Social media, as a medium, is not being used to its full potential. In the main, it is used as a substitute for marketing: blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all have a promotional (push) element.
Marketing is important but not to the extent that you have embraced social media.
For me, social media is a driver for change – internal and external – and the sort of seismic change that has the potential to turn your business on its head.
Consider the following:
Human Resources; and
How many people across these functions have been asked to start a blog, record a video or podcast or been enabled on Twitter? I am quite sure that a good number have crept over to LinkedIn, but very few of them will have worked out what it is that they are supposed to do, save for filling out their profile. But what if everyone started using Slideshare, Box and WordPress to share their (remarkable) ideas, thoughts and insight with their connections? Just imagine the power of the network!
But this is not an ode to LinkedIn but, rather, a visceral poke in your direction to open up the debate about social media, and consider how it could change your business.
Even in its current guise (push marketing et al), you need to consider how you can road test a few more of your internal ideas, and receive meaningful feedback from the very people who may one day go on to purchase or recommend your product or service.
Most people that I come across are scared to death that one of those ‘we-dare-not-speak-his-name’ customers will pop up to thrash you again and again in a public forum. Of course, there is a risk that someone might try to knock you off your pedestal but the opportunities more than outweigh the threats. Having practiced law for 14 years, I can tell you that there will always be someone prepared to fight your corner.
You have to look beyond the present, and consider that along with the idea of servant leadership, an inverted pyramid of leadership/management and a more active say in the business goes social media.
I am aware that P&G have used social media to engage with their community but for me that is just the start. I can conceive how companies will act on the Thumbs Up culture but also go much further to crowdsource ideas for nearly everything, posit a line of thinking for immediate feedback, cast their net around for the brightest and best talent for a project and generally think before they leap.
You may have seen on my LinkedIn profile the latest presentation from Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter (see the Slideshare presentation). The point is, having watched Jeremiah’s video to accompany the slides, it is quite clear that a number of sizeable US businesses have established a Centre of Social Media Excellence to ensure, presumably, that everyone is playing the same tune, understands the risk/reward equation but, more importantly, has the power at their elbow to reach out and connect with their audience.
My experience to date is that few businesses see the need to promote the medium in this way. It feels more like a sticking plaster exercise. A bit of training here, or, more likely, people are left to their own devices, and are set free on a wing and a prayer. Perhaps if someone were to set out the potential ROI.R (return on investment in relationships) they might see the opportunity, but I doubt it. In the main the people who are in a position to influence more meaningful integration are not in the space, and will be so risk averse that they would rather turn the whole bloody tap off than unleash the hydra.
But all leaders need to seize the opportunity and examine every nook and cranny of the business for its likely adaptation to integrate social media in one form or another.
In time the early adopters – the ones who can see the light in abundance – will shut out the competition by dint of the fact that they will have earned the attention of their followers.
Stop expecting the answers to emerge. If you don’t understand social media, then the Web will provide you with the necessary resources in abundance. But don’t just read, listen and watch – ENGAGE. You won’t learn anything unless you ask, and ask for the sort of feedback that you don’t hold to your chest but you act on.
The potential of your business comes from its people. Not the machinery, manuals or processes. How are you going to fully embrace the cadre of genius to revolutionise your businesses operation?