Late last week I had the good fortune to participate in a panel titled ‘Social Media – Beyond the Hype’.  The panel was part of the Australian Marketing Institute’s 2009 Annual Conference.

In part, I think the ‘hype’ surrounding social media is fuelled by corporations drooling at the thought of connecting with Facebook’s six plus million Australian users.  It appears to be a ‘free and easy’ opportunity for corporations trying to make sense of the fragmented media landscape.

While we should get excited at the possibilities provided by social media, we need to find ways of cutting through the hype. The reality is that social media is just another channel and, like any other communication channel, corporations have to embrace the opportunity in a strategic manner.

Julian Cole goes into greater detail when he published:

“Revolutionary Social Media spruikers are good for one thing, they help to get people who know nothing about social media excited about the possibility of the technology. However, once this excitement dies down, there needs to be information on what people can actually do.”

For ‘information on what people can actually do’, I’ve developed the following points/tips that corporations could use to help them determine if social media is really for them.

Does your social media effort support business objectives?

  • Social media is simply another channel to engage your customers and stakeholders.  Like any other communications tool or exercise, you need to assess how your tools help support/achieve your business objective?

Is your customer online?

  • If you are targeting groups of customers that aren’t traditionally big online users, then online may not be your first choice (channel) to establish a connection.

Can you align social media with existing processes and resources?

  • If corporations are going to provide value to the online conversation, they need to ensure their online activities are aligned with internal processes and resources.  For instance, the Telstra Twitter accounts are an extension of the work our online support team currently undertakes.

Corporate culture – levels of transparency?

  • Management of an IP based company may prefer to lock down external access to the internet versus having their employees freely share their core asset.  It all depends on the corporate culture and ‘how things happen around here’.

What’s your comfort level with risk?

  • Does your organisation want to use a communication channel where they don’t have 100% control?

What do you think about the points listed above?  Any additional points or suggestions?