If you follow the social media space or are just figuring out how to use it effectively for business, the level of hype and the number of options can be very overwhelming. There are the 'established' social media vendors like Social Text, Jive, and Six Apart but there is a vast number of new vendors that will help companies launch blogs, wikis, widgets, toolbars, engagement tools, micro-blogs, micro-video-blogs, IM, social networking, UGC, tagging, rating, ranking...and the list seems to go on and on.
Everyone wants to get into the game...because everyone else seems to be doing it...but will consumers ever want to participate in a community to discuss their toilet paper? (My bet is no...)
So how does one approach figuring out real needs vs. implementing social media because the boss has drunk the Kool-Aid?
1) Understand your business strategy - are you a first to market company? a fast follower? a low cost provider?
2) Understand your value chain; Which functional groups have the biggest influence on your revenue? Operations, marketing, channel management, sales, partner management, engineering?
3) Map your strategy and value chain to relationships - which relationships are most important to the success of your business?
4) Assess your relationship priorities against actual investment in relationships and communication channels.
5) Survey your constituents in areas where you need to have strong relationships and evaluate their perspective and concerns.
5) Decide if you are satisfied with your relationships or if there are areas of improvement or problems to resolve.
6) Define, precisely, what you are hoping to improve.
7) Match your problems and areas of improvement to various communications and social media tools. Different tools are good for different types of content, different speeds, different types of people.
Fundamentally social media is about relationships...and relationships can be built with all sorts of people. As individuals, we let our curiosity, interests, obligations, and leisure time determine which relationships we invest in. Within the enterprise we need to prioritize the relationships we invest in as well because, whether we are individuals or companies, we have limited time and resources. Choose wisely.