By design or by stealth


Book Review
SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate
Joel Postman. New Riders: Voices that Matter.
2009. 195 pages.

The company website is no longer the center of the communications universe.

Now that everybody and their grandmother can set up a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account, corporate web sites no longer seem quite so engaging.

All the while, social networking continues to make its way into organizations, either by design or by stealth.

Joel Postman argues persuasively that the new “basic business skills” now requires a basic understanding of social media and the ability to use social networks correctly, alongside presentation skills and the ability to create and understand an Excel spreadsheet.

Postman is the principal of Socialized and previously was EVP of emerging media at Eastwick Communications. His book SocialCorp provides several starting places for organizations that want to create social media initiatives specifically for each audience and to engage them on their terms, in a way that is relevant to them. A progressive, forward-thinking company adopts social media “in a way that accomplishes strategic business and communications objectives without compromising the company’s primary obligations as a corporation,” he says.

For example, Dell, Zappos, IBM, and Procter & Gamble are among companies using social media to reshape their relationships with their audiences. Dell’s IdeaStorm functions as a full-blown customer engagement program and a catalyst for change in the company’s products and services.

Postman emphasizes that each social medium (microblog, video podcast, social network group, etc.) represents just another tool in the corporate communications toolbox.  But what makes these tools so powerful is the way they interact. Many of them connect with each other to exponentially increase their usefulness. For example: Don’t use Twitter in isolation, he says. Link to and from your Twitter account to connect it with other communications initiatives like a company blog or social media newsroom.

Organizations should monitor conversations using social media. They can listen to potentially millions of people and learn, day-by-day, how their brand is performing, where the company is strong, and where there’s work to do. The organization can join in the conversation and influence the brand for the better. Postman’s search on Facebook groups for Bang and Olufsen revealed more than 50 groups devoted to the company and its products. More than 500 Facebook groups discuss Apple products, and most of these groups are not approved by the company. But if the results are positive, Postman asks, why not let consumers do your marketing?

How you measure the success of using social media depends on what you want your audience(s) to do. In her guest chapter, online measurement guru Katie Delahaye Paine emphasizes the importance of focused measurement: Do you want your audiences to request more information? Get more engaged with your brand? Make a contribution? Vote? Buy something? Then that’s what you should be measuring.

Social media strategy isn’t that complex, Postman says, but it does require a synthesis of traditional thinking, creativity, understanding of new tools and etiquette, and the willingness to take some chances.


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