I found myself asking this question when one of our clients mentioned that they wanted to integrate social media in their customer facing website. I had just finished analyzing the data from a recent survey done to uncover the unmet needs of the user
s. All data
indicated that the users of the website were very skilled at getting their job done without having the need to engage with their peers. Which made me wonder why they would need social media. Digging deeper, I realized that 20% of the users had Facebook accounts but they had not used those accounts on a regular basis leave alone the option of using it for work. So while the client wanted to integrate social media to increase users’ engagement with the new site and stay ahead of the competition, I wondered if the users were ready for it. To get some answers I proposed doing what we love doing, talking to the users.
After doing a few telephone interviews with potential users, my gut reaction for introducing social media was positive. Here is why:
Users wanted information from websites they could trust:
While probing on this further, the study participants mentioned that they usually clicked on search results that indicated that the information was from a university or research organization. They felt that the information from these sources (websites) was more reliable
and trustworthy and thus something that they would use for their work. Since our client has a strong base in education and research, I felt good about positioning the social media efforts just around what they do best to meet the potential users’ needs.
Users were familiar with the concept of interaction:
All participants I spoke with had list serve (e-mail) subscriptions and were familiar with the concept of forums. A few of them mentioned that they actually read through all the emails and a few had found forums a valuable medium to solicit feedback. So while this observation did not indicate that users would start interacting freely from the get go, it did indicate that they had experienced value with some form of information distribution.
Users had not realized the value of social networking:
Almost all participants that had Facebook or Linked-in accounts struggled to articulate what they used the account for. For some these accounts are social tools, others think of them as a marketing tool and some just accepted the invitation they got to the tool. Participants gave the following reasons for not using these tools:
- Their peers and patients/clients do not use the tools.
- These tools were designed for a younger audience.
- They don’t have the time for them.
What was clear with this line of probing was that the potential users wanted to get involved but did not know how. As part of the social media strategy, I suggested providing opportunities for users to learn how they could use social media for work via webinars and training guides, so that they could optimize their efforts and stay motivated to use social media.
While I wrapped up the project, I couldn’t help but think if there were other people who faced a similar dilemma while integrating social media for their clients’ websites. I wondered if there are others ways to find out if the client is really ready for social media.