Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Where does social media fit for the enterprise?

The ubiquity of social media indicates it is a channel which is here to stay. While Facebook campaigns and Twitter tactics can appear natural for household name brands, effective adoption in the enterprise space can be more difficult to get to grips with.

Recent research suggested that social media platforms now receive three and a half times more mobile users than those using fixed desktop solutions. In terms of users, Facebook leads the way with 750million, while Twitter is said to have a growing user base of 100million, LinkedIn boasts 120million while Google+ claims 20 million users.

This explosion of users owes a large debt to the penetration of smartphones in the western world. It’s not unreasonable to forecast that by 2015 4billion people will have social media access via their smartphones. Mobile and social media is the perfect marriage. So how is best to exploit it for gain in the enterprise?

The main tools
It’s likely that if you’re reading this, you’re already aware of the key social media tools; those popularly spoken of to represent the medium: Facebook and Twitter. These two platforms are critical, but the impact of collaborative social media tools can go much further.

Socially driven internal working tools are helping businesses to operate, share and become more efficient, reducing email “chaff” and ensuring relevant information is disseminated as quickly as possible.

But for quick and easy social media wins, the adoption of two independent accounts through Twitter and a blogging website should be considered. The objective here is to grow reputation as a respected, knowledgeable authority on your business profession. But it won’t happen overnight. Over time, by thoughtfully sharing relevant, compelling content – links to news stories and opinion pieces, perhaps with a few words of your own opinion – you will garner followers and respect.

This can be supported by preparing and adhering to a strategy which outlines the frequency, pacing and style of your messages.

Added to this should be a simple blogging platform, such as those freely available through Wordpress or Blogger. Here you can share your expertise at greater length, ensuring the subject is never an explicit sales pitch.

Only once a degree of engagement is earned is it sensible to integrate with the direct campaign promotion of your business’s products and services.

Ask yourself this
When generating any social media messages, from status updates and tweets, to full blog posts, it’s worth asking:

- Is this different or am I repeating what most people already know?
- Is this likely to be considered useful or interesting?
- Will it make an impact on people?
- How likely is it to breed discussion and engagement?
- Is it compelling enough to be retweeted and virally shared?

Also beware of a stream of self-involvement. Messages which are always, or mostly always about one single subject are unlikely to hold much value or interest, especially if that one subject is one person. Self-centred commentaries – while being an exaggerated, common misconception about the medium – are a massive turn-off.

If you experience engagement, the onus is on you to respond. Social media is an inherently two-way channel which demands attention and upkeep. If others respond to your messages, then keep the conversation going. It’s good to talk!

In forming a strategy and setting objectives it’s worth focussing on frequency and pacing of your messages. Sending a glut of a dozen tweets inside five minutes will obviously weaken the impact of your messages. Decide how and when to send your messages. If you’re failing to achieve any engagement, ask yourself why.

Private circles

Privately contained social groups can help the internal operations of enterprises. LinkedIn and Facebook contain the ability to create closed, permission-based groups which can be closely monitored and policed, while Google+ has similar private circles.

There are also bespoke solutions for collaboration. According to its website, Yammer “brings the power of social networking inside the enterprise in a private and secure environment”. 

Where to start
When beginning a social media journey for business, it’s wise to start small. Set up a twitter account and consider how to appropriately brand the twitter page and your avatar image. From there select relevant colleagues and peers to follow, and start to interact with them. Once this starts to make sense, consider creating a blog to exhibit expert opinion.

Internally look at your methods of sharing electronic data. It might be that creating an internal knowledge base through a system like Yammer will streamline processes and make inboxes more manageable.

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