When I started my MBA last fall, I thought I had a solid understanding of social media, if not digital business. I’d been working in the nonprofit sector for about six years. In my last job, I occasionally managed our social accounts when someone was on maternity leave or we had a vacant position. I learned about increasing engagement by asking questions, but also that those questions could fall flat and leave me second guessing each post. As an avid social media user in my personal time with professional experience managing accounts, I didn’t think there was much more to learn.
As a first-year, I was fortunate enough to go on Tech Trek West, where I was exposed for the first time to the depth and breadth of digital business in real life, as opposed to what I’d learned in the core Marketing then B2B courses. We visited Facebook and LinkedIn, both major social platforms, as well as companies like ThredUp, which do major advertising on various social platforms. Learning how growing companies see the role of social was eye-opening. Digital business means different things to different companies for so many different reasons – and I’m just starting to learn what it means to me.
This summer, I interned for Dell Technologies. This was a fascinating experience for me, because I was able to observe the effects of what’s said to be the largest tech merger in history. While I was based in Hopkinton, MA at the Dell EMC offices, I spent a few weeks in Round Rock, TX at the Dell headquarters too. My internship was on the Brand Strategy and Advertising team, which was responsible for building brand awareness for Dell Technologies, the overarching business for seven separate entities. My role focused on processes around social media, which was a huge transition for me – going from a 185-person nonprofit that let me manage social when things were crazy to a 140,000-person company that had a whole Social Business team.
Throughout the family of brands, Dell has dozens if not hundreds of social media handles. They specify by region, product line, team, and more. Ensuring that all those responsible have complementary information that isn’t repetitive or conflicting is a major endeavor — as is providing valuable, engaging content to the wide range of users who follow those accounts. Dell also has a wide range of products and services, both B2C and B2B, and benefits when customers understand the wide range of solutions the company is able to provide.
This semester, I’m looking forward to digging into the ways companies are leveraging emerging technologies to amplify their message, strengthen their brand, and sell their products. Companies that don’t take advantage of the evolution of technology risk alienating current customers or failing to reach potential customers. I’m also excited to see how this course overlaps with others I’m taking – for example, JetBlue’s recent decision to drop fares to $99 for people evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma was discussed in Pricing, but it went viral on social. Virality has the potential to have a major impact (either positive or negative) on the company’s image, and it’s very hard to control once the information is out there.
Managing Business in Society will touch on social, economic, and environmental issues that often come with management. When anyone can call out a company and gain visibility if their tweet or post gets traction, the intersection of customer engagement and social responsibility is key. Gone are the days when companies could “get away with” bad practices, since it’s much easier to share information than it used to be. In addition, customers/consumers have a lot more power in general than they used to. For example, when the Natural Environmental Resource Council tried to crowd-source a name for one of its boats, a task that would generally be considered innocuous, they were then faced with the issue of accepting the public’s choice of Boaty McBoatface or facing the public’s possible wrath. Again, these are relatively new issues, uncharted territory for most companies, but they must keep up.
One other thing I hope to do this semester is to build a strategy to keep up with these many new developments. A busy summer or a few months off could easily result in falling behind on what’s happening – let alone the experience of one of my classmates who spent two years in the army with limited access to developing technologies. While I enjoy Facebook and Twitter, I don’t see myself diving into each new trend – which makes it even more important, as a future business leader, to understand how the technology will continue to grow and change. Keeping up with technology – and even more, staying ahead and constantly innovating – is necessary to be successful. As demonstrated by once-successful companies like Blockbuster, RIM, and AOL, simply having a strong product is not sufficient to maintain market share. At this stage, technology will continue to evolve at a rapid rate, and I’m eager to develop the foundation and tools to stay up to date throughout my career.