social networking

Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing

This is the sixth 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 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? and First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy

Not Communication

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Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing

“Not to decide is to decide.”

Harvey Cox, American theologian

There’s a huge opportunity out there for your business. Based on your organizational intentions and the assessments we’ve encouraged you to do, you
have three choices:

  • Ignore social media
  • Monitor social media
  • Engage with social media

Let’s examine each of these choices in turn.

Ignore Social Media

Obviously, we think you shouldn’t ignore social media, and a quick review of some of the risks of non-engagement should be sufficient to convince you that you must at least start to monitor social media.

Regulatory Risk

If your business has anything to do with securities or other types of regulation, you can’t afford to ignore social com­puting. If you have large securities holdings, you may face restrictions on certain types of disclosures. If you aren’t mon­itoring social media, you may not be aware of disclosures that involve your organization’s staff and which may run afoul of regulations.

Your business may cite regulatory constraints as a reason to avoid getting involved in, or even monitoring, social media activities. Be sure that the risks of this approach don’t out­weigh your responsibility to ensure disclosures are proper.

Reputation Management

A related issue is reputation management. Your business may not have a formal reputation management effort, but every organization needs to be concerned with the subject. If you’ve ever subscribed to an article clipping service, you’ve been engaged in reputation management.

Social media is one of the largest and the fastest growing forums for people’s opinions. You can’t afford to ignore what people are saying about you online.

Ask these famous brands if ignoring social media was a good idea:

  • Domino’s disgusting video [1]
    in which a couple of immature employees with a video camera caused a huge crisis
  • United breaks a guitar[2] and the customer gets even with a YouTube video
  • Nestlé’s Facebook Fan Page Heist [3] where people reacted to Nestlé’s heavy-handed attempt to get a critical video removed from YouTube by posting altered versions of the firm’s logo, culminating in a boycott
  • KFC and Oprah’s Free Chicken[4] – Winfrey announced that her show’s Website would let visitors download a printable coupon for free Kentucky Grilled Chicken. Web servers were overloaded, and supplies of free chicken were exhausted. Bloggers reported that store managers were turning away coupon-holders. KFC chairman Roger Eaton posted a video message explaining that KFC would not be able to redeem the coupons still at large

There are lots more examples of dumb social media moves in our Social Media Hall of Shame, online at:

Legal Issues of Disclosure

Chances are your business has some confidential information, whether it is client records or minutes of sensitive meetings or the like. We’re sure you have policies that instruct staff and others on how to keep this information secure.

At the very least you need to update your policies to cover social computing. But you’ll also probably want to monitor social media to detect any disclosures that do happen. In fact, it’s even possible that failure to do so may leave you open to charges of negligence. Consult a lawyer for information about your responsibilities regarding social media disclosure.

Other Legal Issues

While everything in the following list from New York Employment Law Letter via [5] may not pertain to your enterprise, many items affect all businesses, profit or non-profit, large or small.

You can face potential liability from employee use of social networking sites or blogging in a variety of ways:

  • Slander, defamation, and libel – Your company could be held liable if an employee posts negative statements about another person or a competitor on a Website or blog.
  • Trade secrets and intellectual property infringement – The disclosure of certain trade secrets can destroy the “confidential” status of the information, and the disclosure of a third party’s confidential information could lead to an action for trade secret misappro­priation or intellectual property infringement.
  • Trade libel – Misstatements or misrepresentations about a competitor could lead to claims of trade libel.
  • Securities fraud and gun-jumping – Publicly traded companies can face sanctions for securities fraud if material misrepresentations are posted. Any postings plugging the registered company could violate federal securities law.
  • Employment actions – Employees may try to sue you for wrongful termination or discrimination if their employment is terminated because of postings that reference personal aspects of their life (for example, marital status or sexual orientation).
  • Harassment – Language that is harassing, discrim­inatory, threatening, or derogatory could prompt a lawsuit.

As always, you should seek legal counsel only from a lawyer and not from a book such as this or the Web.

Your Community Might Expect Social Media Responses

As the social computing movement gains momentum, it is becoming more and more common that stakeholders expect a response to complaints or other comments made online. Depending on your business, you may not be in this position today, but you will probably be in the near future.

This is especially true if you’ve dipped your social media toe in the water and have a Twitter or Facebook account that you don’t monitor. Being on social media sets up an expectation that you will monitor and respond. As we’ve said before, don’t get involved until you’re ready to make a commitment for the long term.

Thinking Social Computing is Irrelevant

Despite our enthusiasm, and the probable enthusiasm of some of the people around you, you need to take all this social media stuff with a grain of salt.

At the present moment, it’s very possible that what works online may work just fine offline as well. However, the two environ­ments, while they do track closely on many fronts, are not identical.

The big brands have taken notice of this fact. In a 2009 article[6] in Advertising
Age, Abbey Klaassen talks about the difference between what the general population is interested in versus what Twitter users are interested in:

For example, in the past month [April, 2009], the Twitter community has been titillated by South by Southwest, AT&T, “Lost” and the redesign of Missing from the list are things [that] the Communispace and Lightspeed surveys, both sep­arately commissioned on Ad Age’s behalf,
found that the general population is fired up about, such as the AIG bonuses and the bank-bailout plans.

So offline does not equal online, yet.

Given the risks, however, social media shouldn’t be ignored. But it also shouldn’t be treated as the be-all and end-all for your organization. And as time goes on, the growth of social media will continue, and the two worlds will track much more closely. So if you do choose to ignore social media for now, don’t do so for too long.

Next up: Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing pt. 2

Domino’s video:

United Breaks Guitars:

Nestlé Facebook Heist:

KFC free chicken:


Using Social Media to Listen to Consumers:

First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy

This is the fifth 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 save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, Why Social Media? and How is Social Media Relevant to Business?

First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy

“Social Media Performance Group’s motto is: No Tools Before Rules.

We believe that before you use any powerful tool, you should not only find out its capabilities and dangers, but also create a plan for its use.
Beginning to use social media without a strategy would be like
tossing the keys of your SUV to your 10-year-old.”

Social Media Performance Group

The Social Media Performance Group strategy process begins with an enterprise social media readiness assessment. You need to understand how ready your staff, leadership, board, and other stakeholders are to make the changes that will be necessary to embrace social computing.

Although you may not realize it at the planning stage, success­fully implementing social media to support your strategies will require organizational changes, some large, some small, and some that may be upsetting or controversial. For example, if you’re a business that has a strict command and control hierarchy where every external communication is approved at a high level, you’ll need to change to be able to fully leverage social
media. The legal department of one enterprise we know recently approved 40 tweets. Yeah, that’ll work.

If the idea Be a Person scares you, you’ll need to do some organizational transformation before social media is right for you.

Of course, not all businesses are ready for social computing. In fact there are some who have ingrained styles and tendencies that will make
adopting social media impossible, if not actually detrimental. How can you tell if your business is one of them?

Top Ten Signs You Should Avoid Social Media

Lisa Barone, Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, put together a somewhat humorous collection [1] of indicators of organizational dysfunction that would make adopting social computing a risky business. We’ve adapted and expanded them in the following list.

You have no social skills (and don’t want to fake them)

If your organization has problems relating with staff, customers, or other stakeholders, those problems are likely to be magnified by using social computing. Be honest with yourself when assessing your organiz­ation’s readiness to openly relate with a large group of your stakeholders.

You have no sense of humor/can’t handle criticism

A sense of humor often doesn’t make it onto the list of things to consider about social computing, but it should. If your organization gets stirred up by the least little bit of criticism, or has a habit of mis­interpreting humorous comments, think twice before adopting social media. Using social media means you are opening yourself up to unvarnished dialog with both your supporters and your detractors. If you don’t think you can handle it, social computing is not for you.

You’re going to forget about it in the morning

Social computing takes a commitment. It can’t be a start and stop kind of thing. Once you engage with your community, you aren’t going to be able to go back to ignoring them. So be sure you have a long-term, sustainable commitment to social computing before venturing forth.

Openness is a problem for you

This one is pretty much self-explanatory. If your org­an­iz­­ational style emphasizes secrecy, security, and a lack of sharing, you’re not going to succeed with social computing. Ask yourself what you’re hiding, and why, and whether you can open up before getting involved with social media.

You’re only there to sell

If you think social computing is just about selling, or marketing, or pushing messages into just another media channel, better to forget it. Remember that social media involves relationships and two-way conversation, and that you must respect your comm­unity’s point of view to be successful. You should also be wary if your leadership plans on having others masquerade as them online. Social media is about trans­parency, not facades.

You view social media as a numbers game

This is a common attitude toward social media. You see it on LinkedIn among the LIONs (There’s more on that in the What is a LinkedIn LION ™? section) The number of followers on social media is generally not what your business should concentrate on. The quality of your interactions with your community is vastly more important than the quantity.

You sometimes resort to name calling

We decided to edit this one. Barone’s original number 7 was: You’re inclined to call people’s wives “douchettes.” Apparently, a CEO actually did call some­one’s wife a douchette, [2] although not online. Nevertheless, if your business has folks in it who might be inclined to disparage others, think twice about bringing this sort of thing to social computing.

You think Twitter is a social media strategy

We hope you know by now that we think you shouldn’t get into social computing without first understanding how it can support your organization’s strategy, and without creating a social media strategy to guide your usage. There are lots of consultants out there that think putting together a Twitter campaign, or a Facebook page, or a few YouTube videos is a great way to get started with social media. Tell that to Motrin.

You don’t have a “social” culture

There are lots of signs of an anti-social-computing culture. The tendency to run everything by the lawyers. Endless rounds of revisions with final approval by top executives. A prohibition of social media site usage while at work. Blocking YouTube. Some of these tendencies can be overcome, and some might be enough to indicate problems with social computing acceptance. If your general organizational culture emphasizes tightly controlling the message, you’re not likely to succeed with social media.

You don’t have permission

In Barone’s list, this item refers to staff who attempt to speak for the business without authorization, but we turn this around a little bit to mean, “Can you give your stakeholders permission to represent your business?” When you think about it, your staff, customers, and other stakeholders DO represent your business, every day, and can work on your behalf. But it’s sometimes a hard step for an organization to let go enough to enable them to do the same on social media. Be sure you can let go before engaging with social media.

Do a Quick Survey of Your Stakeholders

To help determine if you’re ready for social media, a social computing assessment can identify those who will embrace social computing, and who will resist. It also helps identify those who are willing but need training on how to use social computing.

The assessment can be done online using the Social Media Performance Group’s free Social Media Readiness Survey[3] or via pen and paper using the version reproduced on page 55.

Do a Quick Survey of Your Customers

It is important to know what customers and prospects already know about social media so you can target your efforts to their ability to respond online. If your target audience is largely offline, you will want to use social media inside your company rather than externally.

It’s important to realize that, due to socio-economic diff­erences, many groups may not have regular access to social computing, which obviously can significantly alter your strategy in engaging them online. In your survey, you may want to segment prospects and customers by socio-economic status, which may affect how easily you can reach them via social media.

If your audience doesn’t have computer-based online access, you may be able to reach them online via their mobile phones. In this case, you should consider using the Social Media Performance Group’s free Mobile Social Media Use Survey. [4] The survey can also be found in the second part of the Social Media Performance Group Social Media Readiness Survey™, reproduced in the next section, and live at:

After your survey is done, take a look at the results and divide the respondents into at least two groups: those who are likely to respond to social media, and those who probably won’t. You’ll need to base your social media plans on the com­position of these groups. If, for example, the non-social-media group represents the majority of your stakeholders, you may want to consider educational approaches to help them learn about the benefits of social media. On the other hand, if the social-media-using group is large, you may want to consider more-sophisticated approaches to identify and enable your supporters via social media.

Assess Related Businesses

Identify closely-related businesses and partners you deal with on a regular basis, especially those with similar or com­plementary missions, particularly in your region. Find out what they are doing with social media. Not only might this give you ideas for your own approach, you may be able to team up with them to help further your social media reach.

Up next: Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing

Want to read the whole book? Order at and save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

Outspoken Media provides online marketing services. Barone’s list is at:

Hear the audio at:

SMPG’s Social Media Readiness Survey:

Social Media Performance Group’s Mobile Social Media Use Survey:

How is Social Media Relevant to Business?

How is Social Media Relevant to Business?

This is the fourth 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 save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, and Why Social Media?

Motrin Moms Controversy

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“We now have indisputable proof that online marketing,
YouTube and Twitter and all that it encompasses
is meaningful and has arrived.
We are seeing real consequences to a mistake.
If [social networks] didn’t matter, you wouldn’t
see this type of reaction from J&J or consumers
[over the Motrin Mom faux pas].”

Gene Grabowski, chair
crisis and litigation practice,
Levick Strategic Communications

Grabowski is referring to one of the entries in our Social Media Hall of Shame.[1] That entry reads as follows:

In fall of 2008, pain reliever brand Motrin posted a short video as part of an ad campaign aimed at young mothers. In an attempt to identify with its intended audience, the ad featured a young woman speaking in an irreverent tone about the “fashion” of wearing one’s baby, and the back pain associated with the practice.

Some online moms found the tone patronizing and felt they were being mocked. The video went largely unnoticed for 45 days, but then on Saturday, November 15, one mother, Jessica Gottlieb, tweeted her disapproval using the Twitter hashtag[2] #motrinmoms.

By Sunday afternoon, #motrinmoms was one of the hottest hashtags on Twitter. Mommy Blogger Katja Presnal created a nine-minute YouTube video comprised of angry tweets from moms with baby carriers.[3]In all, however, fewer than 1,000 people posted using the hashtag. But this was a very vocal minority.

By social media standards, Motrin was slow to respond to the outcry. Yet by Sunday evening, they pulled the campaign, temporarily shuttered their Website, and apologized. Instead of engaging with the protestors on their own turf, however, Motrin reverted to an Old Media response: They tried to remove all traces of the video and ad campaign and offered a corporate apology in response: “We have taken immediate action to respond to these concerns and have removed the advertisement from our Web site.”

By November 20th, they had pulled themselves together a bit more, and published a response with a much better tone. Kathy Widmer, Vice President of Marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare, offered a new apology that followed our mandate: Be a Person.

So…it’s been almost 4 days since I apologized here for our Motrin advertising. What an unbelievable 4 days it’s been. Believe me when I say we’ve been taking our own headache medicine here lately! We are parents ourselves and we take feedback from moms very seriously. [4]

Much, much, much better!

Motrin’s mistake was in not using the negative attention to engage in a dialog with the angered moms. By taking them seriously and listening to their concerns, Motrin could have probably defused the uproar and possibly turned the furor into an advantage. Engaging in a dialog would have enabled Motrin to explain that they were trying to be funny, and they were sorry that hadn’t worked.

Ironically, Jessica Gottlieb, author of the original tweet, said that she felt the ad did not need to be pulled. What if Motrin had originally addressed her directly and enlisted her help?

We can learn two things from this object lesson:

  • Social media can bring a powerful company to its knees in the space of less than a week
  • With great power comes great responsibility[5]

We don’t tell this tale to scare you, but rather to impress upon you the power and potential of this new communications medium. We also hope Motrin’s story demonstrates that using social media without a strategy and a plan may seem easy to do, but like juggling chainsaws, the outcome is much better when you’re trained and prepared.

Plenty of enterprises have produced great results through the use of social media. We’ve written this book to help you become one of them.

On the positive side of social media, take a look at the Blendtec YouTube videos,[6] one of the keystone case studies from our Enterprise Social Media Framework (ESMF).[7]

Blendtec makes powerful blenders, and so someone got the bright idea of doing a series of short videos called Will it Blend? Starting way back in 2006, and featuring Blendtec CEO Tom Dickson, each video – designated either “Try this at home” or “Don’t try this at home” – blends a range of items from 50 marbles and a handful of golf balls to a new iPhone.

It was the iPhone blend video that went viral, racking up more than 9.8 million views, and counting. Combining the fetish power of the game-changing mobile phone with the eccentric idea of obliterating things with a blender equated to tremen­dous viralocity. Since the first iPhone bit it, the company has trashed a series of iconic electronic gadgets, including an Olympus digital camera, an iPad (11 million views), and an iPhone 4.

Was it planned this way? No. It was just a wacky- and cheap- bid for attention from a small company with a small marketing budget. It went viral because . . . well, just because it was bizarre, over the top, and cool, we guess. For almost no money, Blendtec has reaped more than 161 million YouTube views, 380,000 subscribers (making it #40 on YouTube’s all-time list), and a 7X increase in sales.

So why do we mention this? Did you see the part about “almost no money?”

You could go viral as well. But to do so, you must be hooked into the zeitgeist[8] of your community, and the larger society. Offbeat, quirky ideas are what generally go viral. But if you try too hard (we’re looking at you, LonelyGirl15 [9]) you could do more damage than good.

Contrast BlendTec’s success with the fact that the #3 result from a search on YouTube for Comcast is a video called A Comcast Technician Sleeping on my Couch.[10]

(There’s more about going viral in the section Aim to Influence .)

Talk about incredible results, both good and bad! Social media is here, it works for enterprises, and chances are good it is affecting your business today.

Social Media and Your Business

Now you may be thinking, “That’s great and all, but my enterprise sells to businesses (or sells services, or is in a reg­ulat­ed industry, or . . . ), and I can’t see how funny YouTube videos will help me sell my product.”

You’re not alone in being skeptical about the potential effect of social media on your business. But more and more businesses of all sizes are starting to embrace it.

Frost & Sullivan GraphA 2011 Frost and Sullivan study[11] (see Figure 3) showed that of 200 C-level execs, 69 percent were closely tracking social media. That’s amazing in and of itself, but executive interest in social media was greater than interest in other important technology trends, such as telepresence, VOIP, shared team spaces, soft phones, and even unified communications and unified mess­aging. Half of the respondents said social media is already used within their organization, and 41 percent said they were using the tech­nology personally.

Social media expert Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research, writing for the Harvard Business Review,[12] divides large enterprises’ use of social media into four groups:

  • Dormant – Fewer than one in five large companies are in this group. They haven’t really gotten started with social media.
  • Testing – About one third of enterprises are just starting out. They usually begin with listening (monitoring social chatter) and talking on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Coordinating – Another third of large companies have moved on to coordinating multiple social efforts around the company. Bernoff recommends, and we definitely agree, that the right strategy is not to put all the social efforts under one manager. He recommends appointing “shepherds” to help lead social media across teams in marketing, customer support, HR, and IT.
  • Mastering– The remainder of companies, the smallest group, have mastered social media use. They face challenges in scaling and optimizing social efforts.Bernoff points to Dell as a leader. Manish Mehta is Dell’s VP, Social Media & Community. Just having an executive position with a name like that indicates how seriously Dell takes social media.Bernoff says Mehta “has a weekly teleconference with managers throughout the organization who are responsible for the hundreds of social applications the company deploys, from the Twitter feed @DellOutlet that promotes overstock computers to IdeaStorm, the online community that solicits ideas for new Dell products. Coordinating measurement is also key: at financial services company USAA, for example, social media managers have proven that ratings and reviews generate a 17% increase in clickthroughs to product purchase pages.”

So it’s early days, but despite that, many enterprises have seen real benefits from engaging with social media.

But it’s not all about sales and marketing, as you can see from the preceding. In fact, we believe that sales and marketing are not even the most impressive things social media does. Savvy businesses use social media to:

  • Track what customers and prospects are saying , what they’re interested in, and how they buy
  • Create flash focus groups online to get real-time, real-world feedback on customer likes and dislikes
  • Recruit new talent – many companies are turning away from posting job requisitions to searching social networks like LinkedIn and inviting highly-qualified people to apply
  • Increase employee engagement , satisfaction, and retention – McKinsey and MIT surveys found between 7 percent and 20 percent improvement in employee retention due to social networks[13]

If that’s all social computing could do for your business, would­n’t that be enough?

Our contention that most businesses miss the real point and much of the potential of social media is supported by a recent white paper published by the Harvard Business Review.[14] HBR did a survey of 2,100 companies, and these were some of their findings:

Despite the vast potential social media brings, many companies seem focused on social media activity pri­marily as a one-way promotional channel, and have yet to capitalize on the ability to not only listen to, but analyze, consumer conversations and turn the infor­mation into insights that impact the bottom line.

For instance:

  • Three-quarters (75%) of the companies in the survey said they did not know where their most valuable customers were talking about them
  • Nearly one-third (31%) do not measure ef­fective­ness of social media
  • Less than one-quarter (23%) are using social media analytic tools
  • A fraction (7%) of participating companies are able to integrate social media into their mar­keting activities

Only a small group – 12 percent – of the companies in the survey said they felt they were currently effective users of social media. These were the com­panies most likely to deploy multiple channels, use metrics, have a strategy for social media use, and integrate their social media into their overall marketing operations.

By using this book in your organization, you can learn how to become part of the suc­cessful 12 percent.

Let’s Face It

They’re talking about you online (if you’re lucky).

That’s right, there are probably people talking about your business online right now, via social media. What are they saying? Are they supporters or detractors? Shouldn’t you listen to find out?

What are people who are interested in your business talking about online?

Of course, it varies depending on the business you’re in, but you can count on the chatter being both positive and negative, just like offline conversations about you. The difference is, you can join in on these conversations and possibly influence them.

Regardless of what people are saying about you, shouldn’t you be aware of the online conversations? What if Motrin had ignored what the Mommy Bloggers were saying? What if people are right now, this very minute, spreading mis­in­formation or rumors about your company on Facebook?

Wouldn’t you want to know?

Social media changes the way cheers and raspberries are distributed. Two of our favorite quotes about how much social media changes positive and negative conversations come from trailblazing broadcaster Edward R. Murrow and Paul Gillin, author of The New Influencers.

The fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or un­der­standing than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other.
– Edward R. Murrow[15]

Conventional marketing wisdom long held that a dissatisfied customer tells ten people. But…in the new age of social media, he or she has the tools to tell ten million.
– Paul Gillin[16]

Social media hasn’t changed people, just as Murrow says; it has amplified their voices far beyond what Murrow could have imagined in 1958, to the point that mass media is accessible to the average person, as Gillin’s quote demonstrates.

OK, OK, social media is the next big thing. How can you start to take advantage of it?

Well, one thing you shouldn’t do is go off into this new land of social media without a map. You need to channel social media’s power to support your business’s strategy. To harness the power of Social Media, you need a strategy, and a plan.

So What’s Your Strategy?

Like anything that’s worth doing well, it’s best to have a strategy for using social media. You may be tempted to listen to those in your business who have a “Hey kids! Let’s put on a show!” kind of mentality regarding social media. It’s so easy to get started, you may decide to listen to these folks and start creating a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or a YouTube channel right away.

We hope you will resist the temptation to jump in with both feet until you have understood why you are using social media, and how it is going to support your overall strategy.

To maximize social media benefit, you need to align your busi­ness’s strategy with both your external and internal social media strategy.

The difficulty in writing a book about social media and busi­ness is that there are so many kinds of enterprises, each with unique missions and goals. We could give advice for a medical device manufacturer, for example, which may not be approp­riate for grocery distributor. On the other hand, most busi­nesses face similar challenges such as selling, marketing, re­cruit­ing and retaining employees, gaining brand recognition, and so on.

Thus you will need to take the general principles in this book and apply them to your own enterprise. Without working close­ly with you, we can’t identify for you the best social media goals, strategies, sites, and techniques for your business. Only you can do that, and you should use your overall mission, strategy, and goals to determine your social media strategy.

There’s more detail later about creating strategies. First, we’d like to lay out the general concepts, and get more specific in the chapter Create Social Computing Strategies on page 75.

A good social media strategy:

  • Effectively communicates goals and benefits of social media internally and externally
  • Guides selection of the right tools to use
  • Ensures sustainability of your social media endeavor
  • Involves regular reviews of people, processes, and tools to ensure that your business stays relevant

The first step is to review your business’s goals and strategy. Identify the most important, and start to think how social media can help, especially in ways other than sales and marketing. Make whatever changes necessary to your strategy to bring it up to date and ensure that all stakeholders support it before taking a look at social media.

Plan an Internal Social Media Strategy

It may be easier for you to start by focusing on creating an internal social media strategy. It’s less scary, and you might have an easier time coming to agreement on the internal strategy. Some internal goals to think about include:

  • Empower employees to advocate
  • Improve employee engagement and retention
  • Encourage collaboration , innovation, problem solving
  • Improve communications
  • Manage risk to your reputation
  • Improve your hiring process
  • Improve your market research and competitive intelligence

We elaborate more on this concept in the Create an Internal Social Computing Strategy section on page 79.

There’s more information about engagement, advocacy, and evangelism in the sections Engage Your Community, Find and Create Online Evangelists, and Create Buzz.

Plan an External Social Media Strategy

Once you understand how social media can support your business’s overall strategy, it’s time to create your external social media strategy.

You need to go where your community is. Identify constituent groups to target – prospects, customers, influencers, evan­gelists, opinion leaders – and find out if they use social media. Delve into specifics. Are they reading any particular blogs? Are they on Twitter? Facebook? Find your community and study them to see what their concerns are. We examine this process in depth in the section Find Your Community.

Base your strategy on what you find through this research. If your target group is on Facebook, you may want to set up a business page. If your community tweets, you may want to set up a program of daily updates on Twitter.

If you haphazardly approach this task, you can spin your wheels without gain. No one will hear your message. Be sure to tie your implementation ideas directly to your external social media goals.

External goals to consider include:

  • Educate
  • Inspire to action
  • Create strong relationships
  • Share internal culture with external audience
  • Thought leadership
  • Community involvement
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Publicity

We elaborate on this task in the section Create an External Social Computing Strategy on page 82.

Create a Social Media Mission Statement

After reviewing your goals and strategy and creating drafts of your internal and social media strategies, create a mission statement for your social media efforts. This needs to be one sentence that everyone in your business can recite from memory. Doing so will help sharpen your thinking about your strategies and guide the creation of plans to support your social media goals.

Here are some examples of social media mission statements you can learn from.

“Our mission is to drive forward the adoption of social media across Europe in order to improve the quality, access, value and effectiveness of healthcare delivery to patients.”

– Health Care and Social Media in Europe

This is an easy one to get started with. This non-profit exists to spread usage of social media. But notice that they directly tie this social media goal to a specific non-social-media goal: “to improve the quality, access, value and effectiveness of health­care delivery to patients.” In other words, the organization doesn’t just want to spread social media usage for its own sake; it wants to do so to achieve a real-world goal.

A great example of a very short and to-the-point mission state­ment is Ford’s:

“Humanize the Ford brand and put consumers in touch with Ford employees.”

– Scott Monty, Ford Motor Co.

You may have noticed that we don’t even mention social media in the main title of our book, and this is intentional. The challenge for any business in the age of social media is to Be a Person, not a faceless entity. Scott Monty gets this. Ford wants to Be a Person – to humanize their brand, and connect with their community: their customers. So they put this in their social media mission statement. How can you get this concept into your statement?

Here’s another statement that explicitly states what kind of person the business wants to be:

“Instill trust in the brand, and highlight that the people behind the brand are parents too.”

– Lindsay Lebresco, Graco

Brilliant! Our employees are parents too; they can relate to you and your problems; they can create products that connect with your needs, because they share your needs. Wow.

Of course, delivering on your mission statement is the trick, isn’t it?

Here’s a general template to get you started on your social media mission statement:

“The purpose of our social media efforts is to [do something] for [someone] while [improving, furthering] our [ business strategic objective].”

Play with it until you think you’ve got it, and then get your staff involved in fine-tuning your statement.

Create Social Media Metrics

A strategy needs goals, and goals need measurement. Ensure that your social media goals can be measured. There’s lots more about measurement in the section Measure Results, but for right now, you should think about real, concrete goals that are measurable.

We also talk much more about measuring the Return on Investment (ROI) of social media in the section Measuring Social Media, Influence, Brand, but here’s a quick table of some of the things you can measure with social media:

Table 1 – Social Media Measurements

Blog posts Google trends
Reader comments Search results
Twitter mentions Inbound traffic
Twitter followers Video views
Facebook fans SlideShare views
Links Tags
RSS subscribers Diggs

Don’t worry too much if you don’t understand what some of these elements are at this point. Most will become clear throughout the rest of the book.

Determine Who is Responsible

When creating your social media strategies, you should consider who in your business is going to be responsible for social media activities. We can’t really do this for you, but here are some suggestions:

  • Please don’t just make it just marketing or public relations staff!
  • Please don’t make it just one person!
  • How about anyone who touches clients?
  • How about your leadership?

Determine How Your Clients Will Benefit

If you can’t quantify this, you need to rethink your whole strategy. If the answer is truly that you see no benefit for external stakeholders, that’s OK. Just be sure you understand that social media only provides internal benefits for your business. As we’ve discussed, those benefits can be enough.

Plan to Evolve Your Strategy

Accept that you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to learn what works and what doesn’t, and so you need to figure out how you are going to incorporate continuous improve­ment into your social media strategy and practice. One important element of improvement is to be open to innovation from your staff. Chances are good many have significant experience in social media and can help suggest improve­ments.

Up Next: First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy

Can’t wait for all the chapters? Buy Be a Person: The Enterprise Social Operating Manual and save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV .

[1] Social Media Performance Group’s Social Media Hall of Shame:

[2] See the definition for hashtag on page 12.

[3] The video Motrin Ad Makes Moms Mad:

[4] Read more about the Motrin debacle at

[5] Spider-Man:

[6] Blendtec’s YouTube channel:

[7] Enterprise Social Media Framework:

[8] Google zeitgeist:

[9] LonelyGirl15’s YouTube channel:

[10] A Comcast Technician Sleeping on my Couch:

[11] Frost & Sullivan report:

[12] Harvard Business Review:

[13] Allyis blog: and McKinsey:

[14] Harvard Business Review, “The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action”

[15] Edward R. Murrow at the RTNDA Convention (Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation) in Chicago on October 15, 1958.

[16] Harvard Business Review, “The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action”

Why Social Media?

This is the third 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 –  save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the subsequent post, How is Social Media Relevant to Business?

“One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real . . .

In the future that will become literally impossible.”

William Gibson, author

You’re reading this book because you’re at least curious about social media. You probably want to know why there’s such a fuss about it, and you’d like to find out if it can help your enterprise. We’ll get to all these topics, but first, why should you care at all about social media?

One reason is it is the fastest growing segment of the Internet, having overtaken online games and email as the most-used category of applications on the Internet.[1]

Think of how much you use email, and how much those around you use it. People are using social networking more often than they are using email.

In fact, here are some statistics on various social media properties:

YouTube is now 10 percent of all Internet traffic[2]

1.5 million blog posts per day (17 per second)[3]

YouTube & Wikipedia are among the top brands online[4]

Five of the top 10 Websites are social[5]

There are more than 152 million blogs[6]

More than 175,000 new blogs launch every day[7]

Not convinced yet? How about some more statistics?

  • One in four social network users knowingly follow brands, products or services on social networks. For those who use these sites and services
    several times per day, this figure increases to 43%.[8]
  • Americans spent an average 5 hours 35 minutes a month on social networking sites in 2009
  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third largest,[9] with
    750 million people, having over­taken the US, at 308 million[10]
  • Facebook users shared 30 billion pieces of content (links, notes, photos, etc.) per month in 2010 [11]
  • Online communities are visited by 67 percent of the global online population, which numbered 1.8 billion at the end of 2009 [12]
  • Nearly two-thirds of US Internet users regularly use a social network (and almost two-thirds of all Americans are on the FTC’s no-call list!) [13]
  • Nielsen Netview found that in 2010 social media use by Americans dwarfed other online usage by more than two-to-one

US Monthly Time Spent Online Graph

Figure 1- Source: Nielsen Netview, June 2010[14]

Managed security company Network Box found in an April, 2010 survey[15] that
social media sites dom­inate Internet usage by businesses. According to the company, employees watching YouTube videos accounted for 10 percent of
all corporate bandwidth during Q1 2010 – up two percent over the previous quarter.

The top five bandwidth Websites, and the percentage of all bandwidth they used, were:

  • YouTube – 10
  • Facebook – 4.5
  • Windows Update – 3.3
  • Yimg (Yahoo Image Search) – 2.7
  • Google – 2.5

Business usage of YouTube and Facebook sucks up almost 15 percent of the average org­anization’s bandwidth! This brings us to another reason to be
interested in social media: It’s already here. Your enterprise is already dealing with its effects. You need to understand it, plan for it, and create
a social media strategy for your business, if only in self-defense.

And if that doesn’t do it for you, consider the fact that Amazon recently was granted a patent [16] for “A networked computer system [that] provides various services for
assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users,” – in other words, social networking. When the big boys get this
serious, you know something’s going on.

Next up: How is Social Media Relevant to Business?

Can’t wait for all the chapters? Buy Be a Person: The Enterprise Social Operating Manual and save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV .

Nielsen Online:

Source: Ellacoya

Source: Technorati –


Source: Alexa –

Source: Blogpulse via Royal Pingdom: Internet 2010 in numbers:

Hmmm. Apparently Technorati said this as long ago as 2008, but this seems to be an accepted bit of Web lore at this point: a stat everybody
quotes, but has no findable source.

Edison Research and Arbitron The Social Habit II: Internet and Multimedia Study 2011:

For a light-hearted take on what this means, see:

Royal Pingdom: Internet 2010 in numbers:

Nielsen, Social Networking’s New Global Footprint: and Switched, FTC’s ‘Do Not Call’ List Hits 200-Million Mark, but Telemarketers Still Call:

Nielsen Netview:

Network Box survey:

Amazon granted a social networking patent:

Why Your Business Needs to Take Social Media Seriously

Many business leaders dismiss social media as a collection of toys and games for people who like to waste time talking about what they had for lunch, bowling irritated birds, and raising virtual crops.Picture of a crashing wave

It’s true.

Social media, like the cell phone in your pocket, can be used for trivial and stupid things.

Those leaders who may be inclined to take social media seriously often point to various problems with existing social networking sites. Facebook, the leading social network, for example, exhibits a significant lack of concern not only for privacy, but users in general.

While this is also true, new site on the block Google+ is pushing Facebook to pull back a little on the privacy front and may challenge them on the user-centricity side. The site
captured more than 25 million users in its first month of existence and may yet challenge the Facebook gorilla for dominance.

In other words, the social media marketplace continues to evolve, and everything you now think you know about social media may very well be wrong in a minute or two.

Turn Haters into Evangelists

Just as the sites are evolving, our personal behavior norms online are evolving. Sure, there’s a lot of negativity out there, and much of it could come your way if your business ventures into social media. Perhaps it will take the development of ubiquitous video connections to moderate thoughtless online behavior. It’s kind of like flipping off a careless driver and then finding out he’s your neighbor. If you knew that in the first place, your reaction would be less extreme.

And that’s the point about social media: Be a Person.

If you’re worried that people will bad-mouth you online, first consider that they probably already are. Next consider how creating a personal relationship with the haters might affect their behavior – potentially turning haters into supporters or even evangelists. There’s more about this process in our series, How Can Social Media Scale?

Social Media for Online Survival

If the forgoing is still not enough for you to get off the social media dime, the most compelling reason to get into social media is for survival.

If your business has a presence online, and you’re interested in being found via search engines, you have to get into social media. Now.

Search is morphing from the mechanical, SEO-dominated techniques of today to a recommendation-based model based in large part on what people are saying about your brand on social media.

In the rapidly-approaching future, what your prospects’ friends (yes, even for B2B brands) think about your products and services is going to be much
more important to online findability than today’s page-rank-based, how-many-keywords-you’ve-stuffed-onto-your-pages techniques (a gross simplification of modern SEO, to be sure).

Social Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that businesses will no longer have the convenience of considering people as generic “consumers,” differentiating them only by gross measures such as ethnicity, location, salary, job title, and other demographics. Businesses in the future will not only have to know more about their customers, they’ll have to better know their customers and be able to relate to them as individuals.

That’s a sea change, and if businesses think they can ignore it by discounting social media or dismissing it as something that doesn’t work, they risk missing the wave.

This sea change poses a number of very serious questions for all businesses:

  • How can relating to the whole person scale?
  • Is it possible to hire enough people to establish relationships with all your prospects?
  • How will you deliver a highly-personalized product or experience to your clients?
  • How will you convert customers into supporters into evangelists?

These are the important questions, not whether Twitter is stupid or Facebook is a joke.

If you’re not working on the answers to these evolving questions, you really could miss the boat and be under the wave, not on it.

Social Sites Defined

Social Sites Defined

There are a bewildering array of social media sites. In this post, we define many of the popular sites and terms your company should be familiar with. This is the second 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 save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the first post, What is Social Media? See the subsequent posts Why Social Media? and How is Social Media Relevant to Business?

Social Networks


Some rights reserved by Butch Lebo

Social networking sites will come and go, but approaches to going social  can be adapted for any site. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most popular and useful social sites and concepts out there, and give some quick definitions.


Facebook is the largest social networking site by far, with more than half a billion users. Many of its users use the site to keep up to date with friends and to “follow” celebrities, popular TV shows and movies, and causes. However, many use Facebook for serious purposes such as recruiting talent, selling products, and creating communities around brands or products.

The major features of Facebook include friending – connecting with other users so that you can see their activities; posting statuses – short blurbs about what you are doing or interested in; reading what others are posting in your News Feed, a constantly updating timeline of the comments and activities of your friends; and playing online games such as Mafia Wars and Farmville.


LinkedIn is the most professional of the popular social networks. Users tend to be more affluent and influential, and more of their interactions involve some business purpose rather than being purely social. LinkedIn is a great place to prospect for talent, find partners and customers, and find volunteers and donors. LinkedIn is organized around your user profile, which is like a resume on steroids. In addition, users’ profile pages feature a News Feed similar to Facebook’s as well as any number of plug-in applications such as Reading List by Amazon, SlideShare, blogs, and others.

LinkedIn has many features that enable you to find and connect with other users, but you are limited in the number of people you can contact directly and/or connect with. LinkedIn uses a principle of three degrees of separation: those you are connected to are your first degree network; those that your connections are connected to are your second degree network; those who are connected to your second degree network are your third degree network.

You can only directly contact your first degree network, but can ask those contacts for help in connecting to people in your second or third degree network.

One of the most useful aspects of LinkedIn is their Groups function. Anyone can create a group and invite like-minded people to join. It’s a great way to meet others who share your interests. Another useful function is LinkedIn Answers, which enable users to ask and answer questions on any subject.


Twitter is what is known as a microblogging social network. Members post messages of up to 140 characters (known as tweets) and those who follow them see the messages in their News Feeds. Often derided as shallow, trivial, and boring, Twitter is used for talent acquisition and all sorts of business and professional functions, including organizing online and offline events, and spreading the word about products and brands.

People who follow your tweets are called followers, and if they like a tweet they may retweet it – repeat it – to their followers. You can find people to follow by using the Twitter Website’s search function to search for words or phrases, or for special keywords called hashtags. Hashtags are created by putting a pound sign (#) in front of a word, for example #nonprofit. People do this so their tweets can be associated with others on a similar topic. For example, many recruiters post their job openings on Twitter using the hashtag #job.

Twitter is often used to call attention to a Website or a blog or other online destination. With only 140 characters to play with, it’s hard to say anything complicated, and thus Twitter often serves as an advertisement for lengthier treatments of a subject.

Twitter Directories – WeFollow, Twellow, etc.

Twitter has spawned its own universe of related sites, including many different sites dedicated to helping users find tweets and tweeps (people on Twitter) of interest. Directories like WeFollow and Twellow enable users to list themselves, add tags describing their interests, and use tags to search for tweeps that share their interests.


A tweetup is not a site, but rather an offline gathering organized via Twitter. Organizations as diverse as NASCAR, NASA, and non-profits such as GiveMN and Maui Food Bank[6] have used tweetups. Tweetups offer a chance for people who may only know one another virtually to meet in person. It’s a great idea for enterprises because it can solidify interest and support for your cause.


YouTube is a free service that lets people post short videos. Users can create a channel to house multiple videos, and other users can subscribe to the channel, tag videos within it, and comment on them in text or by posting a video reply. In most cases, users can embed (insert) videos on their Websites without the poster’s permission, thus providing a free source of content for their own Websites.

YouTube is largest video service of its kind, but there are lots of others. YouTube tends to be in the forefront of the social networking aspect of video.

StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg, Flickr

These sites are known as social bookmarking sites. Each provides ways for people to discover Websites, videos, blogs and pictures of interest based on the efforts of other users, who tag sites of interest with keywords that others can find via searches. StumbleUpon will email you with suggested sites in categories that you select. Delicious and Digg enable you to search for keywords and suggest general interest items. And Flickr specializes in photos, enabling you to post and tag photos and share them with friends.


Short for Weblog, blogs are a way to post longer-form articles that may include pictures and videos. The average blog post is not terribly long – perhaps 400 to 700 words – that usually treats a single subject. Some blogs are user’s everyday thoughts, like a diary, and others examine technical, philo­sophical, or religious topics. The most popular blog site is the Huffington Post (now part of AOL), which examines political topics, but there are also popular blogs that follow celebrities (TMZ, Perez Hilton), technical gadgets (engadget, Gizmodo, TechCrunch), or post satirical takes on current events (Gawker, The Onion). Anyone can create a blog, and tens of millions have. A blog is a particularly good way for enterprises to engage with their communities.

Google Alerts, Blog Search, Reader

Google has a wealth of tools to aid you in monitoring what people are saying about your organization on social media sites. Google Alerts are automated searches you can set up that will search for keywords and email you the results regularly. At the very least, your organization should have some Google Alerts set up. Google Blog Search does, guess what? Blog searches. It’s another great way to keep tabs on the conversation. Google Reader enables you to subscribe to RSS feeds (see below). Most blogs have feeds that Google Reader can consolidate into one place for you to read, sample, or skim.


Google+ is a young network with features similar to Facebook but with a more-effective way to organize your friends into “circles.” The network exhibited phenomenal growth, attracting more than 10 million mostly male users in its first two weeks of operation. While many of its features are derivative, Google+’s Hangouts feature, which enables users to create ad hoc meeting spaces, may force other social networks to create their own equivalents. The site’s Sparks instant messaging feature may even give Twitter a run for its money. Google+ has a real potential to challenge Facebook for social networking dominance. A related effort, Google’s 1+ equivalent to the Facebook Like button, released in March, 2011, achieved broad acceptance in a phenomenally short period of time, and has been especially spurred by the release of Google+. By the beginning of July, 2011, four percent of the top 10,000 sites had added a +1 button to their homepages, up 33% since the beginning of June. Google combination of a social network with its search engine dominance may help it eat into Facebook’s impressive social media dominance.

RSS Feeds

Standing for Really Simple Syndication, RSS is a way for users to “subscribe” to the updates of a site or a blog. Subscribing means that whenever the content changes on the subscribed-to site, an update is made available. You can keep up with the update by subscribing to the RSS feed using an RSS feed reader, like the free Google Reader. That way you don’t have to constantly revisit the site to see if anything has changed. You should consider implementing an RSS feed for your own site and social media properties.

Social Aggregators – Plaxo and FriendFeed

Started in 2002 as an address book synchronization service and purchased by Comcast in 2008 for $150 million, Plaxo added social aspects including the ability to follow multiple social media News Feeds from more than 30 sites (like Twitter, Yelp, Flickr, Facebook, and LinkedIn), a birthday reminder and e-card service, and user profiles. Plaxo’s 20 million social members (and 50 million address book users) tend to be business-oriented. Although it’s not often thought of for its social networking features, Plaxo is worth considering for use by enterprises. FriendFeed enables social media friends to follow one another’s’ feeds from more than 50 social networks in one place. FriendFeed pulls friend activity from other sites and assembles it into a News Feed on its site. Users can thus just check the FriendFeed without having to visit several social sites to keep up with their friends.

Personal Curation

An emerging type of social media site allows users to create and curate their own publications based on their social media activity and feeds. The resulting magazine-like electronic publications feature articles harvested from, for example, the activity of a user’s Twitter followers and Facebook friends., for example, scans and categorizes your feeds daily for links to articles, blogs, pictures, and videos. The publication has a front page and multiple “departments” containing material in categories such as technology, business, and politics. See an example at Summify is much simpler, presenting your top five news stories from your social networks, and delivering it by email, web or iPhone. Storify is less-automated, and enables you to curate your own publication by selecting specific material from Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, YouTube, Google searches, RSS feeds, and other Storify publications via a simple drag-and-drop interface. PearlTrees takes a little different tack, installing a brower plug-in to enable you to publish “pearls” – little pointers to Webpages or other resources. PearlTrees users can navigate “pearltrees” – organized connections ¾ link to them, or collaborate on creating them. As the torrent of social information grows, more tools to enable users to filter and curate information will crop up.

Location-Based Sites – FourSquare and GoWalla

With the rise of the smart phone, location-based sites have gone wild. FourSquare allows users to “check in” either manually or automatically at real-world locations such as bars, restaurants, and other venues. The idea is to help provide a real-world connection for social-world friends. But detractors say the information these sites provide about where people are right this moment is an invitation to burglary or worse. You’ll want to consider whether to make location-based sites part of your social media strategy.

Expert Sites – Squidoo,, eHow

There are lots of expert sites on the Web. Some are heavily curated ( has editors assigned to most of their expert areas); some are automated (Squidoo aggregates lots of content on a single topic); others are organized around how-to areas (eHow has articles and videos that show you how to do almost anything). You should review these sites to see if they’re talking about you and your cause, and to determine if they might include your organization in their materials.

White Label Sites – Ning

White label social media sites provide the tools for you to build a standalone social media site for your organization. One of the oldest and best is Ning (“peace” in Chinese), which hosts more than four million sites. Incidentally, cofounder and Ning chairman Marc Andreessen created the first insanely popular Web browser, Netscape, back in 1996 and sold it to AOL for $4.2 billion in 1999. Your organization can get started on Ning for a few dollars a month. Of course, first you need to know whether your community needs (another) place to go, and whether you’re ready to commit to the effort necessary to create and host a community.

Orkut and Bebo

Social media is a worldwide phenomenon, and while a large percentage of Facebook’s membership lives outside the US, there are also social networks like Orkut and Bebo that focus on non-US members. Orkut is owned by Google and has more than 100 million users. After starting as an invitation-only network in the US, its largest proportion of users now come from Brazil, where it is one of the most popular Websites, and from India. Acquired by AOL in 2008 and then sold to hedge fund operators Criterion Capital Partners in mid-2010, Bebo was also started in the US and now has more than 40 million users, a quarter of which are from the UK. If your organization wants to reach outside the borders of the US, consider using social networks such as these.


Knowem is one of many sites that will allow you to reserve your organization’s presence on hundreds or even thousands of social media sites. You can use the site to do this even if you have no plans to create a presence on hundreds of sites. It’s a good idea because a) you may someday want to join one of the obscure sites and b) you may want to prevent others from usurping your identity on social sites. Knowem is also a good way to research specialty social media sites where your community may have an active presence.

Social Media Badges

Many sites provide badges, little graphics that represent the site or some achievement, to supporters who then post them on their blogs or other sites. One example of this is on LinkedIn. When you join a LinkedIn group, you have the option to display the group’s badge on your profile so others see you’re a member. Badges are also given by sites like FourSquare to signify some achievement or status. It’s a good way to enable and encourage evangelists. There are also other types of badges that recognize achieve­ments of your supporters, such as “Top Blogger” or “Most Valuable Evangelist.”

Up next: ­Why Social Media?

What is the Difference between Social Media and Snake Oil?

The main difference between social media and snake oil is that social media works.

We have more than 100 case studies in our Enterprise Social Media Framework across all industries and company types that show real benefits from the proper use of social media. While best practices are still evolving, companies that are getting the most out of social media understand they need to:

  • Be a Person – Social media is social, meaning involving people. If your company insists on rigidly controlling an impersonal, old-media push-type message, you won’t be successful. Be a Person is the name of a series of books we’ve written to help companies understand how best to use social media
  • Be authentic – Don’t try to be what you’re not. Social media users will see through artifice and insincerity. There are lots of examples of companies who failed because they ignored this dictate. See the Wal-Marting Across America entry in our Social Media Hall of Shame for a good example.
  • Be transparent – If you try to hide, obfuscate, or deny embarrassing news or policies, you’ll get found out. It’s much better to be transparent, as scary as that might be.
  • Be consistent – This refers not only to your messaging, but your online branding. Use consistent graphics and messaging everywhere you are online. You can customize your message for various groups, but don’t tell one segment one thing and another something different.
  • Be patient – ROI will come, but it’s like offline networking. You don’t expect to ask someone you just met at a mixer to invest $100M in your company, right? Relationships will come. And it is very possible to measure the return on your social media investment.
  • Be careful – There are various legal restrictions that may affect social media, especially if you’re in a regulated industry. There are other state and federal laws that can affect social media use by your employees. At the very least, you need to have a social media policy for your company. See the Online Database of Social Media Policies for guidance in creating yours.

Finally, look beyond the obvious suspects – sales and marketing – into other areas of your business for opportunities to leverage social media. In fact, we believe that sales and marketing may be the least impressive thing social media does. You may find great social media success in product development, customer service, talent acquisition and especially employee engagement. There are few areas of most enterprises that can’t benefit from social media.

This question was asked on the The Business Technology Forum  on LinkedIn. Join that conversation at

How Social Networking Saved Me Money and Exposed Corporate Dishonesty

by Robbie Johnson, Partner, Social Media Performance Group

About a week ago, my washer stopped working. It was taking up massive amounts of time for both my wife and I: more than 6 hours to do a single load of laundry.

Something had to be done, but before I called in a repair person, I went online to GE’s Website to try to find a solution. Finding none on GE’s site, I checked out several forums and discussion groups where I found lots of people with the same problem. There didn’t appear to be a solution other than to a certified GE repairman come by and charge them around $300.

Confused that there didn’t seem to be any explanation available for such a common problem, both my wife and I posted updates on our Facebook pages about our frustration with the situation. That same day, a neighbor replied to my wife saying that her husband was on the way over to help us fix our washer. Cool!

My neighbor – we’ll call him Gene to protect his identity for reasons that will become clear – showed up a few minutes later saying the fix was a piece of cake. They had had the same problem with their washer, and fortunately the GE repairman who showed up to fix it was a friend. He said, “You know, I’m not really supposed to tell anybody this, but it’s a really simple fix.”

Gene said the guy wasn’t kidding. “All you need is a Philips head screw driver. Got one?” Of course I did, and we proceeded to remove three screws at the bottom of the front washer panel and unscrew a filter slowly while excess water that was stuck in the washer drained out.

After the water was drained, we removed the filter (which was filled with about two cups worth of hair and other debris), and then simply cleaned the filter with tap water and put it back in. That’s it. I was flabbergasted that this simple fix was such a big secret.

My neighbor said the GE repairman told him that 90 to 95 percent of the service calls they receive are for this problem, and that they charge a $75 trip charge plus $225 for the work (which takes 30-45 minutes max). He went on to say that this problem will occur every two to five years depending on how much laundry a household does.

Not only is this simple fix not in the washer’s manual, but the filter is not even on the schematic!

Although some people would willingly pay the service charge because they wouldn’t want to do the work, it is absolutely dishonest of GE to not put this fix in their manuals for those who want to do it themselves. There are no mechanical skills needed. If you can use a Philips head screwdriver and twist the cap off of a jug of milk (while holding your nose – the junk in the filter can be nasty), you can fix this problem. GE is wrong and completely
dishonest in omitting this from their manuals and Website in order to make very easy money.

The story gets better. When the GE repairmen pull the debris out that is blocking the filter, they usually throw it away. When Gene and I got the gunk out of the filter, I put it aside in order to look through it later. When I did, I found several coins, some LEGOS, some costume jewelry and then something fell to the floor that stopped my heart. There gleaming in the fluorescent light was my wife’s wedding ring that had gone missing almost 2 ½ years ago!

The ring is worth over $3,000 and we had written it off years ago as gone.

As it happens, that night we had dinner plans – Date Night. So I cleaned up the ring, and stuck it in my pocket. Then, during the dinner, I said casually, “Oh, honey, I got you a little something” and handed her the ring. She started to say, “Oh, that looks just like my old . . .” and then she was unable to speak for three minutes because she was weeping. Needless to say, I got a lot of hubby points for that one!

So let’s add this up: If GE had come out to repair my washer, it would have taken over a week for them to get there; they would have taken a day of my time (their window for repairs is somewhere between 8 am – 6 pm); it would have cost me $300; and odds are, they simply would have thrown out the debris stuck in my filter, and we would have never found my wife’s ring.

Also, I would have never have known how despicable GE is.

I credit social computing for saving me time, $300, a lot of frustration, and giving us back my wife’s lost wedding ring! Next time I’m buying a Maytag.