Recently my blogeague Alan See had a post entitled “I’d Rather Go To The Dentist Than Get into Social Media” about how businesses need to engage their customers via social media or fall behind the curve. Implicit in his message is that using social media to market your business has ceased being an innovation that provides a competitive advantage; and instead become necessary to remain competitive.
By definition you can’t use social media like everyone else does and call it innovation or a differentiator; but social networking is a powerful tool-set that hasn’t been around long. There are still a lot of opportunities to use it in ways that can give you a competitive advantage.
Think about the problems your business faces and then think about how social networking might be able to help solve them. A while back I was involved in an effort to use the idea behind Twitter to help keep people in the loop about changes to an IT environment. At first I thought it was ridiculous, but it really worked! It resulted in a drastic reduction of unintended consequences from changes being made. Read more about it here.
As a consultant one area where I regularly see larger organizations struggle is in the use of more virtual teams, where people who are in different places have to work towards a shared objective. Virtual teams have lots of advantages, but often the best ideas seem to come out of discussions at lunch; how do you replace that interaction when you are having a sandwich by yourself in your virtual office?
Here at AT&T we have our own internal social network, tSpace, that is aimed at this problem. The most exciting part being our Innovation Pipeline, where product leaders challenge the community to provide solutions to current business problems and then to help refine and evaluate those ideas.
- Service desk agents using twitter-esque tools like Yammer to help determine if an issue is confined to one user or if they have a broader impact
- Monitoring Twitter to predict how well a movie will do.
- Driving voter turnout for a particular candidate using social media.
I’m no “social media expert”, but I try to think about how these powerful tools can be applied to what I do, and that is the point. People and organizations that don’t use these tools at all are already behind; those can use them in creative new ways can pull ahead.