Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 2 is the seventh in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV
From here on out, the chapters get a little long, so we’ll break them into smaller pieces.
See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, Why Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1
Monitor Social Media
If you decide that you aren’t ready to engage with social computing but you can’t afford to ignore it, a low-risk option is to merely monitor what is being said about your enterprise online.
There are lots of free and paid options for monitoring social media and some of them are quite complex, allowing for the semi-automated determination of a concept called sentiment.
Sentiment generally measures how people who are talking about you online feel about you. Social monitoring tools can recognize angry, sad, positive, happy, and a variety of other sentiments by extracting terms from online text.
Monitoring of message texts and sentiment is a key component to measuring the effect of your social media efforts, and it can also help you get acclimated to listening to your community. We talk about this in greater detail in the sections Listen to Your Community and Measure Results.
We recommend that you start monitoring social media well in advance of any initial attempts to use it. Once you start listening, you may be surprised at what people are saying, both negative and positive.
One of the great things about social computing is you can potentially see everything people are saying about you online. One of the sobering things is you might not like what you see.
If you’re an organization of any size, you’ve had people bad-mouthing you for your entire existence. No business is perfect, and there are lots of people who do nothing but find fault. Before there was online, people were talking negatively about you, but you couldn’t always hear.
With social media, not only you can hear the bad things people are saying, you can respond and engage with the speakers.
Isn’t that great? We think that’s fantastic! For the first time in history, you have the opportunity to engage with your detractors, and perhaps change their minds or mitigate their effect. See a good example of how doing so can turn a negative into a positive in the section Engage and Clarify. Being able to answer your critics is an unprecedented advantage for your enterprise, and how you deal with it will be important for your success with social media.
We strongly recommend that if you cannot productively engage with naysayers, you should ignore them. If you engage with them in a non-productive way (denying their validity, calling them names), you can do way more harm than good.
If you’re just in monitoring mode, of course, you won’t start engaging; you’ll just be listening to what people say about you. You may be tempted to engage, but we recommend that you wait until you’ve listened for a while, and until you’ve got a plan for how to approach both the supporters and the detractors. Get your social computing strategy together first before engaging. It’s too risky to do otherwise.
What if you are listening and no one is talking about your business? How do you get them to start talking? Well, first you start by engaging with social media.
Engage with Social Media
Obviously, we think you should engage with social media, but only if your organizational assessment determines that you can make it a positive experience both for the enterprise and your stakeholders.
Josh Mendelsohn, Vice President of Chadwick Martin Bailey, sums it up nicely:
While social media is not the silver bullet that some pundits claim it to be, it is an extremely important and relatively low cost touch point that has a direct impact on sales and positive word of mouth.
Companies not actively engaging are missing a huge opportunity and are saying something to consumers —intentionally or unintentionally — about how willing they are to engage on consumers’ terms.
Mendelsohn’s company surveyed 1,500 consumers and found those who are Facebook fans and Twitter followers of a brand are more likely to not only recommend, but also more likely to buy from those brands than they were before becoming fans/ followers.
So there are some pretty compelling reasons to get engaged.
If you’ve been through the assessments and caveats we’ve presented above, and you think you’re ready, then begin with an examination of your current organizational strategy, and fit your social computing strategy to it. The next section can help guide you in this process.
Next up: Create Social Computing Strategies
 Using Social Media to Listen to Consumers: bit.ly/bGFtdl
 Chadwick Martin Bailey is custom market research and consulting firm: bit.ly/izHMWz