Background: This is the third blogpost in a series of conversations with Social Media change agents, thought-leaders, experts and mavens to answer some of the most important questions surrounding the subjects of Social media and Web2.0 ! The emphasis of this discussion series is to address ‘socialmedia’ at a ground level and talk about the real world issues that are being faced by us on both sides of the road: i.e. as actual users and as consultants/agencies in this space.
I am pleased to have with me, Peter Bihr – a freelance consultant from Berlin, Germany. As a freelancer, he consults on online communications for corporate, non-profit and political clients. Peter deploys web strategies based on Social Media, Web 2.0 and blogging. He blogs here and his twitter handle is thewavingcat. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.
1. Define and differentiate the terms – ‘Social Media’ and ‘Web2.0’ for a business-decision maker who uses the internet to check his email.
Social Media are online media that foster, and live off, user-to-user interaction, and tools and practices that revolve around these kinds of social interactions. All this combined plus the harnessing of collective intelligence is Web 2.0. Examples: Twitter and Facebook are social media in their purest form as they consist mainly of human-to-human interaction – they are all about conversations. As a good example of Web 2.0 you could point to Google (which rates the relevance of a website by how many people link to it and thereby vouch for its quality), or the Amazon recommendation engine that gives better recommendations the more people use it, so it harnesses collective intelligence. Of course there are dozens of other examples, too.
2. For small and medium sized businesses, what are the steps towards a Enterprise 2.0 strategy? How do they start-out and at which stage do tools/technology come in?
First, strategy is more important than tactics. Define your goals first and then see which tools you need, not the other way round.
Second, prepare to change your company and the company culture. Engaging in social media doesn’t just mean another channel to fill with PR output. It rather means opening up to conversations with your stakeholders. Stakeholders are a much larger group than just clients – past, current and future clients, but also staff, fans, critics, journalists and many others, all of which want to talk to you and hear back from you. This influences absolutely everything in your company – every single staff will be a spokesperson for your company. This means some kind of restructuring might be required. Do consider that option. Again, structures, processes and company culture need to change just like the tools you’re using. Allow for both to change and evolve.
Third, fail early and often, and iterate. It’s ok to make mistakes. Learn from them. Learn from your stakeholders. Thank them for criticizing you, they’re trying to help you.
3. It is generally realized that while identification and roll-out of a tool is easy, it is very tough to ensure its healthy usage and sustenance over a longer period. There are many examples of such collaboration tools (like wiki) that are rolled out of sheer excitement but eventually they fade out due to lack of notice. This happens despite the best effort from the group/individuals behind it. How can the internal-evangelists control such scenarios?
1. Don’t overwhelm your colleagues. Give them time, everybody has a different adaption rate. Find the right tools for the right person. Not everybody likes Twitter, and that’s ok. The same person that despises Twitter might be a great blogger or the other way round.
2. Give it time. Just like company culture, a tool need nurturing and maintenance.
3. Assign clear responsibilities. If no one feels in charge, a tool is likely to be deserted at some point.
4. There has been a lot of debate/discussion over the ROI on social media. Today, the marketers are forced to justify all monetary investments. Considering the periodic changes how do you perceive the ROI?
ROI is still hard to measure. Defining clear goals is key!
5. I would blog about it, tweet it, send press-release to the bloggers and do a bunch of other things. – This seems to be a common definition of ‘Social Media Marketing‘ for product launches. Is there a structured/streamlined approach towards utilization of social web for marketing purposes?
Don’t spam. The most valuable connections are those built to bloggers on a long-term basis. Just like building and maintaining relationships to journalists, blogger relations are important. That’s no easy and no cheap task, but good connections to 10 bloggers are much more valuable than a mass mailing to 1000 bloggers you don’t know.
6. Bulk of the online communities fail for variety of reasons – weakness of original idea, lack of involvement by the moderators, belief in build it and they’ll come philosophy, overload of existing communities themselves. With constraints like these how do you foresee the future for online communities? Will we see more such online communities in the future?
Absolutely! Just like we see plenty of successful communities today, there’ll be many in the future. A lot more will fail than succeed, but that’s the same everywhere. Particularly in niches, in the long end of the long tail, there are many communities that haven’t reached their full online potential.
7. External perspective about India’s Social Media Movement?
Sadly I’m not familiar with the social media movement in India. From what my Indian friends tell me and from what friends tell me about the social media scene in India, there’s great energy there, and of course a lot of really smart people. I’m looking forward to seeing more Indian startups and projects pop up.