Saturday, April 10, 2010

Creativity and the Buffalo: Customizing Social Media Presence for Organizational Benefits

While having a casual conversation the other day, my friend was upset to tell me that instant messaging (IM) services over the Web is going to be blocked in her office. My friend, a senior editor at a leading newspaper used IM services to communicate with her team of journalists working across the nation. With the Presidential elections in Bolivia round the corner she was doing double-shifts and coping up with the live coverage of campaigns, practically trying to square the circle. Add to this the dilemma of losing the connectivity with ground staff members who report her with the latest updates. And during our conversation she asked me if I have an argument supporting the use of IMs in office, as part of official communications. Well, I definitely have a few. And this post is not just about making the productive use of IMs and innovative means of marketing communications, but also about using social media as one of the most powerful tools of corporate business development and brand value addition.

The Corporate Blog as a Newsletter

The other day our team was having an internal discussion about reinstating an extinct practice of sending custom-made newsletters dedicated to our business vertical, and it became almost decided that we restart this practice the old level of enthusiasm and vigor. But ultimately who will bell the cat? So it went cold again. For companies who have a dedicated marketing communications division up and running, and are interested to adding value to the organization on a practical standpoint, this practice can add value.

Any company with an efficient Corporate Communications division can create and maintain a corporate blog. Instead of a PDF newsletter that only a few people actually read, organizations can encourage customers/vendors and partners to make use of the blog to keep them updated and help them improve their products/services/support, etc. Web 2.0 promotes the use of increased human interaction on all issues, thereby helping organizations send and receive feedback from their customers/partners.

Chirps and Tweets from the C-Suite

Employees across the organization would really like to know what their leaders are thinking. About areas of immediate attention, about long-term growth, about expansion, about, well...anything. A 140-character tweet from the CEO once in a while can keep the ball rolling by sharing ideas, sending/receiving feedback etc. Organizations that adapt to such models find increased responses from employees due to the empowered feeling they have when they receive a direct message from the CEO.

IMs As an Effective Communication Tool

Several of my clients in the Asia-Pacific region mention their MSN user names or Skype identities as part of their signature in official emails. It has been a great help to me when I used to communicate with clients from home. It saves hefty international calling charges while allowing me to peacefully explain the situation to clients, especially in cases where there is a technical feedback or a mismatch in delivery deadlines, etc. It also lets me empower my customers by updating them in advance before an event (such as a critical delivery) occurs. IMs have also helped me communicate with my team members while one of us is working from home or traveling abroad.

Official Fan Pages in a Social Network

Presence of a discussion group or a fan page in the name of an organization would help enhance its visibility across the worldwide web. Organizations that serve individual customers directly (B2C model) can let customers interact with the company and provide their support. There are customers who take pride in being your customer. Identify them, and invite them to participate in such forums. Also that is the place where you actually measure how much well ranked your organization is in the "Best Employer" or the "Best Service Provider" category.

My friend is contended now that her hard work paid off, and the organization has chosen to retain one common standard IM service as an official provider (nothing official about it), to bring in uniformity across the board. Recently, a marketing Guru asked me how connected my organizational leaders are through social networks. I hesitated a little before mentioning that social networks are blocked across the organization here. "What!!?" came the prompt reply. "Which century are you living in?". Well, I have to ask the organization's 007s about this.