A while back I had lunch with Rob Key, who is the CEO of Converseon, and we had a wide-ranging conversation about social media management for the enterprise. I shared with him an analogy — we’ve let a thousand flowers bloom and now it’s time to weed the garden. By that I mean a lot of big brands have spent the past few years dabbling in a very disorganized way with social media — often approaching it simply as a low cost channel rather than as a valuable asset that demands cultivation. And so, they’re left with a chaotic array of abandoned Facebook pages, Twitter IDs, LinkedIn groups and the like. While that period was, I think, a fruitful period of experimentation, it’s time to take some more organized action — the social media universe has matured a bit. It’s no longer the peripheral domain of nebishy fanboys.
Now it may be different for business-to-consumer brands with popular appeal, but for business-to-business companies I feel strongly that the way to have an effective presence in social media is to accentuate the people in the organization rather than the products. That said, brand channels are almost a necessary evil — if you don’t start them and manage them well, someone else will do it for you, and likely do it poorly (a fan, a well-meaning employee, a competitor).
So 2012 is the year of applying some rigor to social media management — for both B2C and B2B companies. This will require developing systems (a combination of governance, technology, people) to actively monitor and optimize the brand channels and individual employee participation alike.
The reason I started this post talking about Rob is that he wrote, I think, a very eloquent riff on the garden metaphor that describes 4 Ways to Bring Discipline to Social Media. It’s excellent and I recommend it to you.