At last Thursday night’s CIOnet event, we were joined by two guest speakers: Rob Gray, regional marketing manager at Google Enterprise; and Andrew Abboud, CIO at City University London. Over 40 CIO and IT leaders shared their experiences and had their questions answered on how to position themselves, and their organisations, to take advantage of social media.
Andrew kicked off the evening by sharing his personal experience as a CIO and the practical use of social media within the firewall. Starting with ‘Dilbert’, he highlighted two key messages: you can’t ban social media, such as Facebook and Twitter; and the culture of the organisation is crucial. The language used within an organisation is imperative, so ensure you use the correct terminology that will work for your business, be that social media, social networking or social computing.
The landscape of social media is rapidly changing. In 2007, MySpace was the largest social media network; now in 2010, Facebook has taken over, despite being a network which didn’t even exist six years ago. What will the next six years bring? Will we see the ‘death of email’, which is already being perceived as a non productive tool?
City University London has created a suite of collaborative tools to ensure they are reaching out and communicating with their large community. A tool such as a profile directory helps people understand and know their company, and encourages people to share knowledge and ideas. All files are saved on the directory and it’s the individual’s choice whether these are shared or private. A community has been built for the management team; this has removed conversation via email and the problem of inboxes being full of conversations. Blogs are utilised as and where conversation takes place; this allows an individual to keep the level of personalisation, rather than trying to tailor words to a large audience. Blogs also allow for people to comment and to share their own thought process. Within City University, people also use the social media tool Wiki, and more so for management meetings, where minutes are saved. The approach allows directories to be cleaner and removes the issues around password protection.
From Andrew’s experience, the senior people within any given organisation need to use social media, support the technology and take advantage of the gadgets. Such a strategy changes environments to pull versus push. One member of the audience voiced this in terms of “people, purpose, and passion”.
Andrew’s presentation neatly transitioned into Rob’s, where he gave the audience a completely different perspective as a marketing head. Rob shared with the audience examples of what has worked and what has failed dismally. One strategy included searching tweets, which can help the business understand trends. Other businesses, such as Virgin Media, have used twitter to help their consumers raise complaints. Companies such as Salesforce.com are now providing cloud based CRM environments to ensure businesses have real time feedback via such tools.
Facebook is a completely different beast altogether and many organisations are asking whether they want to be involved. Rob showed the audience one particular example, via Starbucks, for whom have 18.5 million people have connected and ‘liked’ Starbucks. The chain then issue coupons, marketing campaigns and gain peer-to-peer and friendship referrals.
From an advertising point of view, Google does not play in this market space and instead uses YouTube. If they wish to market something internally, such as from an MD speaking to launching a new product, YouTube is used.
Rob swiftly showed the audience some further online tools such as Google Moderator, which allows people within the organisation to submit ideas of how to work smarter or more cost effectively. Internal Buzz, on the other hand, allows people to share what’s going on within the organisation. Google Docs and Google Apps, which take away the pain of having many different spreadsheets or working documents, create collaboration and encourage working teams to share and work together.
Across both Andrew’s and Rob’s presentations, the key message was that social media is worth exploring if your business needs to work together, share knowledge and work more productively. Not all social media tools are right for everyone, or for the business, so work out what your end goal is then find out what can help you reach that objective. In short, just give it a go.