My friend Jason Breed who is the senior director of business development at Neighborhood America, which probably has one of the best developed social networking platforms in the industry, sent me a great post about the melting pot that is social media. Jason has a wonderful perspective and insight into what “large” companies perceive and what they want and ultimately what they need. Herein are is thoughts.
It’s very intriguing to me in my travels to listen to people discuss the term “social media”. People of all types and experience levels in the corporate space relate it, mostly as a negative connotation, to existing social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, etc or they relate it, still with negative connotation, to consumer marketing flops dating back to the GM “tell me what you think about Suburbans” snafu to more recently the Motrin Moms incident.
Other areas where social media gets used a lot is with web 2.0 initiatives. First, anyone still referring to versions of the internet have their own issues, next, the majority of the population still does not understand exactly what a blog, forum or certainly a wiki is or does. Why should they? They are a series of features and tools not solutions. When is the last time you woke up and said to your loved one, “can’t wait to forum today!”? While the tool sets have some social elements to them, there are many corporate blogs still run by the marketing department that are far from social. In fact, many still use them to self publish push messaging while fully moderating comments and publishing selected content. Something about lipstick and pigs come to mind here.
So what is social media, well it does include much of what is mentioned above however it also includes a whole world of opportunities that takes a bit more creativity to understand the possibilities.
To me, social media is simply a term of interaction. It has become a container term for a lot of things however it all comes down to enabling interactions. The ability to develop a cycle of communications between two or more parties either through online or mobile. Understanding this as a framework, you can apply this interaction to employee communications, consumer transactions, partners, CRM, BPM, shareholders, etc or any mix therein. In fact any department from construction to office management to sales, development, customer support, logistics management, public relations, human resources, and any other department you can think of can use the construct of developing better interactions (ie. Social media) to begin to solve traditional business issues.
When you get beyond simple marketing and word-of-mouth campaigns, it becomes much easier to understand how applying social elements to traditional processes can save time, costs or even increase revenues. Consider the traditional sales cycle that is manually touched 4-5 times before it gets into a sales funnel or CRM package. Using social elements, even a small sales team could manage a lot more information from customers with better purchasing metrics if you had a creative way to allow customers to automatically feed the CRM system on the front end through a professional (social) interaction.
For those who understand the construct that the social environment has allowed us to create though improved interactions beyond the obvious consumer marketing tactics, 2009 will truly be a very constructive and profitable year for businesses of all shapes and sizes