Why Businesses Need to Keep Social Media Social

While social media began as a social phenomenon, it quickly moved into our business and corporate lives. Whether it is Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or a bevy of other options, there are some very useful ways we can use social media to help our businesses thrive.

However, I have observed a troubling social media trend. It is something I call “media masquerading as social media”. Let me explain.

We are used to the constant presence of media in our lives. Magazine & television advertisements, billboards and flashing coupons at the grocery store are constant reminders that media is vying for our attention. There is a quiet but important premise about media – we understand and accept that companies are trying to get our attention by telling us something! And it is one-way communication.

However, social media operates on a different premise. By definition, social media is about a social exchange between two parties. The term ‘social’ means that communication is not meant to be a one-way exchange. While media is one-way, it is my belief that social media must be two-way. However, I believe that the business use of social media is becoming increasingly one-way. Here are some recent examples from my life which illustrate this point.

  • On a recent Halloween, my daughter created and wore a Pippy Longstocking costume. It turned out wonderful but it ended up looking even more like Wendy from the Wendy’s burger franchise! I snapped a photo and posted it on their Facebook web site to see what they would do. In short, they did nothing at all. This taught me that their social media outlet on Facebook was simply media.
  • A local golf club regularly posts photos to my Instagram account. They are typically pictures of their amazing lunch plates and a description of their weekly special. This week I decided to treat a business guest to lunch on their patio. Below this week’s photo of their lunch special I posted, “I’ll be there tomorrow. What time do you close?” I never received a reply. Once again, this social media feed was merely media.

While I lament this misuse of social media by some organizations, I have also experienced some effective ‘social’ experiences with organizations through their media channels as well.

  • After our recent half-marathon, I snapped a photo of my wife stretching her tired muscles and posted it to Instagram. One of the comments was from a company called GetStrechy. They have an exercise program that could be a very good fit for us based upon my social media post. In contrast, the like by the company that sells marijuana obviously has not taken time to understand my social profile.
  • During a recent layover in Riga, Latvia, we had time to leave the airport and grab dinner in their fantastic Old Town district. While we waited to board our flight from Prague to Riga, I found a restaurant that was highly recommended. I then accessed their Facebook page and sent them a direct message (DM) asking for reservations at 8. When we landed in Riga, my Facebook account pinged with confirmation that our table would be ready. Now that’s media that remembers to be social (great work MILDA!).

Perhaps you view social media differently than I do, but I don’t mind the media aspect of it. That is, as long as it stays social and doesn’t merely become media. I suspect that social media outlets that drift into media-only feeds will have a short shelf-life.


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Six Priorities for University Recruitment Efforts

The expressions of anxious mothers, too-cool freshmen and a steady train of boxes into residence halls this week heralds the arrival of thousands of new students to our universities. Having recently returned from work with a university in Europe, I can report that university orientation norms like these are very similar wherever you go.

As recruitment offices, we are quickly shifting to efforts to recruit our class of 2015. As you do so, I thought that a quick summary of the 2014 Noel Levitz E-Expectations survey would be a helpful way to refocus your efforts. While a full read of the report is highly advisable (E-Expectations Report) , here is a quick list of the insights which should influence your efforts:

  1. Parents are important. VERY important! About 3 out of 4 high school seniors list their parents as having the greatest influence on their college choice.
  2. Web sites are critical! As the most important recruitment resource, the importance of your recruitment web site is paramount! Programs, costs and financial awards are the top three things they look for. Furthermore, mobile-friendly browsing is important as 40% of student state that they use their mobile phone browser for nearly all of their web browsing. Less than 10% of students rarely use their mobile device for browsing.E-Expectations
  3. Texting is becoming acceptable. About half of your recruits are fine with texting as a means of college communication. Similarly, 55% of parents are willing to receive college texts.
  4. Use many social media channels. Prospective students are active on Facebook (74%), YouTube (73%), Instagram (49%), Twitter (39%) and Snapchat (39%).
  5. Invest in your campus visit program! Three out of four students and parents agree with the statement that “schools should put more effort into getting prospective students to campus for visits and admissions events”.
  6. Tie education to careers. Students and parents want to see that their program has career value. Ensure you provide stats on job/graduate school placement, testimonials (current students, alumni, and faculty) and have robust program information.

I wish you success in your recruitment efforts this year!

Noel-Levitz (2014).  2014 E-Expectations Report: The Online Preferences of College-Bound Seniors and Their Parents. Available at https://www.noellevitz.com/papers-research-higher-education/2014/2014-e-expectations-report



Rules for Living in the Digital Age (According to Wired Magazine)

In the July issue of Wired magazine, they offered up their “Guide to behavior, manners and style” for those of us who live part of our lives on-line. While it was tongue-in-cheek, it provided some great tips that are worthy of sharing in this blog episode. Here are my ten favorites.

10. Yelp is a restaurant review, not an autobiography!

9. Don’t describe yourself as a guru or ninja on LinkedIn unless you read Sanskrit or kill people with throwing stars.

8. No posting ultrasound photos on Facebook.

7. You should favorite compliments you get on Twitter, not reteweet them.

6. Say no to #nofilter tags.

5. Please correct errors in Wikipedia.

4. Don’t follow brands or your followers will get ads.

3. Don’t start your Ted Talk with “so”.

2. During meetings, put your phone on the table, facedown with notifications off.

1. Do not ‘reply all’.

Credits: Wired Magazine (July, 2014). The Code: A Wired guide to behavior, manners and style. Pages 81 – 95.

Social Media Genius: Walmart’s corporate response to a scathing article in the NY Times reveals the power of effective social media.

Walmart Blog long

A portion of Walmart’s blog response to Timothy Egan, a NY Times writer.

A recent New York Times article harshly criticized Walmart for paying low wages to their employees. David Tovar, the Vice President of Communications at Walmart chose to respond to these allegations by using their blog. By posting a red copy edit of the article, he effectively corrected several points that he believed were inaccurate. The point of this post isn’t to support either the NY Times nor Walmart. Instead, the focus is on the effective use of social media

While Tovar’s response is scathing, the use of their own blog to publicize a response avoids an all-out war of words. The secondary publicity of his response through news articles and blogs (such as this post and over 22,000 likes on Facebook) has allowed others to carry the message on their behalf. This type of coverage could not be achieved by purchasing a full-page newspaper ad.

I get tired of receiving daily emails from people telling me they can provide all my social media solutions. Social media is important. However, it supports strategy, it is not strategy. The simplicity of Walmart’s response demonstrates that they get this!

You can read the full Walmart blog post here.