Such a simple, innocent little question isn’t it?
I have pondered if there is there an equally innocent and succinct answer to this question? In my opinion I do not believe there is such a simple and elegant answer.
“But why? I just want you to tell me the answer!”, you say. I shall explain.
There are many reasons why businesses will want to implement social media in the organisation and depending on what the business wishes to achieve with social media will determine for them what role it will play.
“Well, we know it’s out there and there is a huge audience of literally billions of users on the internet who are ready and willing to listen to us – so surely we just jump on the band-wagon and get on with it!”, you might possibly ask.
Well actually you are quite correct and if exploring social media as a marketing channel to get your word out onto the information highways of the Internet is your aim then here are some interesting statistics from a 2010 Neilsen study performed in New Zealand.
- 44% of NZ Twitter users have ‘followed’ companies or brands via Twitter
- 42% of all NZ’ers are interacting with companies or brands via social networking sites
- 73% of all NZ’ers have read other consumers product opinions online. Of the remaining 27%, two thirds of those planned to do so.
So yes, if that is your aim then the role of social software within your business might be among the following:
- to generate hype about existing or planned products
- to facilitate communication with our consumers
- to personify the voice of our company
- to be transparent
- to build a climate of trust with people
This is not always as clear-cut as the aim of social software for the individual business can be very different. So we must examine your purpose for you choosing social media in the first place, to answer this question.
There are a number of reasons, some I have given above however there are numerous others such as:
- Facilitating conversations between people within the business (synergy)
- Capturing tacit knowledge
- Being able to share experiences and perspective and have a deeper level of engagement with customers
The list goes on. The approach to discovering the role social software can play in your business might take you on a journey such as the example I give below however I recommend you should always start by examining “purpose” first and foremost.
- Purpose, as explained above in a round-about way is the foundation upon which you will build your social networking strategy, rather than just jumping in boots-first.
- Decide who your target audience is
- Assess the benefits and risks
- Define your approach – you may firstly wish to only act passively with your community at first by listening to what is being said about you. Then you may wish to incrementally become more active by answering questions, posting links and correcting inaccuracies through to becoming (once you are established and comfortable) fully engaged in the community by introducing discussions, posting regularly and responding to questions.
- Do not forget to form some goals and objectives – measure your successes
I believe that the biggest misconception is that setting up a Twitter or Facebook account is a “quick win” and that you will have succeeded in the social media space and all of your dreams will come true overnight by doing so.
In actual fact, it takes time to build up a community of followers and to commit to social media in your business is to be in for the long-haul by committing resources to keeping your posts interesting and frequent.
There are many more considerations to give when implementing social software which I will blog in the coming few months, but I hope the information I have given above is enough for you to digest when considering what the role of software is within your business.