After a series of rather heated discussions on this topic, I felt it was time to put the words down on paper (or at least my version of paper, save a tree). It is mistake to think that social media is just about marketing and the social media optimization is only about building more traffic. Without even realizing it, many companies both big and small are using social media in all areas of their business practices with a very positive effect. Why do they not realize it? Because, social media and networks in general are being used by "users" who work for them as tools that optimize their work. Either way, it is still quality of the interactions that result in optimisation not quantity.
For example, most human resources departments commence by doing the simple Google search to learn more about a potential employee before they interview. This will lead them to other social media interactions like a blog or profile listing on LinkedIn and Facebook and on other sites. This practice has become standard in the first stage of reinforcing that which stands on their application, or weeding out individuals who will not fit with the company culture.
Imagine this chain for recruitment using twitter as a starting point: twitter search for subject matter expert on "socialmedia" --> See several posts by same person and follow link to their profile --> On their profile more interesting entries so check out the website listed in profile --> Leads to blog with more interesting/relevant content --> Look at the profile on the blog for full name --> Check LinkedIn for profile --> See some of their presentation posted on SlideShare --> just the kind of candidate we are looking for --> Send them and inMail requesting a Skype talk --> Speak to get the real connection via voice and see if they are available (or if not have a referral to someone else) --> Follow them on twitter to see if they react publicly to the call. This of course could go many ways. But each one of these steps to could apply to any field and costs nothing other than the person's time to follow through completely.
Product / Service development is another area in which the implementation of social media strategy can shorten the innovation cycle with direct consumer feedback. Whether B2B or B2C the end consumer is the one who needs to be satisfied. So, why not engage them in the process. Customer surveys have been done online for years. Now they can be integrated into conversations that are a true dialog. We can speed up development cycles by understanding our consumers' needs based on conversations rather than assumptions.
Try this example for using social media for product development à a company is looking to create new flavors --> Create a Facebook Fan page for product --> Hold a contest for most popular innovative flavor using their product as a base --> Promote it on Facebook, homepage, twitter, blog and anywhere else they know their consumers are with a tag --> Let contestants submit YouTube videos, audio, images or text narrating their recipe and post to Fan page --> Create link to daily best of on twitter --> Allow other users to rate flavors based on new recipes using base product --> Invite best flavors to share and compete via video conference --> Invite active fans to join the video conference by voting --> The Fans choose the flavor (the engineers develop it to scale, and then offer the fans a chance to test it) --> See if they got it right, thank those active fans who took time to help by giving them free product and ask for feedback (repeat until get it right) --> These fans in turn will spread the word through their channels (twitter, Facebook, etc.) --> Let those great videos and other content become part of a virtual recipe station and fun viral compilation video build your brand afterwards. --> Keep ear to the ground on reactions via all social media channels --> Reward their efforts, creator of winning recipe gets free product. The sites I am using for examples here are simply that, examples. (Oh yes, and by the way you will build your brand in the process as a by-product)
These are just two examples of business areas. Imagine the impact if they coordinated these efforts and incorporated them into their enterprise or business strategy. Now, THAT is social media optimization. I am not recommending that your R&D or your HR departments become social media experts. What I am recommending is that they learn to listen and watch. Social media in its basic forms are simple to use. More and more tools are being created to optimize how we interact with social media so that it becomes less of distraction and more effective. It is these tools that should be focused on. Planning is critical. How can you best apply a social media strategy to increase effectiveness in your organization? That is social media optimization.