The Olympics offer a great example of how social networks can be used to build loyalty and keep fans hooked. Twitter promoted a list of verified Olympians, and I followed it for awhile. Obviously, some were more effective at using social media than others. Skiers Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn were among those who posted regular updates before and after events, but when it comes to savvy social networking, nobody beat speed skater Apolo Ohno. Ohno not only posted throughout the day, but he attracted coverage from traditional media when he held fan Q&As on Twitter.
After watching how the marketing savvy Olympians used Twitter and Facebook, I began to wonder whether social media might be better for building individual brands than group or corporate brands.
But then again, it's hard to say for sure, because the truth is, many organizations are too freaked out by social networking sites to effectively use them. For instance, some sports clubs have banned or placed restrictions on how players can use social media, including, to my chagrin, the National Hockey League.
And businesses aren't much better-a recent Robert Half Technology survey of U.S. companies with at least 100 employees found that 54 percent ban social-networking sites.
IT Business Edge's Ann All explored this issue more fully in a January post, pointing out that these types of prohibition tactics are probably futile.
Establishing usage rules is one thing. Outright banning social media-that's just crazy talk. And frankly, it's just the wrong battle for companies to be fighting when it comes to social networking-even the U.S. military surrendered on that front, and decided the benefits of social media outweigh the security risks.
Instead, organizations should be looking at how they integrate social networking with their increasingly siloed Web sites, argues Jeremiah Owyang, a Customer Strategist with the Altimeter Group.
Three years ago, Owyang wrote that corporate Web sites were increasingly irrelevant. Now, he says the market is realizing "that corporate sites can no longer operate as silos when customers have left."
And to stop being a silo, companies will have to start integrating with social networks - a task that's become much easier:
"Fast forward to 2010, and there too many options for brands to integrate these social features. While many have used community platforms to allow customers to connect to each other on branded domains, this strategy works for loyal customers and often may not reach prospects. Social networks, which have your customers and prospects, have taken note, and have launched a variety of products that allows their thriving communities of buyers and prospects to connect with static corporate sites."
The post looks at the available feature options-as well as the pros, cons and "what no one will tell you" about what Owyang terms "social integration." He also lists which features the big players-Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn and MySpace - offer organizations.
Finally, he wraps up with his recommendations for developing a social integration strategy and a brief list of resources.
It's a good post on an unusual, but smart, integration topic. Check it out.