
If your objective is customer service, he says, “Then it’s good to have followers on Facebook and Twitter. But if your objective is for better internal or external communications, that might be a whole different thing.” For instance, a business can engage a community in new product decisions.
Example: A small UK company, Morphsuits, which sells spandex suits that cover the entire body, head-to-toe like a superhero costume, has thousands of followers on Facebook. It asked its community what type of suit it should design next and had a contest that allowed is fans to design one. That suit is now their top-selling product.
“That’s the kind of thing you can do,” says Nicholls.
But, Nicholls says, companies need a framework to discuss social media throughout the entire organization, not just from a marketing or customer service standpoint. “It can be difficult to bring social DNA into some company cultures.”
It’s not just for kids
A friend of his works at a construction company and told him, re social media, “We banned it.” The friend said it was just games and people wasting time. “He still thinks it’s what kids do. He doesn’t have time for a Twitter account. If there is this mindset in your company that it is a waste of time, you are going to hit serious barriers and resistance.”
On the other hand, some companies use it to transform entire industries. “Look at what Groupon did in a recession. It took three elements, crowd buying, the promotional aspect of social media, and permission-based marketing and created the daily deals market. It used those technology tools to come up with a new business model.”
Then, there is Cisco. “They wanted to come up with a billion dollar idea,” Nicholls says. “They used their online platforms and offered $250,000 to the winning entry in a contest. They had entries from 150 countries and 8,229 ideas.”
So, Nicholls asks, “How many people are looking at social media that way? There are hundreds of ways to use these things and many that haven’t been done. As our knowledge of them increases, we’ll see more interesting things being done.”
A lot of companies, he notes, “Think, I’ve got a Facebook page, now I’m finished. It’s not as simple as that. Social media has to be a competency in your organization and you can’t have just one person looking at it.
We’ll follow up with Nicholl’s list of how to look at social media from a broader perspective and start or refresh your efforts next week.
Here’s more from Nicholl’s book on social media risks.
- Ten tips for succeeding with business social media
- Ten most common mistakes in using social media for business
- How are leading non-profits using social media?
- Five risks companies face using social media & how to avoid them
- Companies are willing to pay for social media expertise
© 2012, TechJournal. All rights reserved.