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 http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson
- 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 http://bit.ly/HallOfShame 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 http://bit.ly/h6VHS3 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.