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Why innovation is a key marker of your success and the way to monetise all you do with social media

You can’t read much these days without being confronted by the impact of social media, in fact for many, social media is where much of today’s information is consumed. It is self-perpetuating. The significance of social is now commonly understood, but while it is much easier to measure than traditional communication mediums, its organic business impact is still widely debated. It is a little like someone saying this piece of art is worth X – the value is in the eye of the beholder, which makes standard measurement of its effect a challenge.

So, while the ways to calculate the fiscal magnitude of social media can be trying, finding out how social media has reformed research and development is easier to determine. Further still the productisation of social media services as stand alone businesses is quite clear.

The brands that wouldn’t exist if not for social media today are vast and rapidly expanding. The square root of that equation comes at the juncture where you start to conceive just how many products would not be made at all if not for people-power formed from contributions outside the corporate firewall. Economists estimate that 50-80 per cent of economic growth comes from innovation and new knowledge. As a consequence, social media has created an economy of its own.

Take KickStarter as the perfect example. Since its launch in 2009, more than 4.6 million people have pledged over $735 million, funding more than 46,000 creative projects. These new ideas are often to meet as yet undefined needs and they are building one on the other. The greatest threat is to traditional organisations, those who haven’t yet realised they need to radically rethink not just how to integrate social media, but how to use it as a mechanism for transformation. According to a recent IBM study, companies that fail to actively pursue digital technologies and transform their businesses could miss out on up to $106 billion in revenue by 2025. This is startling.

So what does this mean to Comms Pros? Daniel Burrus writes in the AFR today, “Just as game-changing technologies continue to transform business processes, they also allow us to create new products and services that wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. Therefore, the chief information officer’s role must shift from protecting the status quo to embracing innovation.” In effect there is a vitally important role for Comms Pros in equipping CIOs with the intelligence they need to effectively cater for this change. Here’s how you do it:

You must ask, why – I believe smart policy can emancipate teams, particularly where it relates to social media, but as a Comms Pro you are in the best position to show the business how they can behave differently. This means understanding the rules, so you can advise where it makes sense to bend them. Using social media is a way to engage better, but even more so, to take that engagement and innovate to tangibly add to the bottom line. You are there to learn from your peers. There are plenty of examples around you can use as examples of when to challenge someone’s thinking. I really like Honda’s use of social media to innovate as an example.

Foster failure for fear of mediocrity – trial and error should become your mantra. Social is a maturing space. It will mean something different tomorrow to today. This is a nightmare for a CIO because it is extremely hard to securely cater for a high level of fluidity at a reasonable cost. There is an important piece of work that therefore needs to go into redefining the working role of Comms Pros with respect to their relationship with the C-suite. According to Forbes the top-25 most social CIOs are those from prominent of tech names such as SAP, Google, Microsoft and IBM. This needs to stretch further, faster. It is not just a tech paradigm. It is the challenge for Comms Pros to build confidence amongst their colleagues in senior leadership positions to step out boldly into the social scene. There is more to gain than to fear. Peer-to-peer roundtable sessions are a great start. You don’t need media in the room for it to be a justification of your time.

Study like you mean it – if you want your CIO to take you seriously, you need to spend the time understanding what makes them tick. Do you know about the technology they are responsible for buying and managing? You should have a reasonable insight. This more than likely means you need to expand your reading. You should also take advantage of the breakfast briefings most of the major vendors put on regularly. The top concerns for CIOs are innovation, big data and business intelligence, cloud, project and stakeholder management, and legacy transformation. They should be your concerns too. They should set the context for your social media conversations.

Leverage innovation centres – Universities are hot beds for innovation. You should be familiar with the projects they are running. They are often great at innovating and often use social technologies to link up cross-institutionally. What they aren’t always great at is self-promotion. Once more, there is a role here for you. Today’s University projects are tomorrow’s products. There is a dollar figure attached to their commercial worth, but also to the backing they need to get it done. Without good comms to the right stakeholders too many projects don’t receive the money they need to be fully realised. There is a lot of sense to collaborative academic partnerships. Social media holds the key to unleashing their potential. Which Universities and Researchers are you Following online today?

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

One thought on “One and one make three – the $ impact of social media

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