Reaping social media benefits for SME’s depends on how well social media is internalized within their own organizations. We have seen and read many articles from various publications and blogs world over on how small and medium enterprises can reap social media benefits externally for business development.
By externally, I mean in the areas of digital and content marketing, advertising, understanding customer preferences, product development and website traffic boost. But little has been spoken on how social media can help organizations internally by capitalizing on its people’s connections, strength, and relationships.
Organizations, big or small need to capitalize on the connections that are available to them. They (Organizations) come with varying business models, profit or non-profit and customer base but they all have one thing in common and that is the people.
Emphasis on people is important for realizing social media benefits
The success of social media in organizations is not about the efficient use of technology but about its people. The relationships and connections that people have can boost ideas, energy, and purpose. Such relationships can bolster the social media marketing efforts externally as well. After all, employees are the best brand ambassadors of the company. If you keep them happy, they will spread the good word. Such goodwill is far more valuable than the exclusive digital marketing of your product on a popular social media tool.
It is important that SMEs should try and make the usage of social media a success within their own organization and showcase this to the world. Once they do it, it goes without saying, there is every chance that social media users across the world will simply love it and start adopting or engaging with their products and services.
People form strong bonds of social capital within themselves and with their work environment. Being open to their ideas, sharing tacit knowledge and genuine insight stems from this fact. Also, openly sharing, peering and acting and collaborating together, locally or globally are some of the key aspects of social media collaboration among employees.
In fact, these are fundamental to the use of social media collaboration tools. Tools like Wiki, chat software, discussion forums and communities of practice have traditionally existed. The latest entrant in this space is the use of whiteboard collaboration where documents and diagrams can be edited in real time.
A simple case study for reaping social media benefits in an SME
To build this case and to capture the lessons learned, I would like to look at a small leadership consulting and organizational development firm called Emergent Solutions Inc. headquartered in Palo Alto in California. I would like to thank the authors of the book “social media at work” in the presenting the nuances of the challenges and issues faced by this firm.
As with any SME during the growth phase, much of the employee’s time gets buried in running the operational and transactional processes of the company. Being in the leadership consulting space, the focus had to be more on the projects, best practices, resource materials and effective customer solutions.
The organization after looking at various software finally chose the Wiki collaboration for social media collaboration among its people.
They created separate workspaces for sharing news, posting project details, best practices and ideas for improving customer solutions. They even had separate workspaces for presenting customer challenges and thought leadership discussions for seeking insight and ideas from everybody involved in the organization.
For capturing client inputs and requirements they had even set up a space for private client workspaces.
Employees were able to track their projects and present solutions to their clients on time for their consulting engagements.
The effective use of collaborative Wiki has in-fact streamlined their operational processes and they were able to focus more on other value-added consulting activities.
The company has even taken a step further, for showcasing their own collaboration success story to their clients and thereby showcasing their own global capabilities and as an effective solution partner.
A summary of lessons learned
The success of implementing a Wiki collaboration software for realizing social media benefits was largely a case of commitment and ownership among the employees. Nevertheless, there are some lessons that can be shared.
- It is the essential to share the vision and benefits to the entire team. So that everyone understands and knows where they are headed
- Creating effective process templates that suit the need of all the employees is important so that it encourages co-creation.
- It is important to keep and make the implementation exercise a fun to explore and engage. People are more likely to accept and ease into the new ways of working when they are not forced.
- Most importantly, it is important to employ a community manager or a ‘knowledge broker’ who can clean up and keep things tidy for other members to access the tool and contribute content.
- Lastly, the founding members need to show the leadership commitment and passion. This commitment and passion will drive the commitment among their community members.
There are multiple ways that SMEs can reap benefits of social media in their organizations. As seen in the above example, business processes and customer base might vary among organizations but the central theme remains the same. We just need to see how we can embrace social media and adopt a new mindset and also on how those technologies can yield results.