Social media: Time waster or valuable business tool

May 26, 2009 at 4:37 pm Leave a comment

Social media is often seen as diminishing employee productivity.  Blogging, instant messaging, tweeting, checking RSS feeds and social website pages have (almost) replaced visiting porn sites as the subject of policies on Internet use. However, social media can help organizations increase staff productivity, save money, build their customer/donor/volunteer base and meet strategic goals. So for those Baby Boomer and Veteran managers who have not yet embraced social media, here is a brief primer on business applications and benefits of social media.

How Social Media Helps

Used correctly, certain forms of social media can

  • Position your organization as the expert in the area
  • Find answers that solve organizational problems
  • Obtain feedback to guide decision-making
  • Document projects, procedures and meetings to painlessly produce reports, manuals and minutes
  • Mobilize the community to take action, donate, buy your service, or register for events
  • Help you stay current and reduce information overload.

Simply put, with all the potential benefits, what organization can afford not to harness the power of social media? And it is virtually all free.

What is Social Media?

Social media is internet technology that supports users to create and communicate content interactively without having any particular computer programming skills. Social media is all about interactivity, conversation and engagement.  Like many things that are “so easy a child could do it,” the best guide to using social media is often a child—or more accurately a teenager or young adult. Generation Yers are often enthusiastic users and eager to teach Boomers how to use various social media. What they don’t necessarily know is how to get the most from social media from a business perspective. That’s what we’ll focus on here.

Social Networking Sites. Facebook is the current most popular social networking site. Besides personal profiles, one can also create Facebook groups and business pages. Groups are good for sharing information about upcoming events or photos/video from past events, mobilizing social or political action via notices to members, and sharing relevant statistics or links to websites through discussion threads. If your target audience for an event or issue includes Facebook users, establish a Facebook group and add the link to your other communications. As with groups, a Facebook business page lets you post photos and video, blog via discussion threads, advertise events and send your fans updates.

LinkedIn is a networking site for professionals and is a great tool for learning, teaching and image-building. Each LinkedIn member has a public profile, as well as a more detailed version accessible only to your connections. The best thing about LinkedIn is that you can ask questions and get answers and links to resources from experts worldwide—absolutely free.

Blogs. Although most people think of blogs as navel-gazing or rants by people who need to get a life, many blogs share professional expertise and “how-to” information. At their best, organizations use them to explain controversial decisions, tell their stories, gather input/feedback and start conversations. Blogs are Web 2.0’s answer to the newsletter, with better interactivity than the old “letters to the editor.”

Twitter. This is sometimes described as a blog for those with short attention spans. Each “tweet” is limited to 140 characters. Twitter can be used to advertise jobs and events (or changes to them), make important announcements, provide links to your website/blog/video, and even leverage fundraising or initiate strategic partnerships.

RSS. An acronym for “really simple syndication,” RSS is a means by which you get notified of new information by people whose writing you consider worth following. Instead of having to check someone’s website (or blog) for anything new, you get a notice with the title and lead of the new listing. It’s a great way to avoid information overload while not missing anything that is important to you.

On the flip side, having an RSS feed on your blog or website allows others to follow you. Like getting a “best answer” label on LinkedIn or being “followed” on Twitter, having traffic to your communications help establish you or your organization as the go-to guys in your area of expertise. Print and electronic media are also not immune to the power of social media to tell them where the stories are.

Wikis. Hawaiian for “quick,” a wiki is like an electronic document with multiple authors. The best known is Wikipedia. A community of interested parties creates a body of knowledge that is easily shared and updated, so no one is working from outdated information. This knowledge could take the form of a procedural manual for a set of tasks, checklists with steps taken to mount an event/campaign, or project documentation. Instead of writing a report at the end of the project, the wiki documentation forms the basis for the report or becomes the report. Unlike templates and “how-to” files on a server, a wiki lets you link related files and forms and to do searches on keywords.

Connecting the Dots

Your organization’s goals should drive your use of social media, not the other way around. It is important to link your social media to your organization website and vice versa, to increase traffic to your sites and build strong relationships with those who share your interests and can help you meet your business goals.

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Entry filed under: Management, Social Media. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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