15 implications of social media that senior corporate managers need to understand and discuss with their teams

1. The corporate web presence has shifted from a brochure to a collaborative interactive media publishing operation .

The fundamental change implicit in µWeb 2.0¶ is that content doesn¶t only co me from the organisation¶s communications team, but also from many other employees and most probably from the extended networks of users who decide to engage with the brand. Managing dispersed publishing and the patchy creativity that comes with it, as well as the open dialogue necessary for effective engagement, are challenging culturally as well as being very labour intensive . IMPLICATION: Your investment should be internally focused on new team s and skills training not just on technology infrastructure and tools .
2. A major change management issue.

The sudden rise of social media has highlighted a generational shift that needs acknowledging and planning for. Younger members of staff who are not currently empowered to add content or initiate relationships online will need greater leeway to use their skills- skills that more experienced staff may not have. It¶s also worth bearing in mind that younger staff will probably be more willing to use these social media tools with less regard to privacy than the current generation of managers. IMPLICATION: Are your younger, more junior staff empowered sufficiently?
3.Engagement is not the same as broadcasting

At its best, engagement can bring in great ideas which will help you make improvements to your products and services, provide valuable consumer insights and business intelligence an d drive word of mouth recommendations. This comes from asking and listening to customers regularly and intensively. It is very different from broadcasted brand awareness messages and involves dealing with far smaller numbers over a longer period. IMPLICATION: Don¶t measure the numbers only because this will push you towards the wrong conclusions about effectiveness and lead to poor allocation of resources.
4. There is the potential to reach millions but not very easily and not by yourself.

There is a myth that the Internet can be used to reach millions through content that µgoes viral¶. The internet is huge and only a tiny fraction of content is genuinely seen by millions and even then the effect is often ephemeral. Many viral videos were backed by TV ads or involve big name celebrities. Getting large audiences regularly without this expenditure depends on building an online brand organically and using the internet¶s potential for connections -not just links but substantive partnerships with websites who have large audiences. IMPLICATION: You need someone on your team who understands how new media partnerships work, which is a different activity entirely to media buying.
5. Certain content genres and formats are easier to promote than others

Don¶t launch a new website , game or video without planning where the traffic is going to come from first.There are plenty of examples of good web content launched by organisations that do not get many visitors. You Tube or an y other site doesn¶t magically generate huge numbers of visitors. Getting links to sites and content can prove to be time consuming and expensive and shouldn¶t be done as an afterthought. IMPLICATION: Content production (including mobile apps) and the promotion of content need to be planned at the same time so promotional opportunities are built into content.
6. The key to success lies outside the organization.

Many organizations do not have the resources and expertise to create large volumes of high quality content. Nor do they have the resources to build and maintain satisfying conversations around that content. However, what the culture of the Internet offers is willingness on the part of many self -publishers and creative amateurs to mobilize around a brand, theme or project and to offer their time and talent for free. Leveraging this new resource is not easy but is essential to the successful use of social media. IMPLICATION: Ask µhow many customers are advocating us online or actively taking part in our communities?¶ You should be making small payments and giving rewards to users rather than have salaried employees doing everything.
7. Social media is about publishing, not just authoring.

Harnessing this creativity from outside the organization implies that the role of staff needs to be directed as much towards sourcing and curating contributions, as writing or recording content for the website themselves. This means a lot of time spent searching and reading content. IMPLICATION:Ask your teams if curation of existing content would bring bigger audiences than content commissioned from expensive agencies.

8. Make content and networks the focus of your media strategy, rather than the corporate website.

Thekey starting points for a media strategy should be identifying the content and networks that will best serve the aims of the organization , rather than simply planning the architecture of a website. IMPLICATION:Content Strategist and Community Manager should be working on an equal footing to your technical team
9. Developing an online brand means getting personal and using people not logos.

Social media websites comprise video and a whole host of tools that accentuate the personal, human face of a brand over the normal corporate design -based identity. Finding figureheads who can act as an µanchor¶ for content and represent the brand is an important part of developing an online media product. However, this does not necessarily mean expensive celebrities. IMPLICATION:What µsocial media talent¶ do you have associated with your brand ?
10.Combine online networks with face to face events.

The vast number of meet ups, µunconferences¶, seminars and parties organized around online networks is proof that people expect face -to-face contact as a result of their online social media activities. Networks are rarely built solely online. IMPLICATION: Are you ready to support your content budget with a community events budget? Will you delegate this to the community manager?
11. There is an inverse relationship between the reach of a web project and the quality of interaction it can deliver.

The success of a website in generating t raffic can sometimes backfire: large numbers of users come expecting to interact with an organization and this can make it difficult for the community manager to do this in a meaningful way. This obvious fact needs to be considered when planning a web activity that includes interaction and collaboration as a major feature. The worst thing an organization can do is to create a platform and then fail to engage. Users submit content and otherwise interact in order to get acknowledgement and recognition and they¶ll go away disappointed if they don¶t receive this. IMPLICATION: To scale your web community you need to empower super -users who will most probably not be direct employees? Are you ready for this?
12.Accessibility: language is the number one usability issue.

If an organisation¶s websites carries a lot of English-only text, video and audio content, then they risk excluding all but the most fluent speakers of English overseas. With more content and conversations too, comes more need for translation.

IMPLICATION:Are your communities and content as friendly as possible for nonEnglish speaking users and have you resourced this properly?
13.Don¶t invite user participation unless you are genuinely open to ideas and prepared to invest in them.

User suggestions and ideas should lead to better products and services. It¶s part of the product development process so there needs to be a belief on the part of everyone involved externally that they will see results from their efforts. IMPLICATION:Are you willing to put serious product development funds behind customer consultation schemes?
14. Competitions, discounts, freebies and recognition are the currency of social media

Users will advocate you as a brand if they are genuinely enthusiastic about your product/service or your content. However, traditional -and perhaps rather populist promotional approaches are still essential to creating a hook for large numbers of online users. Where brands may have shunned such approaches in the past, it is vital to resource these properly on social media platforms. IMPLICATION: You¶ll need to discuss spending more on competitions and giveaways, especially if you are reaching out to a new generation of customers.
15. Multiple publishing tools won¶t go away: get used to them.

The vast array of social media tools present a real challenge for a large organization trying to bring some coherence to a disparate set of web publications. Howev er, these tools will keep coming and with ever increasing potential and ease of use. The internet has ceased to become an IT issue for organizations - the problem is now how to shape the organization in such a way that it can quickly respond to innovations in publishing and use them efficiently and effectively. IMPLICATION: You are now partly involved in the media production and web publication business, whether you like it or not. Tim Hood, CEO Yoosk.com May 2008 Twitter: @timhood Linkedin: Tim Hood