When we think of social media we tend to think of its use as a marketing tool whether we’re talking Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, etc., etc., etc. And, using social media as part of your marketing efforts often makes sense (depending, of course, on your objectives and your audience). But social media can provide benefits beyond marketing. For example:
- Recruitment. Social media, particularly LinkedIn, is proving to be a great resource for hiring professionals in a variety of fields. LinkedIn offers organizations the opportunity to connect with individuals through Groups, to search for people with specific backgrounds or to promote job openings. Recruiters note that LinkedIn is a good source of “passive” candidates – those who aren’t actively looking for jobs, but who have the background and expertise that the recruiters are seeking. A *big benefit* here, that can be elusive when it comes to social media use in marketing, is the ability to track real, bottom-line results and savings. Social media recruitment has rapidly taken the place of other, traditional–and often paid–methods of recruitment.
- Monitoring the competition. Social media makes it very easy to monitor what others are doing, including the competition. What information is included in their profiles? What type of and how many followers do they have? What types of interactions are taking place on their sites? How responsive are they? What products, services or capabilities are they focusing on? In my work with clients I’ve done activities like keyword analysis, the evaluation of communication methods, the analysis of friends and followers, etc. Of course, keep in mind that if you’re monitoring them there’s a good chance that they’re monitoring you as well!
- Monitoring trends. Social media provides an opportunity to monitor what people are saying and what they’re interested in, providing potential perspectives on new products and services, service options, etc. You can do this by monitoring various key words, through the use of hash tags (#), by following trending topics, and by using tools like Google Alerts.
- Monitoring industry trends. There are a wide range of online sources of information that can be easily monitored to track trends by geography, industry, issue (e.g. legal, regulatory, etc.) to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening and, importantly, what others think about what’s happening.
- Building an online repository of visual information for your audience that can be used for education, training or product/service support. YouTube is the obvious tool for this type of activity and, like other social media tools, it’s free!
- Tracking comments about your own organization and products/services. This can be done by monitoring certain key words/phrases with tools like Hootsuite, or by using tools like Google Alerts that will send emails when online items with certain key words that you’ve requested show up.
- Crisis management. In the event of a crisis where your own internal communication tools may be inoperable or inaccessible to staff, customers and other key constituents, social media may present an option to communicate with these audiences. Those organizations that are prone to crisis situations (e.g. health care organizations, organizations in parts of the country subject to severe weather, etc.) should prepare in advance by establishing online communities–for instance, requesting all employees to become part of a Facebook community where, in the event of a crisis, they might be instructed to follow a particular hashtag on Twitter.
The bottom line: don’t limit yourself to the use of social media just for marketing communication efforts. Think creatively about ways the array of social media tools might help your organization in other ways.