Innovation Perspectives – Social Media Return Dilemma

by Paul Hobcraft

This is the sixth of several ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)’. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Paul Hobcraft

Innovation Perspectives - Social Media Return DilemmaI am not alone I am sure but I suffer from Social Media Return Dilemma. There I’ve said it, it is out in the open, “I suffer from SMRD”.

To be honest I am struggling on social media in innovation, struggling to get my head around it for my business, for me. It often seems overwhelming, do you feel the same?

I can see daily the amazing power that social networking can provide, it is certainly eating into my day more and more. Is this a good thing or bad? The time issue has to increasingly managed, and as yet I don’t have a clear enough strategy for it or where to direct my social media energy. I am still learning, experimenting through a combination of writing blogs, contributing to others, updating my connections as well as my twittering away occasionally, the regular freshening up of my web site but to what end I still feel nags away at me?

I focus 100% on innovation- I research, I advise, I coach, I consult. Presently I work as an independent but find this has its marketing difficulties so I need a greater exposure and through social media I feel I can achieve this. It can lead to a clearer awareness of what I stand for and what I can offer, and to date, I can see solid progress. Building does take time and time is a precious commodity so I try to balance this accordingly. The chicken and egg becomes part of this social media return dilemma.

For me I certainly want to contribute to others, to provide back some of my experiences and significant knowledge gained in working across different aspects of innovation as many people struggle with this daily. The one problem is I want to get paid for this and I keep wondering how social media can give me that monetary return At present it seems more a constant outpouring and I have not figured out yet the return for this. The more traditional channels to market still yield more but I think, no I believe this is changing but it is early days. I’ve just got to figure out my SMRD model better to make this happen more.

The question I am told to constantly ask myself is where is my target audience? I definitely think Linkedin holds part of the key to this as the quality of connections that work in the innovation space that are connecting on this social platform holds real promise. Connecting is one thing, engaging is another! Are they really connecting and more importantly listening to all this advice being offered? Are we forming deeper relationships from this or just fleeting ones? Am I still a click away from the recycle bin?

So I’m asking myself many open ended questions on the contribution and impact that social media is having on my business life. I learnt many things, I’m moving towards a better social media strategy.

What I’ve learnt:

  1. Social media is not a ‘fad’; it is becoming deeply embedded in my daily life.
  2. I’m engaging across multiple groups to contribute and to learn from others
  3. I am getting a ‘pulse’ on innovation that shapes my thinking
  4. So far I have been dealing with social media on my terms but struggling to extract the value I need to build this fully into my business.
  5. Broadcasts don’t work, self promotion is not welcome and there is emerging a clear accepted social behaviour depending on the social media. I’ve avoided these pitfalls and pleased that I have, others seem not to be as socially aware.

Where I’m still learning:

  1. I need to select and settle on the social media applications that can fully support my strategic development priorities of building a thriving innovation knowledge practice.
  2. I certainly feel I need more professional guidance to this whole area to make more sense of it as they seem to be fragmenting even more and experimenting just for the sake of it is tougher for small organizations to do.
  3. Getting recognition of the expertise and knowledge that resides ‘within’ my business is still hard to achieve through the tools and applications. Knowledge platforms that work like Google but align to knowledge depth not breadth need to be developed.
  4. The time that this engaging in social exchange is taking out of my day needs to be capped.
  5. These “online exchanges” are running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year…even on holidays! You choose when you want to get involved yes, but is this just not leading us into an even bigger tread mill of never ending activity?

What I still question to find the right answers to on four topical points:

  1. That links are the Key to Success! It goes beyond that, it is to do with engagement, sustainable engagement and links are just not enough.
  2. There are out there amazing building opportunities that wait. You can’t engage in social media half-heartily, it has to be full on!
  3. Opening up new markets for your business will happen. Yes but I think over time, a time you have to put in to make this happen and it is often random, fickle and fleeting and must be the real struggle within the corporations at present, seeing a return on investment. Can we afford to just’ go with the flow’ on this?
  4. Social media can provide instant market research abilities and feedback. The larger you are, the more demanding this will be. The more opinionated you are the more popular you seem to be but that has its downsides. The fickleness of crowds. The instant reaction may not reflect the long term value.

So, I struggle on social media and its role in innovation. When you suffer from SMRD like I do, they do tell me that part of the cure is to talk about your own troubles. A trouble shared…

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You can check out all of the ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles from the different contributing authors on ‘How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?’ by clicking the link in this sentence.


Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

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  1. Take a look at this excellent presentation from @domrodwell which explains social media is also about product innovation: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/domrodwell/screw-the-internet-2544913
    granted it’s better if you can hear him talk to it, but I can’t find the film link to that right now.
    wbw
    @coralgrainger

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