Do You Need a Business Case for Social Media?

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I had an interesting dinner meeting with a prospect today about how they might use social media. They are a b2b subscription based publication and they were wondering if they should be in the space. I thought about it for a minute and resisted the temptation to just say “yes.” Because after all just “being” somewhere and having a few accounts online doesn’t really mean much. One of the folks at dinner asked me a simple and point blank question which I’m sure many people would have said yes to. He asked me, “should we have a facebook page or a twitter account?”

This brought up an interesting discussion around the requirements of a business case or business problem as a pre-cursor to social media. In other words, do you have to have a business problem you are looking to solve? Sometimes organizations say things such as, “we want to improve our sales process and we believe that using social data can make that improvement happen,” or “our marketing efforts could really benefit from social media, what can we do?” But sometimes organizations say, “we really don’t have a specific problem we are trying to solve, we just want to know what we could be doing or where some opportunities might be.” The same is true for enterprise collaboration. Sometimes organizations know what they need to fix, other times they just know they could be doing things differently (and hopefully better) but they just don’t know how or what the options are.

This is a bit of a different discussion because instead of coming up with solutions to problems you are trying to help identify or find what the problem is (or what the opportunity is). It was a great reminder to me that sometimes organizations know and believe that they should be doing something but they just aren’t sure why or what the benefit is. This doesn’t make the organization stupid, wrong, or negligent in any way. After nobody out there has all the answers.

So what’s the solution to the question of, “do we need to have a business problem or business case before using social media?” Well, I believe the answer is still “yes”, however instead of making a fully committed investment with a large scale strategy, community platform, etc. I think organizations need to start with half or full day sessions to explore how business is currently being doing, how business can be augmented with social technologies, and what the value of doing so to the organization is. There is nothing wrong with starting small and figuring these things out first.

If you’re interested in getting started with a half or full day session feel free to email me.

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