Social Media is Good Business

After a series of rather heated discussions on this topic, I felt it was time to put the words down on paper (or at least my version of paper, save a tree). It is mistake to think that social media is just about marketing and the social media optimization is only about building more traffic. Without even realizing it, many companies both big and small are using social media in all areas of their business practices with a very positive effect. Why do they not realize it? Because, social media and networks in general are being used by “users” who work for them as tools that optimize their work. Either way, it is still quality of the interactions that result in optimisation not quantity.

For example, most human resources departments commence by doing the simple Google search to learn more about a potential employee before they interview. This will lead them to other social media interactions like a blog or profile listing on LinkedIn and Facebook and on other sites. This practice has become standard in the first stage of reinforcing that which stands on their application, or weeding out individuals who will not fit with the company culture.

Imagine this chain for recruitment using twitter as a starting point: twitter search for subject matter expert on “socialmedia” –> See several posts by same person and follow link to their profile –> On their profile more interesting entries so check out the website listed in profile –> Leads to blog with more interesting/relevant content –> Look at the profile on the blog for full name –> Check LinkedIn for profile –> See some of their presentation posted on SlideShare –> just the kind of candidate we are looking for –> Send them and inMail requesting a Skype talk –> Speak to get the real connection via voice and see if they are available (or if not have a referral to someone else) –> Follow them on twitter to see if they react publicly to the call. This of course could go many ways. But each one of these steps to could apply to any field and costs nothing other than the person’s time to follow through completely.

Product / Service development is another area in which the implementation of social media strategy can shorten the innovation cycle with direct consumer feedback. Whether B2B or B2C the end consumer is the one who needs to be satisfied. So, why not engage them in the process. Customer surveys have been done online for years. Now they can be integrated into conversations that are a true dialog. We can speed up development cycles by understanding our consumers’ needs based on conversations rather than assumptions.

Try this example for using social media for product development à a company is looking to create new flavors –> Create a Facebook Fan page for product –> Hold a contest for most popular innovative flavor using their product as a base –> Promote it on Facebook, homepage, twitter, blog and anywhere else they know their consumers are with a tag –> Let contestants submit YouTube videos, audio, images or text narrating their recipe and post to Fan page –> Create link to daily best of on twitter –> Allow other users to rate flavors based on new recipes using base product –> Invite best flavors to share and compete via video conference –> Invite active fans to join the video conference by voting –> The Fans choose the flavor (the engineers develop it to scale, and then offer the fans a chance to test it) –> See if they got it right, thank those active fans who took time to help by giving them free product and ask for feedback (repeat until get it right) –> These fans in turn will spread the word through their channels (twitter, Facebook, etc.) –> Let those great videos and other content become part of a virtual recipe station and fun viral compilation video build your brand afterwards. –> Keep ear to the ground on reactions via all social media channels –> Reward their efforts, creator of winning recipe gets free product. The sites I am using for examples here are simply that, examples. (Oh yes, and by the way you will build your brand in the process as a by-product)

These are just two examples of business areas. Imagine the impact if they coordinated these efforts and incorporated them into their enterprise or business strategy. Now, THAT is social media optimization. I am not recommending that your R&D or your HR departments become social media experts. What I am recommending is that they learn to listen and watch. Social media in its basic forms are simple to use. More and more tools are being created to optimize how we interact with social media so that it becomes less of distraction and more effective. It is these tools that should be focused on. Planning is critical. How can you best apply a social media strategy to increase effectiveness in your organization? That is social media optimization.

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Be Social for Success

Understanding the value mix of online media participation and face to face interaction is key to the success of the modern business and individual. There is a delicate balance needed between on-line efficiency and off-line effectiveness. New tools are created to make our work easier and to connect us to our stakeholders and communities (those-whom or that-which we need/desire in our lives). The ultimate challenge in today’s connected workplace and lifestyles is to find the perfect balance or mix. When not used effectively they achieve just the opposite of their intended purpose and priorities get re-arranged. Interacting with people whether face to face or online and sharing is how we learn and improve as individuals as well as organisations. In networks and face to face interactions we build the foundation for deeper connections and context for further interactions both online and off. In social media, we reinforce these relationships and are referred to others through authentic connections that further add value.

Three basic principles or “R”s should lead us to how and where we interact (REAL, RELEVANT and RESPECT). It is much harder to be someone you are not and it will catch up to you. Being authentic will earn trust, whereas getting caught being fake will ruin your reputation and those around you. Whether you are using social media to connect to your old friends, your remote colleagues, your employees or your clients or to meet or gain new ones, the quality of your interactions and their being in context to your audience and the arena are what count and resonate. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. In other words, constructive criticism is far more effective and it won’t come back to bite you later. These basic principles are core to face to face networking as well, and what creates the foundation for valued relationships.

Strategy needs to be considered on all levels. Participating in social media or face to face networks should not be limited to marketing. If used properly they impact product/service development, employee engagement and turnover, brand building, customer satisfaction and relations, business development and individual success. Ultimately there is a person with thoughts feeling and views of their own called a “user”. We feel engaged and become advocates when we learn about the things that impact us, we appreciate having our voice heard (and listened to), we appreciate respect and return it. We derive value from our interactions when the three R’s are observed. That value creates incentive for further interaction and referral.

Social media optimisation and social optimisation should go hand in hand when building lasting and strong relationships with our friends, our employees, our consumers, our investors and extended community of stakeholders in our lives and our businesses.

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One of the beautiful things about being an entrepreneur is the opportunity to learn and make mistakes and learn more. After trying for three years to make 2BalanceU the portal for sharing resource recommendations around the globe, I realised we were going about it all wrong. The last thing we needed to do was to create yet another destination that fills our time, distracts us and requires us to learn how it works before we get anything out of it. The vision was right, empowering through simplified global knowledge sharing. But the approach was wrong.

What will emerge from the next version will amaze you with its simplicity and delight you. It will free you up by requiring less time and effort getting to what’s relevant from the sources you already draw from and others that provide information important to you. You will be more effective through greater accuracy in sending out what we wish to share to your intended audience. We have things pulling us in so many different directions, because we are multidimensional individuals. The knowledge sharing tool will come out this Fall. This new tool will be build as a cooperative effort between 2BalanceU and Off The Red with the input of several Advisory Members to ensure we have a sound business model for sustainability. The new site will have a new name (we are still working on that part) and logo, so keep posted and I will let you know when we have it.

2BalanceU remains as a consultancy that provides the vision, the network and input to the executive team. This enables me to continue my passionate work and study of how technology has enabled the evolution of the women’s sacred circle to the modern professional women’s network. I need to find someone to fund my PhD work, as it cannot be done by the former 2BalanceU as planned. (Ideas welcome…) I will also continue speaking at global conferences on social media and network optimisation as well as empowering women in leadership through knowledge sharing. I find this work inspiring and very fulfilling as a great way to really understand the different needs and tools around the world used for knowledge sharing. I will also continue to consult on Internet strategy, particularly on how to engage consumers in dialog.

So thank you for your notes asking, when will 2BalanceU be “live” again. I am so glad to see there is interest and I appreciate your support. I am sure you will be happy with what is coming soon.

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Old Networks Using New Social Media

I have been working a lot recently on social media and network optimisation. So here is my “2 cents.” Many women’s networks, provide a great format and vision for the future. A common issue that many established face to face networks face is the need to connect their members online. The communities are more physically dispersed and in need of connecting for sharing and maximum effectiveness. It is for precisely this reason that social media sites like Connected-Women come about and are very much needed.

When building any organisation, whether it is a new entrepreneurial endeavor or an established business, it is important to focus on the vision. Building Technology platforms is an entirely different business than face to face networks. If advertising revenue is not part of your business model for the network, you do not need to drive traffic to your site. What networks do need to do is get information to their members. This can be done with a clean and easy to use Internet site, that is well connected to other complementary sites. What they need to learn is how to optimise where their members are already rather than creating yet another place and time consumer for members.

As I mentioned, this is a growing problem for established face to face networks with geographically dispersed communities. My best advice is do NOT build another LinkedIn or Connected-Women for your members. Create a space there (the sites which your members use) for members to interact with other members. They should have a way to identify each other as part of the same network within those sites. Of course, a membership directory is useful. But once they find the members they need, let them link to them elsewhere that they are already active. Non-profit networks have too many other great things to do with the limited resources they have. Don’t waste resources on trying to keep up with building a new technology platform (that by the way will be out of date in a year so will need updating constantly in order to keep interesting for members).

This is adapted from my entry on a thread question on about what we want from FCEM (World Association of Women Entrepreneurs). To see the complete thread click here

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Social Optimisation and Social Media Optimisation

Perhaps I spend too much on-line analyzing social media usage. I am starting to wonder if people have forgotten about the face to face side. I cross between both worlds in my work and my personal life. As an entrepreneur and as an expat, it is essential for me to connect, communicate, listen and interact with both the growing pool of knowledge and individuals in my global network. It is how I grow my business and myself as an learning being. Given that there are only so many hours in the day, we must prioritise everything we do in order to accomplish that which is most important and most beneficial.

It comes down to an equation of value for time. Let’s face it, a lot of the work we do is not monetarily compensated. We either do things for the love of it, for the need for it, or for the love of someone or something that needs it. So is the life of a social entrepreneur. That, of course, does not mean that I do not like or need to make money. It simply means that we are compensated in other ways for our efforts. After all, I would like to see someone try to place a monetary value on the 15 extra minutes I take to snuggle with my kids in the morning before we launch into the hectic morning routine. It might be easier to monetise the effort it takes to share a bit of my expertise with a non-profit organisation that I believe has the ability to empower women all over the world, including me. But I win in the end for feeling that I have done my part. Then of course there is the countless hours building business plans and laying the groundwork for it before a new business becomes profitable.

All these tools that we use to optimise our interaction with both those we know personally and those we share common interests with are time consuming. As individuals we are bombarded by messages from every corner. It is just for this purpose that I am learning to apply my work practices to my life practices. Turn things off when there is something that requires (or deserves) total attention. This mean Blackberries, SMS, twitter, the computer, the phone. And then pair down to the messenging sources that provide the greatest and more effective impact. Use them for the proper purpose and no more. Remember, there are only so many hours in the day. Take the time to have the conversation with the neighbor or client without checking the vibrating phone in your pocket. They’ll appreciate it (and you will get much more out of the conversation than “nice day, eh”.

So social media optimisation, well, there is so much more than ever before. I look at it this way. There is a balance between a message buzzed and a message swarm. If you are sending the same message through many overlapping outlets, you create a swarm that will send your target running. So place wisely and thoughtfully. Don’t waste their time by creating too many complete spaces to find you. Create portals so that they can get to your central information and can be updated when it changes (based on their needs). And remember who is a “friend” and who is a “connection”. Your “friends” are proud of you but may not want to hear about every little new product or service you produce. Your “connections” probably like to know you are real, but every update on your two year old’s development may get a bit tiring. Optimising the time you spend on sending the messages so that you have time to hear the responses makes the social element far more fruitful.

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