While we all know what a social media site like Facebook, Myspace and of course Twitter are, we might not be so sure how to utilize their services to aid us in running our business. There is lots of information floating around about very large companies starting to dip their toes in social media type solutions centered around their businesses, but not a lot of data specifically telling us how they’re doing, what real differences are they making to the bottom line of the company, or what specific pieces have been implemented that have been identified as the most critical?
Companies these days face an information overload like none before them. There is information coming from every conceivable direction, and managing that information in a timely and efficient manor, is a major concern to those of us strapped with the responsibility of keeping things moving forward. The question, and most important part of any good managers job, is which piece of information is the most important and which can we do without? Do we need a full blown social media site in order to better communicate with our employees, or does giving them access to such a system take away from what they’re actually getting paid to do? Will we reach a point of critical mass where upon, we all have so many social media sites that we need to communicate on that we end up ignoring most of them completely?
When the Internet got started, people started trying to figure out how we could talk to each other about things we were interested in. How could we get help with a problem by those having similar problems? During this time, Forums and email lists were setup to handle these concerns. We could simply join a forum we were interested in, help people out, discuss topics of interest, and actually get help if need be. These forums are still in heavy use today, but honestly, I’m a member of so many forums that I couldn’t possibly tell you which I’ve used in the past. You tend to become numb over the whole thing and resign to using them to find answers to problems instead of sitting and talking all day.
In my mind, social media sites are even worse. Yes, don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to catch up with all your old school mates or long lost loves, but in reality that’s about all they’re good for. The groups of people you let into your little world are so unrelated and mixed that carrying on any lengthly conversation with anyone or getting answers to some specific problem are all but non existent. They really end up being more of a gossip channel than anything of real substance.
So you ask, what’s the point in this article if they serve no use? Well, I didn’t really say they served no use, I said that implementing one in the hopes of gaining valuable information for your own business seems a waste of time. A better use of a social media site and I’ll use twitter as an example, is that knowing it exists, and joining it, may gain you valuable information you might not otherwise be privy to.
Lets say you have a product called ABC Gel and you want to find out if anyone is talking about it. Join twitter, install a program like TweetDeck and setup a custom search on keywords that might capture comments about your product or services. Perhaps most will be from your own company but eventually it may yield results. Perhaps happy customers rave about your product, perhaps ones you thought were happy talk badly about it. Either way it’s good information to have. So while I’m against actually implementing a social media site within your own company, I do believe in using the existing sites to better position for success.
A good CRM system will aid not only in collecting this data, but also in utilizing it to its full potential. Before you rush out and start logging data though, make sure your system allows for keeping data broken apart in meaningful ways. Data collected into a word document is much less useful than data broken into easily searchable pieces. Reports can be written, stripping large text bodies apart into meaningful results, not so easy.
Lastly, you need to develop a plan before you start. Like what information would be really nice to have? What information do we currently collect that really serves no purpose. Then, once you have a list of criteria, design how you’d like to break that information apart to somehow glean that little something extra from the otherwise unimaginable amount of data. This is probably one of the most important steps and probably the least paid attention.
So use Social Media sites as much as you can but I’d hold off a while on trying to create your own corporate versions.