Your boss thinks you “play on Facebook,” all day. Your co-worker who is jonesing for the same promotion is monitoring the time of day you post to Twitter. The guy from across the hall sips black coffee through his brown teeth and laughs, “Met the man of your dreams on Ebay, yet?”
Take it from someone who knows. It’s not easy being the social media champion in the building. If very few people in the business world understand social media, it’s only logical very few at your place of work would, too. So how do you help make them understand social media isn’t just about posting personal journals on MySpace or blowing 30 minute chunks of your day watching the skateboarding dog on YouTube? Some thoughts:
Six Steps To Becoming The Social Media Champion At Work
1. Illustrate The Benefits
The first time you discovered RSS feeds it changed your life, right? Or at least it saved you scads of time you used to spend surfing the web looking for the news of the day. You could try to get more done with that extra time each day and allude to the fact you’re getting more done because you surf the web smarter using RSS. This might arouse some curiosity from your higher ups. What will be more beneficial and immediate, however, is if to start following websites and blogs that feature your industry or even your competition. When you find items of interest, forward the links to your bosses or to the PR team at your company. Start bookmarking the items on Delicious with tags for each competitor or topic. Then take the time to show your boss the collective intelligence you’ve gathered for him or her to read. My bet is the first thing they’ll ask is, “How’d you do that?”
2. Make Yourself Available
No one in the office is going to understand how to capitalize on social media tools and sites unless you teach them. Pay a visit to each person in the office over the course of a week or so. Ask them if they’re using productivity-enhancing web tools like RSS, bookmarking or even Twitter. Ask them if they read any good blogs about the industry. Offer to show them some sites or some tools that might help make their day more productive or effective. (For more, see No. 6 below.)
3. Target The Right Co-Workers
You can help Jed the mailroom guy figure out what a Super Poke is until people stop inviting you to stupid apps on Facebook, but it won’t get you promoted. Since social media at its core is a communications mechanism, make sure the company PR department knows what it’s all about. Also, the way to every CEOs heart (or at least attention) is through his or her secretary. Show the administrative assistant how to search for company mentions and print them off for the boss and you’ll find yourself getting recommendations from the most influential person in the C-Suite.
4. Get To The Professional Through The Personal
Take pictures at the company picnic? Post them on Flickr and send the link to everyone. Get a video of your kids’ first soccer goal? Put it on YouTube then share it with the co-workers that might like to see it. Your boss is a little strangely in love with his Irish Setter? Suggest he check out Dogster.com where he can make a vanity page for his pet. Once people start seeing how your personal experiences are enhanced by social media, they’ll start asking questions. Kinda like they do about your boss.
5. Operate Within The Rules
The worst thing you can do to prove the value of social media to your company is violate the company policy and speak on behalf of it on a Facebook group or message board. It’s better to bring the conversation to the attention of the communications team and let them handle it, even if they handle it wrong. You can offer your suggestions to them, but going off on your own and posting a, “I work for this company and happen to know you’re wrong,” message, especially when there’s a policy in place prohibiting it, will only get you reprimanded and possibly leave your company with one less social media champion.
6. Solve Business Problems With Social Media Tools
Nothing convinces nay-sayers like solid, solutions-driven proof. Have a client in another city? Expand your weekly conference call to a video conference featuring text chat and large file sharing by showing everyone ooVoo.com. The first time I recommended that to a client, I thought he was going to kiss me. Seriously. I was kinda frightened.
Having internal communications and work flow problems? Show the project manager BaseCamp. Frustrated with the 14-person approval chain, and accompanying 30-day turnaround, for press releases or company communications pieces? Put the document on Google Docs and make everyone go there to offer suggestions on the same day. Some manager says, “I wonder if this would be a good idea?” Twitter it and ask you followers in as specific or generic terms as need be, then show the manager the responses. (This is assuming smart people follow you and will respond.) Or, if you have a nice network built up in social media, take the next piece of news or interest on the company’s website and ask your friends to give you some feedback on it. You can A) Provide management with the feeback and B) Ask the web guys to tell you how many people visited the page from Twitter or Facebook or wherever you posted the link.
The point is, you know the tools. Find solutions using them and show rather than tell how social media can help.
These are, of course, just the six I’ve thought of in one sitting at the computer. How do you champion social media in your office? What success stories can you share that will help the rest of us. The comments are yours.
NOTE: A tip of the cap to Heather Rast of Insights and Ingenuity for the topic suggestion yesterday on Twitter. Heather has a great blog and has some good social media smarts. For those of you in or around Cedar Rapids, Iowa, you should connect with her.