Riley, Emily  Health insurance isn't cool, government agencies aren't hip and medical equipment isn't very social. However, many companies that pedal these products and services work with me on a regular basis to understand how they can make social media work for their marketing needs. Often they find excellent reasons to use sites like Twitter and Facebook, and typically the ideas are quite practical. For example, one company came up with the idea to tweet lab schedule changes back to doctor's offices so they can in turn reschedule patient appointments. Or this Facebook application from Quest Diagnostics, that they created to encourage their customers to live a healthy lifestyle. These social services are free and can create much more effective pathways for communication, so it's worth looking at social media no matter how un-sexy you think your company is.

Unfortunately, many companies suffer from a strict internal policy around using social media. Often an overly cautious CIO or legal department will restrict employees from even using Facebook for personal reasons, let alone market on it. All companies will eventually use social media heavily. However, the current reality is that many organizations have big hurdles to overcome. Even companies with full access to social media and a few toes dipped in the water such as a CEO blog or Facebook fan page have a lot to think about when moving deeper into social marketing.

If you think you're at an un-sexy company and feel like you need help integrating social into your marketing plans, or need the right pitch to open up your company's social computing policy, come to our Social Computing Workshop in Cambridge on September 22.