By Jed Hallam, Communities Director for VCCP Share

It's easy to see social media as a fad, as something that someone in a cheap suit would sell you, while his friends sniggered in the corner of the room. In a lot of ways, the social media industry is similar to the toy industry - a few brands make really great toys, then everyone rushes to create cheap imitations that break within a few weeks of play - there are also similarities in the sense that, usually, there's nothing new, just new technology within which to create something. A board game becomes an iPad game, a Sega Megadrive game becomes a MMORPG. As with any new industry, the tide is still coming in, but as Warren Buffet famously said, “It's only when the tide goes out that you see who has been swimming naked".

So, as a business, how are you going to avoid being caught up in the hype and how are you going to use these new technologies to unlock competitive advantage? Well, as with anything, the best place is to spend some time researching what your business could actually gain from social media.

It could be that there's a rich vein of data (either from customers, or on competitors, or on the industry that you operate in), or that there's new business opportunities that social media could accelerate or even, shock horror, that you could use social media as a customer service tool. The key, however, is to ensure that you match the technology to the business need. There have been countless cases of organisations misreading the space, setting up a Twitter stream for their latest corporate news releases only to find customers using it as a customer service backchannel.

One of the arguments that constantly pops up in the marketing media is 'who owns social media?'. Well, in lots of ways, everyone and in the same number of ways, no one. Social media has become too integrated into everyday life for it to have its own department - it could be that you have employees discussing confidential information in a Facebook Group (HR/Internal Communications) or that your design team have set up an inspiration board on Pinterest (R&D). There are now that many brand touch points across the business, that it's nearly impossible to have a single 'owner' for external communications. And this is without getting into the realms of what is professional and what is personal…

At VCCP Share, we break this down into a five-stage cycle;

1. Immersion/analysis – understanding your business objectives and addressing what social technology can and cannot do for you.

2. Philosophy – defining an overarching philosophy that is easily communicated across the business.

3. Architecture/methodology – creating a framework, a strategy and setting objectives. As well as creating rigid internal structures for reporting and analytics and setting up working groups across the business for true integration.

4. Implementation – delivering on the outlined strategy, something that is often overlooked ;-)

5. Ongoing maintenance/review – reporting and analysis and continual review to become truly agile and responsive as a business.

For more information, feel free to pop into our office for a chat.

Jed Hallam is Communities Director for VCCP Share. He currently works with MORE TH>N, O2, McDonald’s and Burtons. In the past he has worked with Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline and Discovery Channel. You can read his blog Jed Hallam and follow him on Twitter - @jedhallam.

Watch the video below featuring Jemima Gibbons of AAB Engage discussing ow social media can positively impact your business.


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