Social Media best practices


What is Social Media’s Next Big Thing?

One possible answer:   The Enterprise.

No, no. Not the Star Trek kind of Enterprise (although that would be pretty cool).   I mean using social media technologies internally, within the large company kind of enterprise.

I’m often asked what I think the next big thing in social media might be.  I’m excited about a lot of different possibilities — true integrations with traditional advertising, big data, real-time interactivity with TV and movies, augmented reality, the promise of location-based apps, the Internet of Things — but “enterprise social media” is the idea that I think could be the biggest near-term game-changer for many large companies.

Let’s step back a minute and think about some of the benefits an individual realizes from social networking:

  • Linking people who might not otherwise be linked
  • Information sharing and education
  • Crowd-sourced innovation and problem-resolution
  • Collaboration
  • Relationship-building through trust and community
  • Exposure to diverse ideas

Now what if we applied social software to those people working within a company?  If employees in a far-flung global company could harvest these benefits internally, couldn’t this create a significant competitive advantage?

The enticing aspect of this idea is that the technology is certainly already there to achieve this. And, of course there are people in every company who would share the vision too.

So why aren’t we seeing more success stories in this area?  The problem is undoubtedly rooted in an issue I wrote about recently — companies are usually not moved to action by vague promises of improved collaboration. They want ROI, but sometimes the benefits of the social web are intangible, and very difficult to plot on a spreadsheet.

While there are isolated examples of success in applying social technologies across an enterprise, most companies still do not let employees access the social web from work, let alone implement internal social networking platforms.

A recent article by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown in the Harvard Business Review did a terrific job of capturing the potential of this opportunity as they explained how the social web can drive real internal company value.

1) ACCESS

“Access,” the authors note, involves the ability to find, learn about, and connect with the right people, information, and resources to address unanticipated needs.

In today’s global companies, the information needed to create a breakthrough idea, or even just do your job more effectively, may reside in people scattered across departments and geographies.  No organizational chart is going to help you find the knowledge you need.

Social software allows the user to reach out to a large number of relevant participants and bring them into a virtual discussion on a specific problem or challenge, so tacit knowledge is shared and new knowledge is created. But social software also captures, and makes these informal conversations searchable. IBM’s internal Twitter experiment is a well-documented example of the potential of this kind of application.

2) ATTRACT

The biggest benefit I’ve personally received from social networking is attracting a group of people (like you!) who have helped me create new business benefits — concepts and opportunities I had not even considered before.

The article notes that this “serendipity,” or the discovery of important and needed resources without even knowing what to look for, is exactly what occurred for the Enterprise Social Media Experiment team at SAP.  What began as a discussion between a small group of participants grew into a synergistic global collaborative development effort between developers from different parts of the world.

3) ACHIEVE

“Achieve” is about driving more rapid learning and sustained performance improvement through meaningful relationships as they develop through the internal social network. Companies won’t be able to achieve sustained and extreme performance just by connecting workers weakly to resources and information.  The real value comes when the one-off interactions develop into relationships and those relationships facilitate sustained collaboration. Individuals and companies achieve their potential when they can tap into and create tacit knowledge through long-term collaborative relationships.

And just to add fuel to my argument about finding new ways to calculate the value of social media qualitatively, the authors also conclude that “Calculating a financial ROI requires too many assumptions, and it distracts from a more explicit focus on the key operating metrics that drive line managers. Once you have embarked on a social software implementation, measuring the improvement in specific operating metrics and looking for opportunities to tell and re-tell the stories of workers who became more productive through the use of these tools can make the connection to social software tangible for others in your organization.” So there. : )

What’s the next big thing in social media?  So many exciting possibilities!  Are you seeing any internal social applications in your company?  What innovations capture YOUR imagination?

Is your company creating a social media ghost town?

This week we continue to put {grow} in the hands of the community by featuring Nashville marketer Laura Click and her ideas about why companies abandon their social efforts:

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark for lunch at popular Nashville spot called Urban Flats.  At the end of our meal, we were impressed to receive a card promoting the restaurant’s Twitter and Facebook profiles with our checks. Certainly, this was a great way to invite customers to connect with the restaurant online.

Recently, I visited Urban Flats again and received the same social media promo card. I decided to tweet about the great meal I had there with a friend. As a social media enthusiast, I was hoping to hear back from the restaurant. But, instead of a tweet, I heard crickets chirping.

A couple of days later, I checked out the restaurant’s twitter page and found they hadn’t updated it in months. What a shame. It’s like sending out invitations to a party at your house, but you’re not home when people show up.

The Urban Flats Twitter page is a prime example of a social media ghost town, and I’m quite confident this isn’t the only of its kind on the web. In fact, I think this is scenario is becoming more common as statistics show that only 21 percent of Twitter users are active on the site.

So, why do people let their Twitter profile, blog or Facebook page become a social media ghost town? Here some common reasons:

  • Lack of time. While social media may indeed be “free”, people rarely take into account the investment of time needed to tend to it. Although you don’t need to spend hours a day on social media sites, it’s important to carve out some time to get anything out of it. When people don’t take the time, the site falters.

 

  • Lack of content ideas. On many ghost town sites, you can practically smell the desperation as the posts begin to dwindle. “We have a patio!” or “We have great food!” It’s clear that many people just don’t know what to say, so they quit trying. Let’s use Urban Flats as an example – what could they share with their customers? Here are some ideas:
  1. Ask customers about their favorite flatbread or wine.
  2. Thank customers who tweet about the restaurant or check in via Foursquare or Gowalla.
  3. Create a recipe contest – the winner gets to name the flat bread and gets a free meal to go with it.
  4. Retweet posts from the shops nearby.
  5. Share articles about healthy eating, events in Nashville or urban renewal (something Urban Flats promotes).
  6. Search for people looking for restaurant suggestions in Nashville and suggest Urban Flats.
  7. Send menu updates, offer specials and promote events.
  8. Post photos of your staff members or share behind the scenes look at making the flatbreads.

 

  • Lack of success. Some people believe that merely having a social media presence will cause piles of money to show up on your doorstep. Clearly, this is not the case. While there may be a number of factors that contribute to an unsuccessful social media effort, businesses that don’t see immediate results tend to give up.
  • Lack of comfort. Believe it or not, social media doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If someone isn’t comfortable using social media or if it doesn’t match their personality, it shows. And, they often quit as a result.

A ghost town is a depressing place full of abandoned buildings, broken glass and tumbleweed. Don’t let your blog or profile become one. If you do, perhaps it’s time to consider if no social media presence is better than a ghost town.

Why do you think people abandon their social media efforts? Should they close down their blog or profiles if they quit updating it?

Laura Click is founder and chief innovator at Blue Kite Marketing, a consulting group dedicated to helping small businesses grow. You can learn more about Laura by checking out her blog at www.lauraclick.com.

Small business? THIS is how to work the social web!

Over the past year, some of the most powerful marketing lessons I’ve learned haven’t come from a book, a guru or a webinar. They’ve come from Chandra Michaels.

Chandra is an Austin-based entrepreneur and artist who hasn’t just created an audience of customers, friends and followers for her Sugarluxe brand –  She’s created a MOVEMENT.

Chandra has skillfully used the social web to connect to fans around the globe with an amazing spirit of community, devotion, and authenticity.  In the difficult business world of art, she now receives about 40 percent of her total sales through Facebook and has turned up in the pages of leading magazines such as Life, Us, and InStyle. Her artwork has been featured in places as diverse as the MTV Awards to a permanent installation in San Francisco’s famous Hotel Des Arts.

I feature Chandra’s marketing style and success prominently as a case study in my college classes and now I want to introduce this visionary businesswoman and exceptional friend to the community on {grow}. If you’re an entrepreneur and want to learn how to leverage the social web as a marketing channel, pay close attention to one of my marketing heroes:

Chandra, what’s the recipe for your secret marketing sauce?  What would you tell others trying to emulate your success of igniting a movement?

Well, I’m convinced that you and I share the same secret ingredient.  A heaping spoonful of sugar!

Being kind to others, finding and sharing something you admire or appreciate in them, connecting with someone on a personal level — that’s at the core of who I am and how I do business.

It’s what drew me to you instantly because you have such a truly caring and captivating personality.  The way I’ve watched you connect with your readers, clients and students comes from a place of genuine concern, passion and a love for what you’re doing.   People are very smart.  They can spot a phony.  I think success, at least in part, comes from being real, risking being vulnerable, and reaching out to build lasting relationships with the people who believe in what you do.

As an entrepreneur, how do you specifically use the social web to fuel your business success?

First, and I can never say this enough, it’s about Quality over Quantity!

I don’t ever let myself get sidetracked by a desire to accumulate big numbers to impress people. The number of fans, followers and friends I have is essentially irrelevant to me.  What matters most is the quality of interaction and participation.  A lot of businesses simply don’t get that.

Word of mouth remains one of the MOST powerful ways to market. I’m very dependent on it.

Even though my collection is sold by major retailers, the lion’s share of money in these situations, goes to those entities. We have a multitude of revenue streams, but the only way for me to really make profit is to sell direct.

I view my visibility in the retail sector as getting paid to advertise. We make everything here locally (mostly in-house), the cost of goods is high and selling wholesale is not very beneficial to the bottom line.  My hope is that if someone discovers my work in a big box store, they are curious to know more about me.  Then, maybe they will search for the Sugarluxe name on Google, find our website, and if I’m really lucky they tell their friends about me too.  Knock on wood, it’s worked pretty well so far…

How has your marketing strategy evolved?

I learned a long time ago that I can’t just build it and they will come. It’s amazing how many people subscribe to this myth. But seriously, and as you already know Mark, it takes so much strategic planning and effort.

I write every single word on our website.  I work methodically to optimize my copy for good search engine placement. On our accessory lines, Sugarluxe is on page one, if not on the very top, for most our key search terms. And I’ve never paid for keyword advertising. Heck, I’ve never paid for any advertising. It’s time consuming, but I’m competing with so many choices out there. Small businesses MUST do this themselves or hire someone who can.

Also, I have to go where my buyers are.  When they were on MySpace, I was there. By the end of 2008, most had migrated to Facebook. I was reluctant to follow suit because it felt so much more personal than MySpace. Until that time, most clients and customers didn’t even know my real name. But I set up a business/fan page on Facebook last year and it quickly paid off.

Getting out from behind the comfort of my canvas has helped me to better understand the people who buy my work — so that I can continue to evolve as an artist. My participation in social media and (although inconsistently) writing on my blog has not only helped my business grow, it has helped me grow and learn as a person.

You told me that Twitter has been a challenge for you. What’s up with that?

Twitter’s cool – I use it occasionally, but I prefer Facebook. It feels like a real community to me. In my view, Twitter handed out what amounts to millions of virtual megaphones. Everyone is shouting into them at the same time, and because it’s so hard to hear, very few are able to really listen.

And getting people to listen is critical.

In order to tend to your life, business and art, you’ve taken big chunks of time away from your social web activities. What are some of your time management challenges, and when you step away, do you find it disrupts the momentum of your online community?

What a great question!

Everything about time management is a challenge for me. I don’t have a particularly healthy work/life balance yet. But I’m getting better.  And if I’m good at anything, it’s interviewing, hiring and training people. It’s part of what I did in my early corporate career.  So when I started hiring for Sugarluxe, I was experienced at finding the best and brightest candidates. Committed, passionate employees can make a huge difference.

In terms of stepping away from the web?

I worried about this very thing when I decided to take a little “social” break.  The amazing thing is … this month has been our very best month in the history of my company and it’s typically a slow time. But you’re right – for 6 months – the marketing part of my business has been on auto-pilot. I’ve been working like mad behind the scenes, but I had to retreat from the public eye.

I went through some personal turmoil and I just couldn’t give of myself for awhile. Going back to my earlier comments about being genuine … I can’t feign interest or happiness.   I felt empty for a little bit.   I wasn’t going to pretend to be something I was not.  And I was afraid my business would suffer for it.

But in fact, it did the exact opposite. It gained more momentum. Credit is entirely due to loyal friends and fans. They kept it alive for me so that I could recharge.  I’m so incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to cultivate this type of environment and surround myself with such amazing people.

To many of your fans, you’ve become more than an artist. What has it been like transitioning from a young, struggling artist to role model and a celebrity in your field?

I wish you could see me in person. You just made my cheeks so red.

When I was young, I always imagined I would be published as an author long before being published (or possbily even recognized) as an artist.  Not that I’m a great writer, but I have an overwhelming urge to tell people they’re not alone in their struggles.  It wasn’t until much later that I discovered I’m much better conveying my thoughts with images than I am through words alone.

Like anyone else who reads this, I’ve encountered some bad people. Their marks could have been indelible.  But I refuse to let those people have permanence in my life.

I want to focus on what’s good, what’s right, and what’s wonderful. I’m a sensitive, artsy type. I could get so down if I allowed myself to wallow in all that’s wrong with the world. Instead, my work is an ongoing study in optimism and its cumulative effects on life.

How I live is so basic. I try to see the glass half full. But I’m not so myopic that I can’t see pain and suffering. I try to be very open about my experiences — both good and bad. Many times I feel vulnerable and exposed. But it’s the risk I’m always willing to take if it means it could help someone else.

And as much as I hope to help others, the way I’ve benefited most in my business, is realizing how much they’ve helped me in return.

I was told by my grandmother that I have good features. If we allow for a little airbrushing, do you think I could be the next Sugarluxe model?

Your grandmother sounds like my kind of girl!  And since you clearly exemplify a desirable combination of beauty AND brains, I’d say you’re my perfect muse!

To learn more about Chandra and how she establishes her marketing movement, I highly recommend that you observer her in action on Twitter, Facebook and her blog at www.sugarluxe.com

The clash of the social media know-nothings

The know-nothings.

You know who I’m talking about right?  Social media “marketers” who have never practiced marketing.  Maybe have never even had a sales job or a college-level marketing class. But they’ve created a Facebook page and have 500 followers on Twitter so somehow that makes them a guru.

“You can’t walk out your house without bumping into a social-media expert today, said Forrester Analyst Sean Corcoran in a WSJ article. “The reality is the space is still very much a Wild West.”

I’m not going to dwell on the shake-and-bake “experts” and their webinar info-mercials promising to unleash profits through the magic of follower lists and multi-level marketing scams.  Enough has been written about that. The point of this post is that there is a clash in the marketplace because there aren’t enough true social media marketing experts — with the emphasis on MARKETING — to go around.

[SOCIALADS]

Look at what’s happening on the demand side.  Ad spending on social networks world-wide is expected to rise 14% this year to $2.5 billion. Every advertising, marketing and public relations firm in the world wants a piece of the action and is looking for talent.   Consider these news bites from the past week:

  • Universal McCann, is launching a social media practice this month called Rally.  “Social media is now part of all our clients’ plans; we can’t not be in this space,” says Matt Seiler, chief executive of Universal McCann.
  • Publicis Groupe‘s digital umbrella organization, VivaKi, says it also will open a social-media consulting practice this year.
  • Pepsi‘s Gatorade brand created a “Mission Control Center,” which is set up like a broadcast-television control room, to monitor the sports drink around the clock across social-media networks.
  • Kraft hired 360i, a digital ad agency owned by Japan’s largest ad company, Dentsu  to monitor brands like Oreo and Jell-O.
  • Microsoftis currently searching for a social-media firm to handle duties for its Xbox videogame system.

In other words, social media marketing is white freaking hot.

Now for the supply side of the clash.  Who is going to fill all these positions?   Unless you define success by the loosey-goosey standards of “engagement” and “conversations,”  there just aren’t many individuals out there who have actually demonstrated an ability to use social media to move the needle for a business.  And I don’t mean new “followers.”  I mean sales. Cash flow. New customers.

If you have the fire-power and mega-budgets of Microsoft, Pepsi and the other big brands, you can certainly buy your way into success on the social web.   But the vast majority of businesses out there are going to be stuck with the no-nothings instead of the exceptional marketing talent they really need to grow their business.

The dirty little secret the know-nothings are keeping from you is that, with the rare exceptions, nobody wants to be Facebook Friends with your company. You’re going to need much more than an intern tweeting earnestly about your latest coupons to impact your bottom line.  We live in a society that is absolutely sick of being advertised to, sold to, and marketed to, which is why most people turn to Farmville and the social networks to ESCAPE commercialism. So if a know-nothing is promising that they have this figured out and they’re going to help your car dealership or clothes boutique be the next Old Spice succcess story by “listening” to the Twitter stream … well, be afraid.

At the end of the day making money on the social web — or anywhere — still gets down to MARKETING FUNDAMENTALS.  Research, strategy, planning.  Creating points of differentiation. Finding a unique way to delight your customers and out-smart  your competitors.  And then, using the social web as a channel. Maybe.

For most businesses trying to figure out what to do with all this social media stuff, forget about finding a social media expert. That’s a hammer looking for a nail. Find the best, most experienced marketing pro you can afford and let them figure out where it fits for you, if at all.

Can I hear an “amen?”

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