Social media blurs personal, business
Those of us who use social-media tools at work will appreciate a feature story in last week's Crain's Chicago Business about the collisions at the intersection of users' business and personal lives.
The story, “Mistaken identities,” by Lisa Bertagnoli, gives eight examples of how Chicago-area managers reacted when they realized messages they posted on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and foursquare could have implications in their business and personal lives.
“A social-media user's business and private personalities can clash online,” Bertagnoli writes. “Personal opinions, on anything from religion to a brand, can rile employers. And too much business news can irk friends, who expect personal gossip and photos.”
The managers she interviewed are using a variety of strategies to deal with the business vs. private issue. Some have multiple social media accounts, targeted for either business or friends — with no overlap. Others have only personal accounts where they avoid any business issues. In a few cases, the managers decided that their business and private personas are indistinguishable.
For those just getting familiar with social media, keep in mind that lines can be blurry. For example, if you have a personal Facebook account, and a close business colleague or a customer wants to “friend” you, how do you react? When is it OK to block them?
I'm not surprised managers handle these issues so differently. In the business-to-business arena, applications for social media are still pretty new, and “best practices” rules are waiting to be written.
Biggest challenges point up big picture
What's your company's top challenge? It's a simple question, but how often do managers step back and look at the big picture?
ThomasNet recently surveyed 3,000+ U.S. businesses, and compiled the results in an “Industry Market Barometer.” The poll asked a variety of questions, but the most intriguing to me were these:
* What are the top three challenges your firm is facing today?
* In the first half of 2011, how will you be directing your resources (e.g., staff, budget, time)?
The top challenges? Some 68 percent selected “customers cutting back/going out of business,” followed by “domestic competition” at 46 percent, and “overseas competition” at 29 percent.
Where are companies putting their resources to meet those challenges? Related to the “customers cutting back” — some 66 percent said they are directing resources to customer retention.
Regarding “domestic competition,” 71 percent are increasingly directing resources to get business in new industries, 46 percent to pursuing business in new U.S. geographies, and 43 percent to competing more aggressively in their core market.
The majority of companies are focused on keeping and expanding their share of the U.S. market. But with so many firms looking at jumping into the next hot market (medical? sustainable energy?), what niche markets will be left where suppliers can differentiate themselves and avoid becoming commoditized?