Recap of last week’s NIHRA presentation: “New Year’s Revolution: Putting Social Media to Work in 2011”

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the January meeting of the Northeast Indiana Human Resources Association (NIHRA). My slides are below, along with a written summary of my comments.

I’d also be interested in hearing about your goals for 2011. What are you hoping to accomplish with regard to social media in the coming year? Drop a note in the comments, or send me an email. Happy New Year!

New Year’s Revolution: Putting Social Media to Work in 2011

It’s a new year—a time for self-reflection, new beginnings, and new goals. It’s a time when we resolve to change our habits by eating better, exercising more often, and quitting bad habits. It’s also a great time to set professional goals.

One area where we all can improve is in our approach to social media. Whether you’re a novice or a veteran, we all have some room for improvement. With this in mind, then, I’d like to offer a few New Year’s resolutions adapted for the social media world. Focus on the one that best suits your needs, and you’ll be likely to end the year better connected, more productive, and ready to reach even higher goals in 2012.

  • Make more money (aka, have a business case for using social media). Many businesses still treat social media like a novelty. It’s a diversion—something they use to kill time and daydream. Using social media in this way, however, can prove very costly, with staff time and resources being squandered like Monopoly money. In 2011, resolve to make a business case for social media. Understand that like most other things worth your attention, success requires effort and an investment of resources. Also, be sure to measure results—and not just online. You should be investing resources into social media in order to increase inquiries, sales, traffic, etc. If not, it’s time to get serious. Stop treating social media like a toy.

  • Get organized (aka, have social media policies and strategies). Taking social media seriously requires that you treat it like any other aspect of your business. That means having documentation to guide you and protect your assets. Your organization should have at least three documents related to social media:

  1. An employee use policy that explains what is allowed and prohibited on company time. While social media use can be a boon to productivity in some settings, other environments require stricter rules. If you don’t tell your employees what you expect, however, you can’t criticize them for doing something you don’t like.
  2. An audience engagement strategy that guides your efforts to connect with your customers. This strategy should be aligned with your organizational goals and larger marketing and communication strategies.
  3. Community standards for each of your social media pages. Just like your employees need to know what you expect of them, your audience needs to know what behaviors will cause their comments to be censored. Constructive criticism should be encouraged. Profanity, slander, and threats should not.

  • Lose weight (aka, don’t bite off more than you can chew). Some of us have voracious appetites for both food and information. When unchecked, either can be unhealthy. While it’s tempting to join every social media site you’re invited to, think about the opportunity cost involved. Decide which sites do the best job of connecting you to your customers, and be vigilant about adding others only if they truly earn their way in. It’s often better, after all, to have one satisfying bite of cake than to indulge in a second slice. 

  • Quit bad habits (aka, stop doing what you’ve always done). Old habits are hard to break—even the ones that are bad for us. Apply this to social media and you’ll likely realize that it may be time for a change. Whether you’ve avoided social media because you don’t understand it, or you persist in writing a blog that’s lost its readership, make a distinction between action and inertia. Adapt if you’ve fallen into bad habits.

  • Give back (aka, share your expertise). When we’re successful, many of us resolve to give something back through charitable giving or volunteerism. There’s another way to give back—by sharing your knowledge via social media. In today’s communication environment, all of us have an unlimited capacity to publish our thoughts, opinions, and advice. There are no gatekeepers, and accessing the tools requires nothing but some time and some basic skills. Furthermore, sharing your expertise gives your audience another reason to think about you, and the chance to understand and value your work. As the old saying goes, it truly is better to give than to receive.

  • Spend more time with family and friends (aka, use social media to facilitate real world relationships). In the wrong hands, social media can be more like anti-social media—a means of avoiding contact with others. For business people, however, it can be a great tool for improving relationships and facilitating more face-to-face meetings. Staying in touch via social media allows you to know where your contacts will be at any given time, and know when you have the chance to get in front of them. Just as Facebook can help you reconnect with long-lost friends, tools like LinkedIn and Twitter can help you shake more hands and have more real-world conversations—if you get out from behind from your desk.

  • Learn something new (aka, learn something new). There’s no goal more noble than self-improvement—and today, your access to information is unlimited. No matter what you want to learn, it’s all out there on the web. This certainly holds true for social media. Use the tools to meet others, ask questions, and close gaps in your knowledge. Who knows? Before long, you may find yourself teaching others about social media.

Every New Year’s resolution takes some work. There will be times when you’ll be tempted to quit. To improve your chances of success, then, set tiered goals, reward yourself when you achieve them, and—most importantly—have fun doing it. After all, resolutions aren’t worth keeping if you don’t enjoy yourself along the way. By the way, did somebody say something about cake?

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