If I started off with saying Social Media is important for Businesses, I’d sound time-shifted backward by at least 2 years. Everyone knows that already. In the last year or so, I’ve not heard a single serious business that’s not trying to “do” some social media.
They typically start with a Twitter Account, an FB Page, & sometimes LinkedIn Company Page if it’s B2B. And then, they go looking to hire someone on contract or full-time with a Job Title, who can manage these accounts and regularly post an update, reply to people, and keep the page/account happening, and sometimes take a bigger responsibility of managing the communication aspects.
This is getting so crazy that now we have automated Job Title Generators for Social Media!
I’ve also been talking to many business owners or executives around Marketing. One thumb-rule that everyone seems to follow is – Own the Strategy, Outsource the Operations. And Social Media is one of those categories that they typically outsource. No wonder we have Social Media & Digital Marketing firms popping up in every street – very similar to the Typewriting centers until two decades back, and computer learning centers a decade back.
People forget that Social Media is “the” face of the company that requires responsiveness and consistency to company’s DNA. And, that cannot come without Empowerment, Cultural Alignment, and Direct Accountability. Of which, culture is something you cannot teach, the other two “possibly” can be managed with an operational arrangement with the employee or consultant.
Think for a minute, the word used most prominently for Social Media is “Disruption”. Businesses need to really think about what it means, before it shakes them.
You cannot expect to set up a meeting to figure out what the response for a Tweet should be, nor can you train a person to do that without the person wearing the business hat.
Social Media is different from outsourced PR of the past. PR cycles and the spokespersons of the past had the luxury of the time and offline mode. This is real-time world. Very few care if an average tweet of congratulations gets responded to right away – which a Social Media spokesperson can probably do well. It’s the fireball ones or a Business Opportunity ones that require an immediate redressal or response – and that cannot afford an off-line committee.
It took years & lot of hard learning for businesses to understand that “Customer Service” is the most important facet of businesses, and then some businesses who excelled in it proved that culturally-aligned & empowered employees are the key to make it happen. Social Media seems to be trading the same path. It’s a natural conclusion, but businesses want to go through the learning curve again, ironically.
If your Employees are on Social Media, they are. One of the biggest dilemmas for Employees is figuring out how to keep their Personal and professional aspects separate in their Social Media Accounts. They need to know that they just can’t any more. They just need to learn Social Media as seriously as they learned “how to network in conferences” earlier.
If you hire Employees (or even a Social Media Marketing firm that is ready to invest their time & resources for soaking in) for Cultural fit, they will know how to behave in a situation based on Company Objectives and Culture.
In any case, Social Media is a “Skill” that everyone needs (or will need eventually). As of now, you can consider it as an important skill for anyone playing an “important” role in your company. It cannot be just a Job Title or responsibility. Align with Strategy, and operate it as woven in the operational fabric of the company. Think Culture and Think Customers, Social Media is the bridge.
PS: I had written earlier on how Social impacted the Enterprise Technologies such as CRM or BPM in my post “Social is a Phenomenon, not another Discipline or Practice”. The underlying theme is the same. We shouldn’t look at Social as another separate department or discipline, it needs to be woven in the Business Fabric.