Many managers and professionals are struggling with the new world of social media technology.
MANY managers and professionals are struggling with the new world of social media technology. This new frontier of technology and communication presents unique challenges for modern businesses, and the question of whether to use social media in your business is now more relevant than ever.
The powerful example of how social media can affect change is illustrated in the recent ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings in the Middle East. By empowering thousands of individuals to communicate in real time across multiple channels, critical knowledge could be transferred instantly to all participants, which enabled the organisers to harness the power of the crowd and overthrow their governments.
When it comes to using social media in businesses, there is a range of views, many of them firmly held.
One opinion is that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and everything else are just a waste of time that self-absorbed people use to send out useless information about themselves. Those of this view don’t see any proof that social media leads to benefits for the company or for themselves.
On the other side are the early-adopters and technologically savvy people who believe that social media is the new world order. They see it as the modern way to communicate with large numbers of people, quickly and at very little cost. This world view can go as far as thinking that anyone not tweeting, not on Facebook, not linked in on LinkedIn or using Yammer to communicate with colleagues is out of touch with reality or worse, irrelevant.
Before you answer the question whether your business should use social media or not, it would be useful to start with the facts.
A brief summary of the current major social media channels
• Facebook: 845 million users. Primarily a personal medium for socially connecting with friends and acquaintances. Limited business-to-business appeal but strong business-to-consumer interactions.
• LinkedIn: 53 million users. A business-to-business networking site for professionals to communicate about jobs, which services a company or person offers, and more recently groups that communicate on topics of their interest.
• Twitter: 383 million users. A simplified message publishing system for short notes shared among ‘followers’.
• Yammer: 800,000 users. An internal communication system that is used to communicate in real-time between employees in their organisation.
As you can see, social media is no longer a fad. Hundreds of millions of users across dozens of platforms means a dynamic shift in the way internal and external communications are handled. Does your business have a strategy in place to manage your social media communications?
Recommend for managers and professionals
• You and your company should have your own LinkedIn page.
• Set up a Facebook business page if your business is consumer focused.
• Use Twitter to communicate informal time-sensitive updates.
• Use Yammer to communicate to staff and groups. One company we are working with is using it for leadership development.
Effective use of social media
• Facebook – use privacy settings to manage what potential colleagues can see
• Twitter – use this medium to communicate interesting, current, short messages to people and groups to stimulate ideas and cool information
• LinkedIn – don’t try to sell your products or services. Join or start groups where you want to be a thought leader; you want to participate and influence people’s thinking
• Yammer – keep communication short and to the point. Use it to replace short meetings of less than three people but any more than that and face to face is still best.
We can’t afford to ignore what is happening on social media because it is not going to go away. It is one of the fastest growing phenomena in the world and showing no signs of slowing down.
A great book to read on the topic is Open Leadership by Charlene Li. This book describes how social media can be used by organisations from a manager’s point of view. It also provides some excellent examples of the social media policy of major companies such as HP, which can provide an excellent example to start with for any company that doesn’t already have one.
Ron Cacioppe is managing director of Integral Development, one of Perth’s most unique and experienced leadership and management consultancies. He is also adjunct professor at Curtin’s Australian Sustainable Development Institute. David Jardine is Integral’s marketing and social media manager.
Contact Ron or David on 9242 8122 | firstname.lastname@example.org