On Friday I had the privilege of speaking on a panel at Like Minds 2010 “Person to Person”, an event looking at the impact of Social Media, all the way from the media through to employee communication. We’ve enjoyed the onversations with organisers and founders Scott Gould and Drew Ellis, on the concepts behind person-to-person. The agenda included speakers drawn from across the world: Jonathan Akwue , John Bell (who leads Ogilvy’s 360′ Digital Influence team), Joanne Jacobs, Olivier Blanchard, Yann Gourvennec (of Orange Business serverices) and the inimitable Chris Brogan. In between taking notes and photographs, I caught a couple of clips of video that hopefully give a picture of the day:

It was a far cry from the ‘fluffy’ end of Social Media, instead the conversation was grounded and practical. It was fantastically well run, with a format that mixed presentations with panels, lunch-time discussions and theopportunity for one to one discussion. It even managed to highlight a number of local charities in the format. A huge amount came out of the day, but for this post I’ll focus on the things that most directly impact what we are doing here at SocialOptic. Much of the press coverage around social media has been on the consumer space, so it was refreshing to have a lunch hosted by Madlen Nicolaus of Kodak that focussed on social media in the field of Business to Business. With people like Stuart Baines of Futurity MediaYann Gourvennec and Adam Tinworth around the table, ideas flowed. Three key bullet points for me were:

  • Think about your use case. Are you looking for new uses for an existing product, or new customers? They require different strategies.
  • Social media can be used to augment market research, but what people ask for and what they will buy are very different. The need for product management skills has increased, not decreased.
  • Is your business the right focus for building a customer community? Sometimes it is better to support an existing topical community and be part of that. Any one product is just a small part of a business person’s life.

Something that, for me, there isn’t enough discussion about is using Social Media inside of the business, and as part of the business processes for internal and external communication. I might have a slight bias (given that we see Milestone Planner as social software), I think it provides one of the biggest returns for business. Olivier Blanchard’s keynote: ‘Integrating People-to-People’ did an excellent job of providing an integrated look at a potential operational framework for social media, which Olivier has blogged about here. I joined Oliver for a panel, moderated by Andrew Gerrard, with Steve Bridger, myself and Gabrielle Laine-Peters. It was interesting that, while we all have wildly different perspectives, our thoughts and conclusions were broadly the same. The key notes for me were:

  • The age of Social Media means thinking differently about who you hire. On the one hand, as I often repeat, we are all in PR now, and on the other, collaboration trumps management in an innovative business.
  • Social Media isn’t just about marketing, it is about all forms of communication, from customer service to facilities management. Tactical use of the technology can miss the major benefits.
  • Leaders need to give staff ‘permission to act’. Demanding that employees use social media, while punishing them for doing so, is never going to have a constructive outcome.

There is a long way to go in understanding how the use of social media is changing employees expectations around communication, and a huge depth of opportunities for the use of the technology. Like Minds provided a great framework to think about both of these and some steps forwards. I am sure it will be driving many of the milestone updates in our plans, and posts on our internal blog for a good while to come! Thank you to Scott and Drew, the attendees, those that watched on line and to the speakers and panellists.