by David Graham 

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Social media is a virtual cocktail party

Social media is here to stay and whilst most companies understand the benefits social media has to offer, many are still faced with the challenge of getting their employees on board. Social media isn’t something you can force on employees. It is something they WANT to do.

According to Wikipedia, “social media includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue”. On the face of it, social media is a collection of tools and technologies that enable you to host a cocktail party with unlimited guests, spanning borders and continents. This may be a good way to introduce the concept to employees and encourage it’s use. Let us explore the analogy further.

Planning your cocktail party

Before you host a cocktail party, there is generally some planning involved. In most cases, a theme is required. From a business perspective, this would equate to an industry group or specific area of expertise. Other important ingredients for a good party are food, drink and entertainment. From a business perspective this would be your content and there has to be a lot of it and it must be good. You may want a draw card at your cocktail party such as a celebrity, in order to draw the right audience. From a business perspective this will be your guru or thought leader who talks knowledgably around industry and subject matter-related topics. The other important item is the venue of the cocktail party. From a social media perspective this equates to the particular social networks you will participate on.

Sending invitations to your cocktail party

If your party is going to be a success you need another key ingredient. People. But you also need the right people. Firstly, you will identify who you want at your party and then you will send out invitations. In social media this is done in a number of ways. You can invite people to “connect”, “follow”, “like” and so forth or you can reach out to specific individuals that you have identified. The more “like-minded” people you can attract to your party, the more will follow.

Having conversations at your cocktail party

In any cocktail party, there are generally many conversations going on concurrently. As a newcomer to the party, you have to join a conversation. This is exactly what happens on any social network. There are existing conversations taking place. The trick is to decide who you want to speak to and how to enter the conversation. Using this analogy from a business-to-business social media marketing perspective will help employees understand that it involves two-way dialogue. If you enter a conversation just talking about yourself, the conversation is not going to last very long. You have to establish your presence and be accepted before anyone is going to start listening.

From your business, you need the thought leaders, gurus and subject matter specialists to be available and participating, to seed conversation, to present points of views, to make predictions, to present research findings, to respond to questions and to answer questions. This is how you build credibility and become the trusted adviser, the basis upon which clients make buying decisions.

We generally attend a cocktail party to have “fun”, to connect and chat with like-minded people, to eat, drink, dance and be entertained. When employees tell you that “they do not have time”, when you are encouraging them to participate on social media, they need the “cocktail party” conversation. The companies that are doing well with social media are those that are participating and “having fun”. See you at the cocktail party!