For modern businesses there’s no getting away from social media. Pretty much all companies will have had positive and also negative experience with it, and the problems as well as the advantages are far-reaching (and very often two sides of the same coin).
Take customer service for example. Commercial use of twitter means that on the one hand companies can connect directly with their customer base, building a rapport with and crafting their brand image in front of a potential audience of billions. Viral campaigns and near-instantaneous feedback to complaints and compliments is changing the way people think about customer service. But on the other hand, sloppy reaction times from companies, and slip-ups by those in charge of these accounts can damage the reputation of the company, as these firms will be first to tell you.
For companies that offer services and/or work mainly with other business, another potential boon of social media comes in the form of blogging. Some companies are beginning to build themselves a reputation of authority in certain fields, using blogging platforms and their social accounts as a platform. Again slip-ups, bad advice and not keeping up with the latest developments can in reality mean that these efforts damage the company, but if it’s done right will ultimately bring in business in and of itself.
Another problem for some companies comes in the form of social networking in particular; procrastination. Some surveys put the percentage of people who admit to using Facebook for example when they should be working at 87% - the vast majority of employees. As discussed earlier however, every cloud has a silver lining, and in the case of social networking that lining is LinkedIn. Having staff signed up to this site, networking with other industry professionals and again becoming authorities on certain subjects in their own right will show your company in a very good light, especially if you have been shrewd enough to encourage employees to present themselves as a unified web presence via groups and templates for their information.
What companies need to do is make sure their own experience with social media is indeed a blessing, not a burden:
- Encourage employees to blog about things they are passionate and knowledgeable about. The fact that they work for your company and have this attitude towards the industry will yield advantages for both parties.
- Have a simple and clear social networking policy. Some firms will want to limit use to personal time, whereas others will want to outlaw it on work PCs completely; whatever you decide, make sure that employees properly understand it, and introduce signed agreements if completely necessary.
- Don’t let things like twitter accounts languish untouched. Update regularly, and reply to messages/tweets/posts as quickly as possible. Bigger firms will have someone on this 24 hours a day, but if this is not possible for you, make sure you say so!
- Encourage activity on LinkedIn and other sites. As well as aiding the career progression of your employees, these sites are also good for lead generation, especially in B2B sectors.
Author Daniel Nicklin is a UK-based blogger working on behalf of packaging company Rajapack, who sell mainly to business across Europe.