by: Matt Rhodes

Whilst it is true that for most organisations marketing and comms departments tend to be thinking about social media, you find that other departments are too. And some of these departments are thinking about social media in new and innovative ways.

Jim Tobin lists five areas where social media sits in his experience:

  • Brand managers can now use social media as an integral part of marketing campaigns.  I lead with brand managers here because getting the right social media marketing plan developed and executed is an art-one that will certainly impact brand perception.
  • Product developers can use social media for consumer intelligence.  The idea that you have to spend tens of thousands to get limited information from focus groups is becoming outmoded.
  • Public relations can look at the messages that they send and figure out how they can make them a) more interesting and b) more easily digested by the blogosphere and the networks.  Typically (a) is harder than (b) for many companies.
  • Customer service should be using social media to decrease call volume and increase customer satisfaction.  Paying $35 per phone call to answer the same types of questions thousands of times isn’t helping anyone.
  • Human resources can be using social media to convey what working at the company is all about, and they should certainly be using it to go find candidates with particular backgrounds.

This is not dissimilar to our own experiences although I would add a couple of other areas:

  • Research or insight teams make use of social media to monitor or probe customer opinions, watch how their brand and their competitors are being discussed, understand more about customer lives and habits and even ask specific questions. This can either be done passively (observing what others are saying in social media) but is much more effective if done actively, with organisations setting up their own online research communities.
  • Senior managers should be using social media as a way of them connecting directly with consumers. Too often in organisations the traditional approach has seen customers sitting outside the organisation. They may not be actually engage directly with the organisation - rather they will buy the product through an intermediary and any research or other contact will be done through a third party. Social media makes it easier for the whole business to engage directly with customers.

Where social media sits probably depends on the current business or strategy needs of an organisation. In truth all firms could benefit from effective use of social media across each of these places (and probably even more). Where social media will sit will depend upon what their need is now. Is it reducing customer service costs or finding out more about how their customers discuss their brand? If is about conveying a corporate image or getting insight into product development?

Too often people can automatically think of social media as a marketing tool. It is undoubtedly effective as this. But it can be so much more. It is really about using new ways of communicating and new ways of sharing and working together to solve business problems. Which problems these are and where social media sits will depend on the business. It might be all of these places, some of them, or just one. In many cases it probably should be more than it is.

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