Social media is important for any company. Period. And I mean any. The extent of the social media involvement does however differ from company to company – and it sure does differ significantly. At the very lowest level  any company should monitor the buzz around their brand, their competitors and their industry. This is the first article in a series which will cover how a company should enter the social media space.

B2B brand champion and author of the book Creative B2B Branding (no, really) Scot McKee (@ScotMcKee) stated in the interview for my master’s thesis that social media is a necessity to stay competitive today.

Discussions and conversations are going on in the social media space, and free tools can bring these discussions straight to your desktop. People may speak about new features they’d like to see, what they really like or dislike about you or your competitor – and even what type of new products and/or services other companies are planning to introduce. There’s no reason what so ever not to set up monitoring for keywords covering your brand and your industry.

In some cases there are a lot going on, in other cases it might be nothing going – that is however also a finding. Mike Rowland, founder of Impact Interactions, called companies not engaging in social media “dinosaurs”.

“So for companies who are thinking “is this really worthwhile?”, the challenge is they need to understand that those conversations about their company are already taking place, and the question is “do you want to engage and learn”. So if it comes an internal question of “do we want to participate” or “are we satisfied that our customers probably are just going to talk anyway and we don’t need to know it”. If you think that way you are dinosaur, and you will end up probably losing business to competitors who are willing to build those relationships.”

Are you a dinosaur?

Whilst choosing how to engage and how that would enrich your company by no means is an easy task, getting started is far less complicated. In my master’s thesis I proposed the following steps for engaging in social media;

  • Listen externally: What is happening in the social media space already? What are the discussions, where are they going on, who are the influencers? Get a feel for the conversation, and the opportunities – systematically.
  • Listen internally: Find out how employees are using it already internally, what tools and sites they are using. In almost all cases there will be people using social media for work related stuff already. Use them.
  • Guidelines and education: In order to support the brand, people internally needs to be aligned. Guidelines is a tool to manage the efforts, and avoid high-profile gaffs, and it could also motivate and encourage the employees to participate, and participate with thought. Employees may engage without thinking through what they’re doing which in turn may harm the company and the brand. Knowledge is key as to understand the consequences of their social media activity – even when they’re not directly representing the brand and engaging for personal reasons.
  • Prepare internally: Because social media is a process rather than a campaign, the efforts need to be coordinated. Companies should establish an internal network as to respond accordingly to inquiries directed to the company through social media. It is a lot of everything, from marketing and customer service to product development and networking. Companies need to deal with inquiries efficiently.
  • Set an objective: If the company decides to engage, it should be clear on what the company wants to achieve before choosing the strategy and the tactics. To get started one could try to look at the key question “what business objective do the company try to solve through social media”.

These findings from these five steps does however only provide you with the initial social media approach. It’s only after the initial process the challenging part starts; creating value for the organization. Unless you want to only listen – which is fine. What direction the company takes from there depends upon the objective, the business strategy and the unique properties of each company for which one can’t generalize a solution.

Through this article series I will providing specific hands-on suggestions on each of these steps on how a company should go about when approaching social media.

Can you think of a reason why a company not should even monitor social media?

Photo by Billy Bob Bain via Flickr using a CC-BY license.

Haakon

Working with digital products and services at SpareBank 1 and SpareBank 1 SMN. Lives in Trondheim, but Vardø born and bred.

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