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Social media tips: Arm yourself for the social revolution

CIOs are still nervous about social networking but can't ignore the revolution any longer. Our tutorial is packed with social media tips to help ease anxiety and get big results.

Social media has tremendous potential for leaders to communicate their ideas, but it also comes with some pitfalls, causing some midmarket CIOs to be tentative to embrace the possibilities. However, with so many midmarket companies finding great success with Web 2.0, we can no longer ignore the social media revolution. Whether CIOs want to admit it or not, their user base is absolutely using some form of social media. Every company should have a social media strategy that at least defines its level of interaction, be that zero interaction or a fully engaged campaign.

In this Midmarket CIO Briefing, we have social media tips for the novice as well as the high-functioning master looking for ways to optimize his performance in the Web 2.0 arena. Get tips on how to devise a social media strategy, how to set yourself up for viral branding success and how to avoid embarrassing incidents. We'll also highlight some great real-world examples of social media done right.

This guide is part of SearchCIO-Midmarket.com's Midmarket CIO Briefings series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic management and decision-making advice on timely topics. For a complete list of topics covered to date, visit the Midmarket CIO Briefings section.

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  Social media tips
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As Twitter, Facebook, Groupon and more social networking sites explode onto the scene, your organization is probably wondering if you're wasting an opportunity to reach out to prospective customers, employees, analysts and the press. If you engage in social media haphazardly, you could end up with more problems than solutions. It's possible for your company to embrace social media in a strategic and positive way -- the preferred method, of course, but one that takes some forethought and deliberate steps forward.

As CIO, your job is to formulate a social media policy that defines the goals, behaviors and metrics that will allow your company to succeed. First, you need to decide how your business feels about social media. How do you want to engage your social network in an ideal world: Is your team communicating with other professionals in your field, or perhaps your customer base wants to learn more about your company? How strictly should your message be controlled by the senior leadership team: Some very successful social media campaigns involve a very informal and quirky personal message coming from the company's individual contributors, but others have a less personalized, more cohesive branding message. Your first step is to determine exactly what fits your organization and will set it apart from the thousands of other corporate social media presences.

Learn more in "Easy social media tips for the midmarket you can start following today." Also:

  • Web 2.0: Making its way into the midmarket
    Web 2.0 is growing increasingly popular across the board -- but what are the business benefits? Gil Yehuda, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., shines some light on the different aspects of Web 2.0 and how it incorporates into the midmarket.
  • Facebook as a business tool? Really
    To all those CIOs who refuse to embrace Facebook on the grounds that it's not a business tool: look a little closer.
  • Why using social media is like sex
    It's not new and the benefits have been proven, but many CIOs still can't get on board with using social media. Why? They haven't tried it.
  • Is Twitter a blind spot for executive networking?
    CIOs are experts in executive networking, but are they missing a valuable opportunity to connect with co-workers and clients on Twitter?
  What not to Tweet
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Many CIOs acknowledge that they need to lead by example on social media and become more amenable to using Twitter for business, but where to begin? CIOs are especially gun-shy when it comes to entering the Twitter and Facebook arena, citing well-publicized social media fiascos and embarrassing incidents. Well-publicized Twitter and Facebook snafus are the stuff of branding nightmares, and everyone's heard about the new hire at Cisco Systems Inc. who fretted about getting a boring job offer … until cyber-savvy Cisco spotted the update and rescinded the offer. There's also a legitimate business risk beyond embarrassing anecdotes: Intellectual property and data uploaded to social networks is an agreement to transfer that property to the sites to do with however they choose.

While those are obvious faux pas, many social media blunders are an easy fix. Jeff Willinger, director of social computing at Rightpoint Consulting LLC in Chicago, suggests that the biggest social media don'ts are much more subtle. For instance, reading nonstop chatter on a personal account -- such as Tweeting to the world that you're going out for coffee -- is akin to being trapped at a dinner party seated next to a boor who won't stop talking. The trick is in being personal and sharing without oversharing. Similarly, the point of social media is to connect with your audience, whether that is a customer base or a professional network of peers. A good social network strategy includes information passing both directions, with frequent interaction with your followers.

The rule for social networking is in framing it like a real-life social engagement. The life of the party is someone who engages and interacts with other guests without drawing an inordinate amount of attention to himself. If a quick audit of your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts reveals a constant stream of "me me me" or a series of blasts followed by radio silence, it might be time for a social networking makeover. In "Can you use Twitter for business successfully? Six mistakes to avoid, we outline six deadly sins for social media along with success strategies to navigating that touchy Twitter terrain. Also:

  • The opportunity cost of Twitter for business
    The social media world is at war over Twitter’s influence, but its presence in the enterprise is undeniable.
  • Time to take stock of your online reputation
    An online reputation is not to be overlooked, as proven by the viral power of customer complaints on YouTube and Twitter. Corrective actions can be taken, however.
  • Using social media for business: Don't risk your confidential data
    When using social media for business, how do you manage your brand and make sure that your company secrets aren't being blasted in status updates?
  Social media strategy and planning
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Social media is an inexpensive way to enhance an organization's outreach and boost sales if done right. While some organizations might limit their social media efforts to simple things like a "deal of the week" promotion designed to boost Web traffic or point people to new products, you need a more complete strategy.

No organization should jump into social media just to jump into social media -- it would be a waste of time for some, a huge mistake for others. For example, if you're a hobbyist who builds and sells custom-made clocks in your spare time in your garage, your Facebook page or Twitter feed might get more people to look at your wares, but the increased demand could move your business from "fun" to "work."

Learn more, including how to create a social media image, define the level of autonomy in your social media effort and respond to complaints, in "Got a social media strategy? Five social media tips for the midmarket." Also:

  • Healthy social media management curbs risks, adds business benefits
    Social media management policies have two goals: To mitigate potential business risks and to promote business benefits via acceptable use. Learn how to find a social balance.
  • Social media may not be a revolution, but it's in your enterprise
    The social media world is at war over its influence, but its presence in the enterprise is undeniable.
  Real-world examples of social media done well
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With the advent of social media platforms, businesses are using the opportunity to step outside of their own reputation and interact directly with their customers, even when their customers aren't interacting with them. By using simple searches, corporations can peruse public websites and blogs to get firsthand reports on how well their businesses are doing with brand messaging. For instance, P.F. Chang's China Bistro headquarters spotted a tweet from a customer enjoying her plate of lettuce wraps. It was able to determine which location the customer was at, and with a quick call to the manager identify the complimenting customer -- all before she had finished her entrée. You have to admire that kind of reaction time but, more important, P.F. Chang's had a small urban legend on its hand as the anecdote was passed around leadership conferences and even blogged about on YouTube.

P.F. Chang's probably didn't realize that the small act of giving a customer a comped plate of lettuce wraps and free dessert would radiate out into the world of business urban legends, but through a simple act of social media management, the chain has gotten more branding mileage than if it had spent thousands of dollars in advertising. The important message here is not that you should be quick with a free plate of lettuce wraps, but rather that your customers and partners are already on social networks, whether you’re paying attention or not. By ignoring them, you're choosing to sit on the sidelines.

Learn more in "How P.F. Chang’s turned a plate of lettuce wraps into a Twitter win ." Also:

  • Social Connector ushers Microsoft into social networking tool fray
    Microsoft is finally stepping up to include social networking tools and capabilities in its products. Will IT departments take the need for a social networking policy seriously?
  • Facebook replaces corporate intranet at midsized firm
    Facebook replaced the corporate intranet at one midmarket firm -- find out how the transition went.
  • Midmarket CIO pushes a corporate social media plan -- by the numbers
    A midmarket CIO builds a corporate social media plan that rivals competitors with 10 times its resources, and turns naysayers into supporters.
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