Social Networking? For Systems Integrators?

by Jimi Gonzalez

I like to keep myself insanely busy. This could be because I'm a motivated young professional or it may just be part of a deeper psychological issue. Nonetheless, in addition to my systems integration business, I also write a technology column for a glossy interior design/lifestyle magazine.

Fresh off the hype for the film, The Social Network, I recently decided it was time to write my next design magazine column about social media. I knew I had to introduce readers of the lifestyle publication to basic concepts of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and foursquare but I also approached the story from a business angle, since many members of our audience are successful small business owners or executives at large companies.

*Twitter Fail Whale necklace from Moda di Magno.

Perhaps that's because it's easy to understand the role social media plays in other businesses. If I owned a pizza restaurant I could tweet a million tweets. Commercial audio/video systems integration? Everything we touch is custom, our customers are all levels of users from a variety of industries, and our products and services are wildly varied. It's as if our pizza restaurant also offered cheeseburgers, sushi, and vegan options, accompanied by an extensive wine selection with dine-in, takeout, and delivery options along with a maintenance contract.

But we need to participate, because social media truly is changing the world as we know it, just ask Mubarak. As systems integrators, we have a bad track record so far on the internet. Countless AV integrator websites still have the same awkward animated logo and bad techno music they had five years ago. Ironically, right below that is some text that states how "high-tech" the company is. Websites are filled with broken links and "current" project lists with jobs that were completed in the last decade. We have the best intentions but life, deadlines, and HDCP get in our way.

In order to play effectively in social media you need to bring value to the conversation. It's about interacting with other users and contributing knowledge to grow your business through strong connections that people feel on a personal level. So, what is our message? I don't want to only re-tweet manufacturers' product announcements. Then my customers will just get frustrated when the product isn't available for six months. Purchase incentives won't work, customers will always be skeptical of a percentage discount on something that's custom designed and delivered on a proposal with no line item pricing.

My research and my gut tell me that there is no place for a commercial systems integrator on Facebook. It's much more personal; people want pictures of their friends and Farmville in their news feed, not an integrator talking about conference rooms. If you want to promote your work on Facebook, post photos of a recently completed project on your personal page and ask your employees to post the pictures as well. Friends will be much more willing to "Like", share and comment on pictures posted personally than something from a company.

People use Twitter, however, for a mixture of personal and professional interests. So, my strategy is to tweet about current projects, perform time-sensitive marketing, show some corporate personality, and post some interesting photos. I'll also re-tweet industry news and, after they've shipped, new product announcements. I don't expect a quick return, as I understand it's going to take time to build a following. I hope to keep my tweets consistent in both frequency and "voice" but I'm sure I'll make some mistakes along the way. I'm ready to start. In fact, I have my first Twitter post for @isdtechgroup, "Check out Jimi's new blog for Systems Contractor News". We'll see where Social Media takes me from there.

The AVNetwork staff are storytellers focused on the professional audiovisual and technology industry. Their mission is to keep readers up-to-date on the latest AV/IT industry and product news, emerging trends, and inspiring installations.