Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

Moving Beyond Social Media Tactics to Find Business Value

Today’s blog has been written by Marketwire and Sysomos’ COO, Jim Delaney

If you were to believe the recent blog headline “Social Media is a Waste of Time for B-to-B,” then your company may miss an a significant opportunity to create communication that leads to valuable business outcomes.  Given the nascent nature of the Social Media revolution, there is no shortage of headlines like these based on an incomplete understanding of end-to-end business process.   Most posts, like this one, address the value of social media in the context of infrastructure only, detailing the components of the infrastructure that must be in place. Rather than focusing on the infrastructure only, businesses need to think about how social media can support the infrastructure, while also providing high-level business value.

The first question you should always ask is, ”How will social media support my company’s higher level goals, and why do we want to engage in social media?” As an executive and marketer, it’s not that I don’t care about the number of friends, followers, views and retweets.  But, I’m much more interested in seeing a clearer picture of how social media affects my company on a business level. Does social media help us to manage our company’s reputation, augment our customer service program, gain market share, and/or increase employee productivity?

Too often, the focus on social media is tactical communications, with marketing, branding and PR departments rushing to have conversations and share content, without understanding how participation connects to higher-level goals. Simply pumping content through different channels clearly is not enough.  Social media success, of course, is based on several basic best practices including:  a good functional website where you can drive social media traffic, a customer service program capable of answering questions at numerous touch points, a strong industry presence and the resources to support relationship building with your stakeholders.

However, moving beyond the initial infrastructure, you must also look more closely at using social media to create opportunities that result in better:

Reputation Management

Social media allows a company to proactively set up a customer “listening” program with data and insights to determine how your stakeholders think and feel about your brand. Armed with an enormous amount of analytics, you are able to keep a pulse on the market. You are also constantly monitoring customer sentiment and preventing the smallest negative conversations from escalating into what could be a mountain of crisis, by simply being responsive. Addressing issues as they arise is the best way to preserve a thought leadership position and maintain a positive image in an age of public conversations.

Customer Service Satisfaction

Facebook has become a customer service portal, with employee representatives answering questions, offering useful advice and solving problems on your pages. Whether it’s a simple inquiry about your product or a verified complaint, a social network can serve as a helpful forum, opening up a new avenue for stakeholders to praise your service or vent their dissatisfaction. Companies have learned quickly that using Facebook to answer questions cuts down on the call center inquiries, which, in turn, also cuts costs. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of every business. If your stakeholders are participating in social media, then you need to be listening carefully with the right tools to help and solve their issues.

Lead Generation and Sales

The social media million-dollar question is how does community engagement create leads, which convert to product sales?  Where social media analytics end, website analytics begin.  You must track how your social media program drives traffic to your website, and then monitor your stakeholder behavior from there. Using unique landing pages as a part of a Facebook contest or a Twitter promotion allows you to capture leads on the page, and then use the information to further engage with interested parties.  However, if you are not set up properly to capture the social media analytics and track from click to conversation on your website, then you will not be able to see a direct connection between social media participation and potential sales for your company.

Employee Productivity

As much as we rush to communicate through social networks, tremendous value comes from the education and subsequent internal collaboration of your employees.  Training employees to understand, embrace and use social media collectively in their departments and even cross functionally opens up your organization to innovation and idea generation. Collaborative technology can be used from brainstorming new product ideas to strategic planning initiatives. Cutting back on email, and streamlining your process by editing documents in real time, is a great way to increase productivity, and also to assure consistent communications messaging, from champion to champion across the organization.

Of course, if you don’t have the basics down, then there is no way your organization can even begin to think about how social media is tied to increased market share, reputation management, better customer service, enhanced lead generation and greater employee productivity.   Get the basics or infrastructure in place, know what you’re trying to achieve and create a social media plan with strategies that lead to greater outcomes.

If you can think about the higher-level goals first, then you will find social media is not a waste of time. In fact, you will realize it leads to valuable business outcomes.

How to Boost Your Social Productivity

Social media is compelling, interesting and valuable but it can also be a time-suck and productivity-killer. One minute, you’re creating a PowerPoint presentation before the call of the Twitter distracts you for the next 15 minutes.

So what can be done to use social media more productively and efficiently to make you control it rather than the other way around?

1. Turn it off. This is the extreme solution for people who have a difficult time resisting the urge to flip over to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or their RSS reader but it may be the only effective way to control your social media behaviour. This approach takes a lot of discipline because it is like going cold turkey – a challenge given social media has become an inherent part of our digital lives.

2. Establish time slots for social media. For many people, this is likely a more reasonable approach than not using social media at all but it still requires discipline. Using this management method, you create slots during the time to use social media services. It could be 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at lunch and 30 minutes later in the day. It means having “social structure” so you can focus on other activities without feeling the urge to jump over to social media.

3. Embrace less is more. Rather than splitting time between multiple social media services (aka the shotgun approach), it might be better and more productive to focus your creation and listening efforts on one or a small group of services based on the idea that less can sometimes be more.

4.Create metrics to assess your performance. At the end of the day, there should be an end-goal for using social media. It could personal or professional brand-building, Web site traffic, lead, sales or conference invitations. Whatever metric is relevant should be measured on a regular basis to see if social media is meeting expectations, otherwise you may just be singing into the wind.

5. To publish content, explore the idea of a multi-platform tool such as Tweetdeck or HootSuite that lets you write once and publishing to a variety of social media services at the same time.

If you are interested in learning more about digital productivity, a good read is Mark Hurst’s Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload, which is a free download on iBookstore and 99 cents at the Kindle store.

How to be Energy-Efficient on Social Media

Social media can be a time-suck and undermine productivity. But does it have to be this way?

I came across an interesting project launched by Microsoft called “Save Social Energy”, which is focused on providing people with the right tools to be as efficient and productive as possible with their time online.

It’s an interesting concept because it is something that doesn’t get much of attention when it comes to social media tactics. There is so much attention on the tools, how to use them properly, and the required content that efficiency and productivity are second-class citizens. At the same time, social media is pitched as a 24/7 activity, which lends itself to being online a lot.

Truth be told, social media productivity should be a tactical priority because it is a key part of operating a well-oiled machine that used the right amount of resources in the right way. This means having the right tools and best practices to ensure the people who are running social media campaigns can do their jobs well without the danger of getting burned out from being constantly online.

Here are a few keys to social media productivity.

1. Create a toolbox that lets people create content and monitor activity as efficiently as possible. It means, for example, using Tweetdeck or HootSuite to manage multiple accounts rather than having to visit a bunch of different Web sites.

2. Create an editorial calendar that provides structure for the content that needs to be required. This lets a social media team create content in advance or have a good idea of what has to be done on a daily basis. This contrasts with having no calendar or plan, and then creating content on the fly.

3. Embrace best practices so the tools are used properly, including engagement with other social media users.

4. Just because we live in a 24/7 world doesn’t mean you have to be online 24/7. If social media has to be closely monitored, set up teams to split the responsibilities. If it’s a one-person operation, establish times during the day (e.g. hourly, every two hours, every six hours) to check out the social media landscape.

This, of course, depends on the amount of activity and the urgency of the situation. Some selling cupcakes will clearly have a much lower degress of social urgency than an electrical utility.

Does Social Media Have to be a Time Suck?

Time flies when you’re having fun, and the same could be said for using social media.

For anyone enthusiastic about social media, it can be a terrible time-suck. Not that this is a bad thing but using services such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can consume hours of your time.

The average Facebook user, for example, spends five and a half hours a month on the service. This is time not spent with family, friends, watching television, working or pursuing other interests.

And the thing about social media is how easy it is to get caught up in it. One minute you’re checking your Twitter stream, and then an hour has flown by because you clicked on a bunch of interesting links. Facebook is probably worse given there are so many different things to do – a list that keeps growing.

The question is whether social media needs to consume as much time as it does. Is there a way that we can eat our cake and have it too? In other words, can we enjoy and get value out of social media without it sucking up a lot of personal and professional time.

The answer is “yes” but it can be a huge challenge for some people. Perhaps the most important issue is discipline. Rather than just use social media whenever, it is important to manage your usage by allotting a certain amount of time to use it.

It be something such as giving yourself two 15-minute slots a day to check out Twitter, or a 30-minute period to use Facebook. The trick is making sure you control social media as opposed to the other way around.

It is also important to remember that social media will still be rolling along regardless of how long you’ve been away. Whether it’s a few hours, a day or a week, social media will be there waiting for you. It’s like a parade; you may miss a few floats but there are a lot of more interesting floats coming your way.

Another angle is being able to use aggregators to package your social media for faster, easy consumption. Services such as Google Reader and Paper.li can make it easy to get your fix without burning a lot of time doing it.

What are your tricks when it coming to managing the social media “beasts”? What techniques or tools do you deploy to get bang for the buck?

How Not to Be Overwhelmed by Social Media

The growth has social media has dramatically changed how we consume and share information, as well as changed the online landscape in many ways. At the same time, social media has also made the Web a 24/7 “beast” in which a growing number of people are seemingly always connected.

In some respects, it can be overwhelming because the Web doesn’t have an “On/Off” switch. The data keeps coming day and night regardless of the weather, time of year or where you live. It’s a digital deluge that never stops.

So, how do you control social media so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Here are some tips:

1. Use social media when it fits your schedule and personal/professional schedule. If work is crazy busy or you’re spending time with family and friends, don’t feel like you have to get a digital fix. Social media is like a parade, you might miss something if you bend down to tie your shoe, but more floats will be coming when you look back again.

2. Focus your social media efforts. Pick the social media services that meet your interests and provide the most valuable, interesting or entertaining content. Don’t try to cover the entire landscape – Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, et al – because your efforts will be spread way too thin.

3. Give yourself some social media “windows” during the day to allocate a certain amount of time to read blogs, Twitter, etc. Having a disciplined approach will do a lot of make sure your productivity doesn’t suffer.

4. Use tools such as Instapaper or Read it Later to put aside interesting blog posts when you have the time to read them. On Twitter, use the “favorite” feature as a way to bookmark tweets that capture your attention.

5. Give yourself a social media vacation once in a while – something John Mayer describes as a “digital cleanse”. As hard as it might be to walk away from the “buffet”, it can be a healthy mental break.