Now, I must be one of the very few people on Twitter who aren’t social media experts so you’ve been warned! I do, however, enjoy learning and writing about Social Media tools, and I spend a few hours every day reading about the uses of those technologies in the corporate world, but I am yet to come across a post that moves beyond the obvious.
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Much of what is out there talks about blogging, tweeting and whatever else you could do to communicate with your customers. That’s extremely important, but there’s more you could do to help your team become more efficient.
To me, the power of those social collaboration tools lies in their ability to democratize information gathering and allow for simple and effective two-way communication within the organization.
Large corporations are a little spooked by this, but it’s really no different to email: anything you can tweet or blog about, you can probably email, and it’s only a matter of time before companies, large and small, face up to that fact and embrace those technologies in earnest.
They are also bound by their need to comply with ISO 9001 and SOX compliance requirements, which state that everything should be documented, maintained securely and bound behind lock-and-key, making it tremendously difficult for large corporates that want to experiment with such innovative tools to do so..
So, below are some of my ideas, though I hope to hear more from our readers.
Wikis to gather competitive intelligence
I spent a few years as a strategic marketer, and one of the challenges we faced as a team was gathering competitive intelligence. We were a small team, spread throughout the world, and it was extremely challenging for us to gather information from the field, and even more so to share it amongst us let alone with the people who needed it most: the sales people.
The answer, however, came in the form of Wikis.
The field sales team tend to have the most access to market information, they are out there in the market, talking to customers and gathering information that could be useful. They, however, don’t have a simple and effective way to share that information with the rest of the organizations, emails tend to be too formal and structured, while wikis tend to allow them update rather than rewrite, if they are set up correctly.
A correctly set-up wiki should be pre-populated with the information you have, and the field sales team are only required to update or correct the information that’s already in there, saving time and maintaining all information in a single source!
You could also use this to maintain information about your strategic customers.
Microblogging on the go for quick market intelligence
Building on the idea of distributing information gathering, companies can also leverage a Twitter-like tool to share market developments and intelligence with a team through short, precise messages.
This could be a two-way communication tool. Marketing resources sitting in the office can “tweet” about the latest news from the web, and the sales team can share the latest information from the field, be it information about the market, the competitors or the customers.
Bring back the discussion forum!
Somehow, one of my favorite early uses of the internet fell out of style. Discussion Forums and Knowledge Exchange boards were once a key staple of the web, but recently they seem to have fallen out of style.
Employees can highlight their areas of expertise in their profile, or they could join groups of interest, and when a question is posted you could use the collective intelligence of your company to help answer that question or address that issue. I’m just recycling an old idea here, but it’s one that seems to have lost its sheen somewhere in the past decade!
So what tools could you use?!
There a few tools out there that you could use to implement some of the ideas I mention in this post. Salesforce.com’s Chatter feature is one to watch out for and it could provide for an integrated CRM and customer information gathering tool.
SocialCast offers an exceptionally good Microblogging tool which could be used to manage groups for a modern day discussion forum.
PBWorks also offers a pretty impressive suite of tools that could help implement some of the ideas above.
So, the onus is now on you: do you continue to live in 1.0 or move to 2.0? Trust me…. It’s a worthy upgrade.