- What is your definition of social media ?
Social media is the result of Internet’s evolution; it is a phenomenon that allows all Internet users to participate in online dialogue whether to create, consume or share content. This participatory characteristic of social media has revolutionized business. In turn, this means that businesses can no longer ignore the huge impact social media has.
- How can social media help a business?
By offering communication, collaboration, communities and collective intelligence opportunities, and it can help maintaining a global and/or a local presence, depending on your strategy. The key is for a company to get the right blend of those potential areas of benefits for its business. It not be doing all of those things, but just one of them for instance. Ideally, if you’re a reasonable sized company you will do a blend of all of them but to differing degrees. It is a rubix cube; you are looking for the optimal solution for your company and that is how I think it can help. You are looking for that strategic edge so think of it as another dimension to your business strategy and that is why I think it is very important that your senior people understand the rudimentary areas of social media, not just Facebook , Twitter, Youtube and LinkedIn. You do not need to know an meticulous level of how to put a Facebook page up or how to tweet, that’s not what’s important, what’s important is that you have people in your strategy sessions that understand these tools and you understand them at least at a level that you can talk to them.
An architect designs a corporate headquarters, does not know how to physically build a wall or put steel up but knows the component parts well enough so he meets the needs of their clients. How social media can help your company is in the design of your company. Maybe you are the kind of company that has a lot of physical assets, and those assets may not be fit for purpose anymore because technology is reconfiguring those assets as a lot of your business could be done online. I am not saying you do not have physical assets but the way your business is configured right now may be out of date and it may be that in 5 years’ time, it is going to have to be changed dramatically. Therefore you might have to think about that now because you might have to change these things in the near future.
- Do businesses in the B2B need social media?
How can it be useful for them? Social media, I would say, is available for everybody. Business-to-business can make use of it for competitive advantage. It is probably not as easy for business-to-business because it is not immediately obvious how it can use social media. If you are a consumer you get a big advertising company come in and show you a campaign on how you can get loads of Facebook followers for instance. It is quite a compelling case, they are effectively telling you ‘here is another dimension of your marking strategy’. I would say, bear in mind what I was talking about with Groupon and Salesforce and these other examples: there are major benefits to be had from social media in the business-to-business industries. People who are getting these savings are not necessarily going to tell everybody about them – I would not want to tell everybody if I was doing really well with this either. Typically, during the years I have worked on different projects, most of my clients do not want me to talk about it, it is usually part of our contract.
- How can you stay ahead of the fast changing social media curve?
How can you stay ahead of the fast changing social media curve? I would say with difficulty because there is so much happening. I would say however that:
- make sure you have the right advisers,
- make sure you have the right resources in your organisation who can advise you and understand this stuff or if you do not have it in your organisation make sure you have someone from outside who can help you,
- have a solid social media strategy and have a solid framework in place that captures the essence of what social media is for your organisation.
Think of it like an architect or project manager building a building. You need someone who can design it for you but you also need someone who can implement it for you. You may have all those people in-house, in which case that’s great, you just have to put it into action. It may be that you do not have those skills in-house and have to bring those people in.
There is nobody on the planet right now who is an expert in everything in this area. Nobody can be an expert in all of it because there is just so much, and things are constantly changing as well. Typically, the way I look at it, is that you need to have a ‘framework’ of ”what is social media for your orgnaization”:
- Benefits and opportunities,
- Key Applications
- How Social Media Landscape is changing over time,
These are the first four chapters of my book, you also need an implementation method, a way of designing it, I recommend the 3-CORE - Project Success System:
- Business Environment – The context in which your Social media has to live
- Project Stages – The time line and decision points to reduction risk
- Project development Cycle – a way of managing the project throughout the stages and relationship to the Business Environment (context)
It is a team approach that you need. It needs to be adaptable and you have to have a step-by-step ongoing strategy and as I say you need somebody, probably at a senior level to be involved in this who at least has to be reasonably enthusiastic about it, otherwise they’re not going to do anything. This is the Second part of my Book chapter 5-8.
- How do you measure the ROI of Social Media?
We agree with the sentiments of Eric Qualman, a professor who writes a lot on social media, who says:
“will you be in business in 5 years time?”.
I kind of lean towards him on this because I think companies that really have not embraced social media – and I do not mean you have to be right at the forefront – but if you have not got this core competence within your company and with your people, I think you are probably going to struggle within your company and could end up being a Kodak or one of these companies caught napping at the wheel. If you look at Kodak, the company had a lot of time to know that digital cameras were out and was even making them itself, but it did not respond to them quick enough – so although social media is fast-moving, it is not that fast-moving.
To change a company and change your culture takes a long time. The chairman of Ecademy, when I interviewed him a while back, said to me that he reckoned it took about 10 years for his company to get this kind of social idea. For instance, he put his mobile number on the website, he has got about a million people linked to him on LinkedIn I think, he is very well connected but he still puts his mobile phone number on the website. How many CEO’s would dare out their mobile phone number on their company website?
Not many, I think, I would not put my mobile number on my website… so I am still not there in that sense.
- What are the most important things to consider when implementing social media?
You need to consider the context of your organisation, your business environment, the organisation culture and your business goals. The context in which you operate, of course sets that, so if you are a Silicon Valley type company, you probably will not have too much problem with social Media because their context is usually quite open and collegiate in that sense. However if you are a defense contractor or construction company that is used to keeping secrets and and a more closed culture, then you are probably going to struggle with social media. You will probably find yourself or senior colleagues asking why you need to do this really and how do we control it! Of course, in some industries social media is more relevant than in others. Some industries are more open and there’s more competition.
Another aspect to consider is time, probably the most significant cost for any organisation around social media. There is an overwhelming amount of stuff, what I would not do is just jump in and do anything, you have to have a plan a program that you break down into phases: start some pilot projects, do some trials and tests.
You need to have a plan to see where it is going and review on a regular basis for new stuff emerging. You also need to understand scaling issues, for some organisations it might not be a problem but I talked to a call centre operation recently and they were saying that the scaling issues for them were going to be quite dramatic, so they were really struggling to see how the economics were going to work for them. For them it is a case of where is the tipping point in which they need to start changing and how are they going to deal with that? Culture is a crucial aspect and I think that depending on where you already are on the continuum of open versus closed.
I.e. Social Media is an amplifier of what kind of company you already are, so if your customer service is poor expect a lot of complaints! If your product is not that great expect customers to tell other customers. They are already do that but you are just not part of that conversation, yet.
Social Media is not a panacea and you not not make a silk purse out of a sows ear. If you are not a great company social media is not going to make you great.
- What are the risks of social media?
How do you overcome these risks? An internal and external social media policy is essential. Also, I think it is essential that it is audited on a regular basis, so it is fit for purpose – it is not just some document you do and stick on a shelf and never really look at it again. It is important that, when you read stuff in the papers or you see things that come up and they are coming up, you know that you also will look at your policy and say:
‘what would we do in that situation? The way that we operated, could that happen to us?’
There have been some real horror stories around that and of course there are legal cases, the law typically lags behind social media so there are media cases that are coming along that are changing some of these things.
So a good social media policy is essential.
- Why is it important for social media to be implemented at the top ?
Why is it important for social media to be implemented at the top as opposed to from the marketing or IT department?
We are not saying do not do it in the marketing department, the marketing department should definitely be doing social media but it is more than just a marketing tool or channel. The key question to ask is: where does social media fit in the organisation and who at the top level is responsible for it from a strategic perspective not just the website or PR? It could be something you use in market research, research and development or customer service as well as all other areas of your business. Depending on the business you have, it could be that marketing is a small piece for you and it could be more sensible to have it somewhere else.
There is a huge difference between doing a bit of Facebook and Twitter and putting 4 or 5 buttons on your website than bringing social media into the DNA of your business. For your business to be a more social-orientated one, bringing social media into the DNA of your business is key and is really a change management project – that’s where I come from. I personally think that the company of the future is going to be having social at its centre, and that’s going to be about the kind of people that are there. It is a strategic resource, a new dimension of strategy, and I think that your competitors, if they are not already, are now trying to figure out how to get a competitive advantage in this new way and if you are not thinking along these lines, you are already left behind. Especially if you are a market leader.
If you are a leader and you are not already thinking about this, you need to really start upping your game. Create a common language, goals and vision, so that you can communicate very simply and easily within your organisation. It is a must because you have got so many people out there who are giving conflicting messages. When somebody says social media, the kind of mental picture that people have in a group of 10 or 20 people greatly varies between each person, so you need to have a picture that is, if you like, common to your organisation and have a set of common language around your organisation so that you can discuss subjects in a way that is inclusive and useful to your people.
- What constitutes a winning social media strategy?
In essence, a winning social media strategy will be one that determines what combinations of social media are needed for your organization according to your business goals, and implement a social media project through an adaptable, step-by-step framework within the context of your organization. The 3-CORE Project Success System is, for instance, a systematic model that will work to optimize benefits while mitigating risks, if and when they arise. There is no point in going enthusiastically in the wrong direction and doing a bit of everything, but targeting your social media project to fit your goals, vision and industry is what you need to focus on.
- Can business do without social media?
Social media is no longer a choice. It is a strategic resource and a new dimension to corporate strategy. If you do not incorporate it within your business strategy now, your competitors will do so before you and it will then be a matter of catching up instead of innovating. An maybe you will not be around in the future!
The key reason business can not do with out social media is the opportunities and the benefits that are afforded by Social Media, a business leader would be mad to ignore the value of these.