Last week I wrote a post about how IT departments can be overly cautious about social media – either ignoring it, or even actively impeding it’s use within some companies. In the comments, John Refford asked what my suggestions were for shops looking to change that attitude. Here are a few things that immediately come to mind.
1. Understand the changing marketing landscape
Business acumen is probably one of the most valuable skills an IT professional can bring to the table, at least those in leadership positions. Understanding the true context of the environment that the technology and systems are operating in goes a long way in ensuring that IT efforts are aligned with business goals. Social media is no different.
The folks in marketing or customer service or wherever that are experimenting with these tools are working toward business goals and objectives. And while this may not be immediately clear or obvious (particularly in the early days of these efforts), that’s ultimately what’s happening.
To get yourself acclimated, it may be best to read up on the general principles that are driving these efforts across many businesses. One great way to do that is with a quick read of the book Inbound Marketing. Here’s a review I wrote on it a while back. The books is a great primer on the changing landscape in marketing, to which your business is probably responding with some sort of (official or unofficial) social media effort.
2. Learn about search engine optimization
Search engines represents a huge opportunity for marketers to drive traffic to your company’s web site and other web properties. This has the attention of the marketing department, but it quickly gets technical. And it’s always changing.
Get yourself up to speed on the basics by exploring Google Analytics, a powerful tool in use by many websites that tracks all sorts of information about where visitors come from and what they do on your site. This is a place where good technical chops can help in getting things setup and organized properly, and also where you can see some of the marketing concepts in action.
If you really want to get deep into this stuff, check out Occam’s Razor, a blog by Avinash Kaushik, who has written on the topic extensively (and also published a book on the topic).
3. Try it out
Nothing beats first-hand experience. Setup a blog and share some thoughts. As an IT professional, you likely have tons of information to share on certain topics. Don’t worry if your blog ends up about technology rather than whatever your business does. The point is not to become a marketing person for your company, but to learn about the platform and what it’s like to produce content for the web, to learn about its consumption, to get some feedback from readers, and to participate in online communities.
Of course, IT professionals have been active in online communities since before the internet started. Bulletin board systems, user group forums, and other electronic meeting rooms have always helped us to get our jobs done. Starting your own blog is informative in a different way, though, because its your community. You’ll learn more by doing that, and it will be closer to what your business is trying to do – establish and nurture some sort of community related to its products and services.
If blogging is too big a commitment at the moment, at least jump onto Twitter. The microblogging platform can be just as informative. And you can learn about online communities, culture, and creating good content first-hand without investing too much time in technical setup or generating long posts.
Photo credit: EmaStudios