If you work in communications you will have found out by now that social media is no one hit wonder. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ are part of daily life. Ordinary citizens are venting their spleens through their blogs offering real life commentary on everything from brand names to news to gossip. Those wishing to donate to charities and good causes are expecting to be able to do so online or by text and want real time information on how their money is being spent.
As an organisation that works closely with social enterprises, Redmoor Communications sees first hand a real eagerness amongst clients to begin using social media to improve their business but at the same time a hesitancy – be it through lack of understanding of how it can help them or fear of unleashing an uncontrollable beast that devours time, staff and resources.
We ran a social media masterclass with one such social enterprise last week. They wanted to be seen as cutting edge but the potential risk to their reputation if it went wrong had resulted in them opting for the risk averse option and not developing a presence at all – something they knew was unsustainable given their target audience was under 25. Spending time on social media can be hard to explain to a chief executive especially at a time of funding cuts and a general lack of income opportunities. However, a well planned social media strategy allied with time spent developing your profile can not only improve your engagement with potential clients but also raise your profile and reputation nationally which will help with future funding bids.
I’ve therefore written a few examples of where social media can help your enterprise which you might find helpful:
- Fishing where the fish are
It isn’t quite shooting fish in a barrel but if you are serious about targeting your potential clients then you really need to be engaging using social media. Whilst it is true that the largest proportion of people using social media are under 30 it doesn’t mean to say a huge number of other age and social groups are not doing so. The fastest growing group in Facebook is women over 50. The improved access to mobile technology means more and more people are using social media. If your business is about planning for the future can you ignore these people?
- Networking wizardry
I get frustrated sometimes by organisations that simply pay lip service to social media all the time missing a trick and not taking a lead nationally in the online debate around social enterprise. If you are a successful social enterprise there are ample opportunities out there to take part in online Q&As, twitter debates, online forums and webinars – each presenting great opportunities for you to raise your national profile and at the same time improve your SEO. This doesn’t take a lot of effort, it just needs a strategic approach and a carefully drafted plan. How many opportunities would you ordinarily get to engage directly with key politicians, investors, journalists and opinion formers? Through social media this can become commonplace.
- Tech innovation
We are currently working with a client to provide a web 2.0 solution to a problem they’ve been having. As part of this solution they’ve incorporated it into the services they offer their clients. Rather than be seen as a threat they see this is enhancing their existing offer which is important in the current competitive market. They didn’t need to do this, they could have rested on their laurels and taken the easy option. Instead they have used their creativity and innovative approach to service delivery to improve their organisation. Surely that is what the very best social enterprises are about?
- Reputation management
If you don’t follow social media channels you won’t know if people are criticising your organisation. Worst still, you will have no method of dealing with the criticism that is sat there on Google for everyone to see. From a simple reputation management perspective your social enterprise really does need to have a digital presence so it can monitor both the good and bad things people will be saying about you. Remember, even if you are small you will have had a direct involvement with people otherwise you’ll be failing. Those people may be discussing you right now – would it not be a good idea to find out what they are saying?
- Source of funding
It isn’t just clients and key influencers who are on social media, potential investors are too. Many businesses are embracing social media as they understand its potential. Some of these will take a strategic approach to CSR and will be looking for schemes, social enterprises and community groups to exercise that responsibility. By using social media you can engage with them directly. You can tap into the latest debates around corporate social responsibility and find out who the key players are. With a bit of time and effort you can place yourself on their radar.
I hope those of you with social enterprises will have a think about some of the issues raised here and explore how they could benefit you. It really isn’t as difficult as some people make out and you certainly should not be paying a kings ransom to set it all up.