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Idealab
How to fit the Social Media Elephant into your Corporate Culture
By Shannon Bedell, Director of Social Media Strategy, Idealab
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Earlier this year, Career Builder reported that 35% of all businesses (in the U.S) were using Social Media to build networks and promote products and services. That number is definitely higher today, yet there are still a lot of companies who remain unconvinced or unmotivated when it comes to taking a serious dip into Social Media waters.

There appear to be many reasons for the resistance. One might be a little bit of fear. Traditional corporate structures revolve around org charts and department heads who manage the efforts of carefully crafted teams. More often than not, bringing a Social Media person on board disrupts corporate culture and forces companies to take a new look at the roles of many departments within the organization. In this way, Social Media can affect every aspect of the company.

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As more businesses of all sizes use social strategies to promote products, services and company news, they're also embracing the idea that building strong internal networks can lay a solid foundation for external Social Media efforts. It seems that coordinated teams often produce better results, and if properly executed, one is accomplished as a direct result of the other.

Engaging as a Unit

It's not enough to simply bring in a Social Media person (no matter how good that person is) and expect a distinctive social footprint without a combined effort from the rest of the company. The importance of collaborative teams should be stressed at the onset. Orchestrated efforts deliver the most successful results with this form of communication, especially when there are promotional goals.

For external messaging, there are several social media clients that make collaborative broadcasts easy. There are also sites like yammer.com and ning.com that allow internal groups to create their own networks. However, many companies faced with the challenge of employee participation may find it hard to integrate these tools. They may also be small enough that they don't need to. Also, asking employees to open up yet another platform outside of their normal work flow can be counterproductive.

In many cases, keeping it simple is the best option. Setting up opt-in email lists within the company is a good way to broadcast social media strategies. Asking members of that list for specific participation, on a regular basis will encourage engagement. It's also fairly easy to set-up instant message "action" groups within a company. Sites like trillian.com can help you do this and they work across different instant message platforms.

Hiring a Social Media "guru" will not guarantee success if there is not active participation and collaboration from at least 30% of your company, respectively. Since new tools and strategies are available on a daily basis, it's also crucial to communicate new findings and grow as a team. Many companies that succeed with Social Media take advantage of teams that already exist in-house. It takes patience and consistent outreach to be an effective corporate social strategist. Those qualities also help encourage employee participation.

That last point may be why many companies opt for the digital agency approach when they have Social Media needs. Hiring an agency is really just hiring a pre-organized group who has already perfected and coordinated team communication across multiple social platforms.

Finally, companies that hire Social Media people aren't always sure what they want from that person initially. Needs may vary from audience building, to customer acquisition, to campaign specific marketing. If a Social Media person and team are put into place, it's important to discuss expectations early on, and meet on a regular basis to discuss new growth objectives and milestones.

Social Media is not and cannot be an entity unto itself. It's simply a new part of many elements that already exist within most companies. If you're responsible for your company's Social Media efforts, make sure you're operating under a unified front. At any stage, a proper introduction from a company leader will let everyone in the company know how important this new arm of the business is, and it will give you sturdy legs to stand on as you form teams and communicate internally.

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