Many organizations that have traditionally consulted and engaged with their stakeholders through face-to-face meetings struggle with how best to achieve this through the use of online tools. How many times have we heard our clients say (with a hint of despair in their voices): “We know we have to get online and start using social media, but where do we begin?”. When we explain that there are online platforms designed specifically to support business objectives and consult, engage and collaborate online, we hear sighs of relief.
At Intersol, we have coined the term “business media” to differentiate online platforms whose primary utility is to conduct the business of online consultation, engagement and collaboration from social media platforms which are used primarily for connecting with, recruiting from, and sharing information between and within networks of people.
Using business media and social media in an integrated fashion can increase the effectiveness of your engagement efforts. First, let’s look at these two types of tools and then we’ll discuss how best to leverage their respective strengths.
In order to consult or engage with stakeholders in a meaningful way, the online platforms must be purposefully and appropriately designed for the intended objectives.
If you wanted to engage your stakeholders through a face-to-face meeting, you would make decisions based on specific questions, such as:
- What are the engagement’s objectives?
- Who is invited to participate?
- What information needs to be shared as background?
- What are the topics or questions to be discussed?
Just as with face-to-face meetings, business media tools provide the same level of ability to manage all of these elements, in support of achieving your engagement objectives while at the same time managing the risks associated with the use of online media. Examples of such business tools include online web conferencing, online surveys, electronic flipcharts and online engagement platforms that use crowdsourcing technologies.
Social media tools allow unsurpassed levels of interaction among individuals and communities, allowing them to share and modify user-generated content quickly and easily. Tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have greatly changed how organizations, communities and individuals interact and communicate.
Integrating Social Media and Business Media to Maximize Effectiveness
Social media tools can be an effective complement to consultation and engagement efforts, when used:
- to identify and recruit stakeholder communities of interest;
- to monitor the reaction to your engagement efforts;
- to join the conversation as appropriate; and
- to disseminate the results of the consultation or engagement.
Business media tools on the other hand can be used:
- to consult and engage with recruited participants through a set of well designed activities and questions, as well as through participant interaction;
- to analyze the input generated;
- to continue to engage and to seek additional input, as needed.
Business media tools provide the ability to manage the engagement process in a way that supports your business and engagement objectives, while social media tools provide the ability to generate interest and increase reach far beyond traditional efforts. A strategy that leverages the respective strengths of social media and business media for these different purposes can be powerful.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to leverage online tools for engaging and consulting your stakeholders, consider registering for one of our workshops, or contact us.