When to utilize social media…

8 Jan

It’s been a great few days at work lately – lots of exciting projects popping up and lots of social media discussions. Now I don’t claim to be an expert here, but all of it has really got me thinking about when social media should be used as a tactic and how to decide if it’s necessary. Most of us agree that social media is best used as a tactic to support more traditional avenues of getting your message out there. But are there times when it just doesn’t fit? 

Here are my thoughts about items to evaluate before getting involved in social media: 

Overall Objectives – If your organizational objectives are to increase online awareness by utilizing tools such as a company blog, Twitter accounts or creating communities for your audience, then yes, social media is a good avenue to explore. If you’re looking to simply monitor what’s being said and not engage, it might not be the best choice because you aren’t offering up a two-way mode of communication – one of the pillars of social media. 
Corporate Culture – If your culture or industry is one where your ability to engage is limited (perhaps by a little bureaucracy) then social media might not work for you either. If you aren’t quite sure of how it can be used or the effectiveness, but are open to new possibilities, then sure, it could be a great thing to explore and dabble a bit (strongly suggest a little guidance from your friendly neighbourhood PR agency though 😉
Product/Service – Does your product/service lend itself to the types of people who are regular users of the technology? While I’m a firm believer in any tool that will allow a company to enhance its customer service abilities, I don’t believe that ALL products/services will find what they’re looking for in the social media realm. For instance, those companies with a 60+ year old market, might be hard pressed to justify using social media. 
Industry – Are your competitors in the space? Are they successfully navigating it? Can you do it better? There’s always the comparison factor – unless you’re willing to do AT LEAST what you competitors are doing, if not more, than you might be shooting yourself in the foot. 
All in all, my general thoughts are that social media is a space that you need to want to be in for the right reasons. It needs to fit with your overall objectives, with your corporate culture and with your product/service and with your industry. However, I’m also not saying if it doesn’t fit all of these criteria that you shouldn’t do it. It just might take some organizational adjustments to make sure it’s the right fit. Definitely not a space to be in just for the sake of being there.
Are there other criteria companies should consider before jumping in? Do you agree with the above suggestions? 

2 Responses to “When to utilize social media…”

  1. Jen Chase January 8, 2009 at 12:45 am #

    I agree with you, but I think that another important component is giving value back to your customers as they and after they are participating in your social media. For instance, a company having online forums and a blog may be great, but if all they are doing is spewing information that the general public has no interest in, what’s the point?

  2. Steph February 11, 2009 at 2:57 am #

    Hi Kerri, You raise some very interesting points in this blog post. My name is Steph and I am a Humber College post-graduate student, and over the past few months our class has spent a huge amount of time talking about social media. I just thought I’d share a few thoughts on the subject.As Jen says above, blogs can sometimes be used inappropriately and ineffectively. We are constantly hearing about the Web 2.0 revolution and how important social media is to this shift. The problem is that some companies feel obliged to participate in social media without really knowing how or why. Blogs and forums should be used to build relationships that are mutually beneficial for both clients and organizations. Rather than a burden, social media has the potential to be a useful business tool. Clients and customers get a chance to voice their opinions, and organizations can benefit from this feedback. You lay out some interesting criteria for evaluating whether or not a company should use social media, and I particularly agree with your “Overall Objectives” section. Once a company starts up a blog or Twitter account, the staff need to ensure that they will have enough time to keep up their posts — something you also touched upon in your recent post, “What makes people stop blogging?”, at a more personal level. Politicians, for example, have been criticized for using Twitter to communicate with the masses until the day their campaigns are over. At the end of the day, social media is not about fulfilling some corporate responsibility or requirement. It is a commitment that can help organizations gain, keep, or lose clients and customers. Thanks for your insightful post!

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