Go ahead, admit it. You log on to Facebook at work. And I'm sure you've caught your team members checking out their friends' status updates or better yet, harvesting their crops on FarmVille.
Though some believe that it is an unproductive use of company time, I believe social media can be an agency's secret weapon.
Today, most agencies define technological collaboration as an "intranet." The reality is that a dynamic shift is happening; companies are exploring the power of a "Facebook-for-work"-style approach to building a culture and working as a team. Social business software can break down barriers, bridge social and cultural divides, speed productivity, spur a collaborative culture, and capture institutional know-how. Yes, it's fun. But it can also help drive business.
Here is how a social media program can make a difference for your company:
Build it and they will come (and do great work): If you create something interesting, informative and fun for your employees, they'll utilize it. But you need to tell them it's there. Have your employees complete an online profile on their very first day at the agency. Rich profiles and connections foster teamwork and collaboration. Some systems allow you to mouse over anyone to see if he or she is online, view the status update, see who they are and what he or she is up to, and establish a connection. You can follow individuals and create feeds of their activities. By using this on a daily basis, quick friendships are made, and true camaraderie generates the best work.
If you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk: Using social business software creates a competitive advantage, specifically for agencies that include it in their offerings. Think about it. In order to service your clients, you need to be able to "talk the social talk" and be in a position to provide strategy on the social Web. A part of that is to help clients navigate social business software so they can also collaborate internally, with their customers and, of course, the general public. If you use social platforms in your personal and professional life, it only makes you a stronger expert and advocate.
Collaboration + communication = good business: This is a business driven mostly by relationships. The best relationships include strong communication and collaboration. Your relationship with your client isn't any different. Clients are becoming more sophisticated and participatory with social media technology. As an agency, we're delighted; this type of collaboration is less about managing assets and project management, and more about true creative teamwork.
Employees that play together, stay together: People are driven to social media to build relationships. And while the days of three-martini lunches are long gone, your employees still want an outlet to get to know their colleagues and socialize. Create peer social networks based on mutual projects, departments or shared interests. Like many social media outlets, this should be a place where you can find like-minded colleagues who, say, enjoy shopping, have dogs, volunteer, have a sweet tooth, love boxing, or have hobbies like yoga, running, gaming and home improvement.
Say an RFP comes through the door for a brand that's popular among snowboarders. The best people to participate in the pitch would be authentic snowboarding enthusiasts. If you have an agency intranet, you can instantly identify the best people to answer the request thanks to the "snowboarding fan group."
Create your own agency brand advocates: In order to provide the best level of service to your client, your employees need to be your best brand advocates. They need to be well versed in every part of your agency's offer, culture, vision, etc. The most effective way to do that is to share as much as possible. Your intranet can be like a daily newspaper, featuring up-to-the-minute news on the agency, its clients and the overall industry. It can also provide access to thought leadership efforts.
Your employees will probably still go to Facebook during work hours. But, you can also provide them with a robust platform that can help them do their day-to-day work. It certainly isn't Mafia Wars, but as an industry we are still battling for budgets and business. Social media is only going to get more prevalent and it can be your best friend or your worst enemy. But with a small investment in software, you can create stronger teams, improve client relationships and build an engaged employee base. Go ahead -- I know you are going to "like" it.
Gay Gaddis is president and CEO of T3. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.