Most of us are regularly bombarded by technological innovations that fight for our attention. More often than not, these "latest and greatest" fads fail to make much of an impression on our lives (remember Second Life?). What is true for our personal lives is also true for our professional lives, only the stakes are higher.
By now, most people know about social media. Yet, marketers are still trying to figure out how to use it in their organizations. Most firms are dabbling around the margins or simply waiting on the sidelines to see whether it has staying power. Indeed, fewer than half of the 50 largest firms in Europe have links to any social media applications from their home pages. According to the 2010 MIS Quarterly Executive study "How Large U.S. Companies Can Use Twitter and Other Social Media to Gain Business Value," the situation is not much better in the U.S., with 36 percent of Fortune 500 companies having no social media presence whatsoever.
How involved should your organization be in social media, if at all? In my opinion, organizational success with social media comes down to how SICK your strategy is.
SICK is short for:
3. Critical Mass
4. Knowledge Integration
Social media has many variations, and you should decide what you want to do and where you want to play. Indeed, segmentation needs to occur along three dimensions: by objective, by stakeholder and by application.
Let's look first at objectives. Organizations must identify what they want to achieve with social media. Common options include branding, informing, innovating, selling and recruiting. If the answer is not obvious, or cannot be clearly articulated, then the best approach is, "Don't do it!" It is important to clearly define objectives in advance, because the form of your social media strategy will vary depending on the choices you make. For example, recruiting tends to work well on YouTube, but not necessarily on Twitter. Branding works well on Facebook, while informing is best done with RSS feeds. If you are not clear on your objectives, you run the risk of wasting resources on approaches that are not productive.