At CIRA, we’ve recently taken some pretty significant steps into the social media world. It started with this blog. Now we’ve got a presence on SlideShare, YouTube, Faceboook, Twitter (including my account and CIRANews), and LinkedIn.
We’re also looking at ways to make our website more interactive and we’re working on a policy to help guide the CIRA team in how they engage in social media as a representative of the organization.
Throughout the process of developing our social media activities, I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share with you:
1. If you’re reading this blog you’re likely web-savvy and wired in. CIRA is, at its core, a technology-centred organization – the fact is, we exist because the Internet exists. You’d think social media would be a pretty easy fit for us. However, it’s really pushing some of us out of our comfort zone – which is ultimately a good thing.
Regardless, it has become clear to me that adding social media to our communications toolbox involves a lot more than just signing up for a bunch of free services. It involves a shift in the way we approach marketing and communications, customer service and – to some degree – it is changing our corporate culture. Personally, I find some of the debates on issues like privacy and the separation of the personal versus professional self fascinating.
2. Social media is not about technology. It’s about relationships and it’s about having conversations. That’s why comments are enabled on this blog, and that’s why you’ll find me on Twitter.
Humans are social beings. In some ways, I see the rise in social media as a return to the way business used to be done. People generally don’t want to deal with a large, nameless company. There was a time (and, relatively speaking, not that long ago), when you likely knew most of the people you did business with. You knew the town baker, your mechanic, the grocery store owner, and so on. Somewhere along the way, we lost that to big name, faceless organizations.
I think social media is giving us the opportunity to get a little bit of that back. GM runs a great blog penned by their leadership. We can follow any number of people representing organizations on Twitter, or become a part of a group on Facebook and discuss common interests on the group’s wall. In some way, I think social media allows us the opportunity to get to know the people behind the organization.
3. Many of the tools are free, but you need to make investments to be able to use them. We’ve got Twitter accounts and Facebook groups, and we even subscribe to a service that monitors social media for us – all free or pretty low cost. However, it takes time to set up and use these tools, to engage with people and to monitor for the topics we need to know about. We’ve hired a Communications Manager to help us navigate this world and we’ve invested in some technology and services to help us engage better. It costs time and a bit of money, but I believe that if you want to really connect with people, you need to make those investments.
I invite you to join in the conversation on our networks, comment on this blog or listen to what we have to say.