This is the third post in a series where I look into how you can use the four leading social media tools – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube – to advance your innovation agenda.
Here we go with Facebook.
Facebook, of course, is the 800-pound gorilla of social media that has become a daily part of life for millions of people around the globe. As of mid 2012, this social networking service had more than 900 million active users. Facebook Pages allow businesses and brands to connect with any Facebook users, who must click on “like” button on a Page to access the information provided and to have the ability to make comments on the Page. Anyone who is an official representative of an organization can create a Page.
All types of companies have created Facebook Pages, although the majority are consumer-oriented companies rather than business-to-business companies. These companies want to reach out to their customer bases and form stronger relationships by sharing company news, gathering customer opinions and generally creating buzz that will build brand interest and loyalty. In other words, the chief use of Facebook by businesses is limited to marketing, but that does not mean it does not also have the potential to be used for innovation purposes.
It should be noted that I am personally not active on Facebook. There are two main reasons for this; one is that my work primarily focuses on B2B issues and the second is that I simply do not have the time as I concentrate my efforts on Twitter and LinkedIn. I am sure you can relate to my second reason, which points to the need to find the right balance between the many social media tools and services that could be valuable for you and your work.
• Listen. Like other social media, Facebook is an excellent place to “listen” to your end users. While it is probably unwise to base product development decisions solely on input from Facebook users who have “liked” your Page, this forum does give you a way to hear the unvarnished opinions of consumers, viewpoints that aren’t guided by questions asked in a focus group, for example.
• Spread the word about your innovation events. You can invite your Facebook community to the event and track RSVPs. And you don’t even have to have a corporate Facebook Page to alert people to an event your company is having. Any user can use the “Create Event” function to alert their Facebook friends of an event. Obviously, these events can be virtual events as well as live events. For example, Dell hosts Storm Sessions, which are hyper-focused idea-generating sessions. Learn more at http://www.ideastorm.com/SessionsList. Such events can easily be promoted through a Facebook Page.
• “Like” Facebook Pages related to innovation. For example, some innovation intermediaries have formed communities on Facebook, such as the InnoCentive Open Innovation Network, which shares a steady stream of interesting information about innovation with over 5,000 Facebook users. This can be another spot where you not only learn interesting information but also make contacts for your innovation ecosystem while also gathering business intelligence.
• Be open. When setting up your Facebook Page (or any time thereafter) you have the ability to check a box that allows people to write or post content on the Page’s Wall. You can also allow people to post photos or video. If you’re going to use Facebook as a real listening post, I advise that you be as open as possible; this may result in some negative comments appearing on your Page, but negative comments enable you to interact with aggrieved consumers and create a dialogue that may be productive.
It is impossible to say you want to be open and then turn around and limit people’s ability to interact with you via social media. Be aware that you can set up a spam filter to filter out spammers and other troublemakers.
• Be diligent about posting, but don’t overwhelm people. It’s important to keep this channel alive but it’s equally important not to flood people with too many posts each day. Too few posts may make people wonder how committed you are to building a community on Facebook, while too many posts may cause them to unlike your page or to hide your posts so they don’t show up in their News Feed.
Let me know if you can share other ways in which you can use Facebook to support an innovation agenda.