While we continue to hear more about social media and the ways companies are leveraging these tools, I want to point out the significance of the business purpose for using them. As these tools have evolved from communication experiments to integrated marketing tools the next phase we need to watch will be the transition to how Twitter, LinkedIn and other tools become part of an organizations’ business processes. As we expand the use of new technologies and how to integrate them into communications, the emergence of social media on such a broad scale is making it more attractive to use them in the mainstream operations of management and business.
Part of this transition will cause frustrations. We fought early on to prove how useful these tools are to the business (“Social media is nice to know, but my kids only use it”), and now the business function is realizing the potential (“Thanks for getting this started for marketing, but I’ll take it from here.”). But businesses will need to evolve with the growing use of social media among customers and the rise in data — how will you play a part in that change?
I believe this transition over the coming years can be successful through following what I call the three I’s of social business media: Influence, Information, Insight, Interpretation.
Influence: If you want social media to “have a seat at the table” or to be taken seriously by management, you’re going to have to focus on developing influence with key internal stakeholders. Your number of followers that you’ve built up are great. The Google analytics looks strong. The feedback from your community is positive. But none of that matters if you aren’t talking to the right people and communicating what this means. You need be able to actively participate with the people who matter internally and get them to understand why social media is making a difference; to the company, the brand and to them. The bottom line is that if you want social media to have more of an influence than you need to spend time with the people that are important to the business. How do you get there if you are not already? You can focus on two other I’s.
Information: Business leaders thrive on information from customers, about competitors, on legal matters and trends. We continue to be awash in data from social media and how we use that data is important. If you are not getting closer to the data and the people and tools that help you track what is happening than I suggest you change that now. Successful business leaders know that information is key. A quote I often reference is, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” Information allows business leaders to sort and sift through data in order to find out what’s happening in their world. And good data can you answer the question, “What are we trying to achieve?” But information alone won’t get you there. You also need the next I.
Insight: I do believe that having unique insights is extremely useful for someone to be successful in business. That means over time you need to continue to work on developing your analytical skills in order to answer questions and provide ideas. In addition, you need to get really good at asking the right questions. Being able to look at data, understand the trends you are seeing, and then provide interesting thoughts on how to help the business will help you stand out. From my experience, really good business managers like working with and using people who can help them read into trends and what those trends mean for the company’s future. In addition, they value unique viewpoints that may actually differ from what they are seeing. Having the communication skills to interpret the economic value of what you are seeing from social media activities can be a powerful opportunity for you.
There is no doubt in my mind that social media can and will play an important role in the business function of a company. I continue to see examples from large and small companies alike that are leveraging these technologies and their ability to connect with people to create unique advantages. Taking it to the next level requires time and resources, which I know not everyone has these days. I challenge you take some time to think about what it is that can help you make a difference, learn from the many best practices and examples that exist, and then see if the three I’s make a difference for you.
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