In the business world, social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand it's distracting, too much fun, and a time suck. On the other, it's proactive, highly effective, and increasingly more necessary. Thankfully it seems we're slowly but surely learning how to follow the latter path, and here to provide actual implementation insights are four companies who've found a method to the madness:

Thinking Differently with Toshiba

Toshiba America Business  Solutions (TABS) manages product planning, marketing, sales, service support, and distribution for Toshiba copiers, facsimiles, multi-function printing products, network controllers, and toner products in the United States, Latin America, South America, and the Caribbean. As you can probably imagine, the company's traditional communication tools became too static for today's pace of business, and so the decision to streamline communications accross sales channels was made. 

The task was heavy, but the mantra was simple: "We just need to think differently." 

Product marketing was answering the same questions over and over on a case-by-case basis, and it just wasn't cutting it, and so the company's traditional communication tools tools -- email, voice mail, and their intranet -- were first on the list of things that needed to be re-thought. They needed something that could ease the process of broadcasting information as well as leverage corporate knowledge more broadly. They needed a platform approach. 

Though there are a few really great social layers out there, (see: Microsoft, IBM, Jive Lead Gartner's Social Software in the Workplace Quadrant) the TABS team turned to Jive's Social Business Software solution and "flipped the switch" after just 30 days in beta. “Not only was Jive Software responsive,” said Khanh Phamh director of National Accounts Pricing & Program Management, “but they understood our goals and objectives immediately. They very quickly drilled down to show us how the Jive platform could meet our requirements.” (Click on the header for the full details of this study.)

IKEA's Famous Facebook Campaign

From an advertising perspective, IKEA offers my favorite example. Back in 2009, the Swedish furniture company decided to open a store in Malmö. With hopes of extending the word of the opening beyond the borders of the city, IKEA decided to engage consumers on a very popular platform: Facebook. 

With the help of an agency called Forsman and Bodenfors, IKEA rolled out campaign using features that were accessible by anyone with a Facebook account. The result was valuable, viral, interactive, easy to participate in and most certainly memorable:

Zappos Makes Social Media a Part of Company Culture

Las Vegas-based Zappos began its journey in 1999 by selling shoes online. Today, the company is a $US1 billion per year retailer of clothing, handbags, sunglasses-- the list goes on. 

The key to its success? In its early days, Zappos decided to re-direct its marketing budget towards exceptional customer service and company culture. As a result, social media turned into more than just a business strategy. 

For example, to connect and build relationships with customers, the company hosts a blog called Inside Zappos. Take a little peek and you'll see that it has nothing at all to do with selling, and everything to do with life: 


The company also posts webisodes of its internal life, offering a video approach to everything from landing new leadership to what it's like to work at the resource desk. Most of us are familiar with the appeal of an inside look at what is typically very private--just consider the success of reality television shows. 

“Social media is an opportunity to build relationships with customers,” said Zappos community architect, Thomas Knoll. “The brand naturally is helped by the culture — we leave our culture out in the open.”

Stanford's Students Get to Talking

The microblogging model is going to all new enterprise-y levels as of late, but I thought it would be nice to highlight the meat and potatoes of the system: chatting. 

The Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) maintains the financial viability of the Associated Students of Stanford University and ensures that student groups and leaders have adequate funding and resources. Roughly 100 employees over six business divisions make up SSE, and they from multiple locations across campus and on multiple time schedules.

The need for a collaborative environment caused SSE COO Nick Weaver to turn to Yammer. Today, the SSE Yammer network is like a virtual office. Employees use the platform to quickly gather feedback and opinions, to make announcements, and to coordinate company-wide meetings. And, with its newsfeed/Twitter-y approach, adoption was quick: “What I love about Yammer is that no explanation was necessary. The value of the tool was obvious to our employees, and we’re a closer company with faster feedback cycles because of it," said Weaver.