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4 Common Social Media Questions Answered

  |  October 13, 2010   |  Comments

All sorts of organizations around the world are tackling these key issues in social media.

I've been fortunate to be on the road a bit the past few weeks traveling to New York, Charlotte, Geneva, Istanbul, Monte Carlo, Atlanta, Orlando, and many more places. Whether it's for B2B, B2C, pharmaceuticals, government, travel, luxury, or education, everyone has the same questions about social media. I've taken a quick stab at four of the most common questions and hope the answers help you and your business.

Do you think most companies will go in-house with their social media, or will there still be a place to hire the freelance person who gets paid to tweet, or the consulting firm?

Since social media touches every facet of the business, it inherently lends itself to the majority being taken in-house. Also, the conversations need to be genuine and it's easier to establish that trust if it's coming from you, not a surrogate. Social media is not an or, it's an and in marketing. Dell indicated that it originally had 40 people focused on social media. It soon realized it's not just the 40 people who need to own social media; it's the entire company. Every person, whether it's someone on the phone in customer service, or any other employee, has a Facebook and Twitter account, and they are representing Dell, whether it is working hours or not.

While a majority will reside in-house for certain components, it still makes a world of sense to bring in help from an external agency or consultant for certain aspects of the strategy and execution.

What is the disadvantage for companies using social media?

As I said in my book, "Great companies embrace social media because they have nothing to hide and welcome everyone to discuss their products, services, etc. Social media is a big disadvantage for companies that have had mediocre products/service/offerings and have hidden behind big marketing budgets, distribution advantages, etc. There is nowhere to hide with social media."

Another potential pitfall is that companies don't understand the "soft" costs associated with social media. Just like offline relationships require time and energy to cultivate, digital relationships via social media require the same type of effort.

Do most companies seem to have clear strategies and direction with social media, or does it seem like people are still trying to figure out what to do with it and how it can help them?

Some of the good companies have a clear strategy, while others are just dipping their toes in the water. It's also important to note that social media requires more of a cultural change in companies than a strategic change. The key with social media is to fail fast, fail forward, and fail better. You aren't going to get it right the first time, but you aren't going to learn anything if you don't take that first step. The beauty of social media is that your customers are very forgiving and at the same time, helpful at expressing exactly what they need from you as a company. It is the world's largest focus group on steroids. It's imperative that companies incorporate their social media strategy into their overall business strategy. Again, it's more of a culture shift though. A big mistake is making it a one-off strategy.

Content curators or creators – who is the most valuable?

Today, everyone is a potential media outlet. A curator understands their audience and is able to package created content in a digestible manner for them. Creators need to view curators as distribution points for their content rather than as pirates. Content creators and curators that will thrive in this new world understand the importance of this symbiotic relationship. But is it symbiotic? In the end, almost every person is a little of both (creator and curator). After all, there is no such thing as a new idea, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. These clichés symbolize the irony of the debate between curator and creator.

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Erik Qualman

Called a Digital Dale Carnegie, Erik Qualman is the author of best sellers Socialnomics (2009) and Digital Leader (2011). Socialnomics made the #1 Best Sellers List in seven countries and was a finalist for "Book of the Year." Fast Company Magazine lists Qualman as a Top 100 Digital Influencer. He is a frequently requested international speaker and has visited 42 countries. He produced the world's most viewed social media video series and it has been used by NASA to the National Guard.

He has been fortunate to share the stage with Julie Andrews, Al Gore, Tony Hawk, Sarah Palin, Jose Socrates (Prime Minister of Portugal), Alan Mulally, and many others. For the past 17 years Qualman has helped grow the digital capabilities of many companies including Cadillac, EarthLink, EF Education, Yahoo, Travelzoo, and AT&T. He is also an MBA Professor at the Hult International Business School. Qualman holds a BA from Michigan State University and an MBA from The University of Texas. He was Academic All-Big Ten in basketball at Michigan State University and recently gave the commencement address at the University of Texas. He lives in Boston with his wife and daughter.

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