What do you get when a VP of Influencer Relations from SAP, the founder of Silicon-Valley Watcher and former Financial Times Journalist and a Social Media strategist come together? The answer is lively discussions and debate about the impact of social media upon business. Don Bulmer, Tom Foremski and I have recently formed a lyceum of sorts and meet regularly to discuss this very topic. In addition to thoroughly engaging and timely discussion, we are also forming a framework for understanding social media in a business context. We believe that social strategy is and needs to become about more than just marketing, and will be woven into the very fabric of the enterprise as a strategic platform.
We are actively exploring the idea that every company is a media company. Initially, I had a negative, knee-jerk reaction that this didn’t concept sound right. How can every company be a media company? Why would every company need or want to be a media company? When this idea was first introduced by Tom Foremski, my mind quickly went to a mis-interpretation of the concept.. every company is a media company meaning that each should be mini-publisher, every organization now needing to be burdened with complex publishing cycles. I recoiled from the thesis… Everyone knows that enterprise success is predicated on competitive advantage, best products and services, excellent customer service, and right pricing. Being a media company is the last thing strategic executives need to have on their minds to excel in today’s global economy!
But the more we talked about this concept – the better I understood and the more I agreed. The reality is that every company today and into the future faces a new reality: the need for speed and relevance in the market. Competition is stiff in most industries and due to the recession, we face a “new normal” of doing more with less budget, fewer staff, and a reduction in experimental or innovation projects that are geared towards discovery. Plainly spoken, companies need to “get it right” to survive. I have written extensively in my blog about the Engagement Cycle; the basic tenant is that the more a company engages with clients and prospects, the more likely they are to gain awareness, insight, and ideas into the market’s needs. Through the sheer act of engaging with the very constituents they hope to attract they can begin to strengthen relationships that are at the very core of the buyer decision-making process. This belief was reinforced through the research that Don and I did called The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks (under our research fellowships with SNCR) where we found that decision makers are increasingly relying on social media driven peer networks to make buying decisions. In fact, in-person and social media driven relationships are almost equally as trustworthy, according to the survey participants.
Re-enter the idea that every company is a media company…. Media, and specifically social media, is the wellspring for relationships. It is the source of information, collaboration and dialogue with the market that can, and will, inform enterprise about the needs of their buyers and influencers.
When media is used strategically and effectively, many of the answers to these burning questions can become clearer and help shape competitive strategies for success. On the flip side, people are already talking about notable companies, brands and products. The dialogue already exists, outside the control of the enterprise throughout online and offline channels – in email, phone conversations, industry gatherings, Twitter, blogs, online peer networks and groups The buzz – both positive and negative- happens with or without intervention but unlike in the past – before social media – enterprises now have an opportunity and, in fact, a standing invitation to participate. And, they also have an opportunity to share the leading thinking in the market. Most successful companies got to their levels of achievement, in part, due to their deep understanding of their industry and its nuances. Thought leadership is the new relationship conduit. Through the effective use of thought leadership platforms, made so agile on social media, companies can “be the media” by sharing and showcasing content and ideas of value. They can participate and in some instances lead and shape the dialogue, not as an overt marketing channel, but through earnest efforts to educate and inform about the issues and topics relevant to their segment.
As Don so eloquently summarized in a recent blog post on the topic “The way that people (consumers, employees, partners and influencers) are using social technologies to inform, shape and share their opinions has quickly become a priority for business leaders to understand and appreciate as they (re)define their corporate strategies and operational business plans. Many companies are actively looking to incorporate ‘social strategy’ and social thinking into the core of their innovation process (research and development), service and support operations, sales and partner programs, and of course employee engagement efforts.”
So, through this lens of urgency and strategic value, Tom Foremski, Don Bulmer and I have begun to capture key concepts, best practice and look forward to the future where all competitive organizations are weaving social strategy across the value chain. We are soon to launch a new blog together to explore the ideas with you and are also creating a framework for putting the ideas into the business content to help companies in their charters.
Coming full circle to the platitude that every company is a media company, I believe the answer is yes! Through the act of creating, leading and engaging, companies take a more participatory role in shaping their future.Thank you for reading Building Online Communities for Business by Leader Networks. We are a research and strategy consulting company that helps organizations succeed in social business and B2B online community building.
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