Pitfalls and Opportunities of Social Media
Planet web counts more than 150 million blogs. Are your company’s employees part of these content creators? Tweeples (Twitter users) wrote more than 25 billion messages in 2010. Did your staff write any?
Companies having a website is just not enough nowadays, social media is a marketing tool that any sensible advisor would highly recommend to be in and to have entire teams dedicated to taking care of managing communities and associatied conversations .
No doubt, social marketing using social tools and building connections beyond corporate walls doesn’t apply to every company, but in case social media is good for your business, then you should observe current practices and empower your employees in order not to be left behind losing big opportunities via this media.
However, communities don’t all look alike; from healthcare industry where common illness create a solid link through participants (PatientsLikeMe) to expertise-driven fields (Wikinvest/Finance, InnoCentive/ R&D…) where shared knowledge is highly valuable for protagonists. As online communities are seeking robust inputs, are responding ranging from friendly to fiercely hostile and are spreading the word at light speed, companies strategies have to focus on the better way to interact and engage.
• Future always starts out looking rosy…
Social Media, far from being a sole marketing instrument, helps organizations to operate in more effective ways. Thus, Enterprise 2.0 can manage knowledge inside-out as well as outside-in the company, allowing the information to travel through corporations so that documents are easily shared by dint of tools such as Microsoft's SharePoint, IBM's Lotus Notes or Socialtext. However, a 2009 Forrester Research study stresses that only 15% of knowledge workforce actually use these collaborative tools, despite the massive investments performed and promising social programs don’t deliver the expected outcomes.
• Butterfly effect
As the musician Dave Carroll could discredit United Airlines in one single tweet and later when more than 9 milllion people viewed his YouTube video, relating how United broke his guitar and didn’t make it up. As this example is far from being one of its kind, companies have to deal with social media possibly highly damaging effects, concerning company secrets, clumsy or non transparent employees communication, ineffective customer service… Remember this dreadful experience for Domino company when malicious employees posted a video on YouTube boasting unsanitary acts on customers' pizzas.
• What about productivity and ROI ?
Due to the popularity of social media, a rising number of consultants are convincing companies to be part of this venture where billions of conversations can be catched and followed, interaction can take place, customers' ideas and feedbacks acknowledged. But engaging employees’ corporations in social media is at cost and return on investment currency can be misleading when estimated through Twitter followers, Facebook fans, blog mentions, or YouTube hits. But can we estimate goodwill and trust a brand that instigates among customers? Should hard figures guide companies strategies and investments when it comes to commitment?
Whatever the nature of the link between community members, trust is a major ingredient of social media. And when it comes to health 2.0 area, patients would even conclude on their practitioner’s treatments efficiency through other patients feedbacks, taking advises directly from them.
Time to response is reduced and call to action are facilitated. Participatory tools allow to easily share common interests or preoccupations and thus gather crowds at a fast pace.
• Knowledge Production and Management
Collaborative tools set the emergence of members generated content, where anyone can give his information which, against all odds, proves to be qualified and self corrected by the community. Indeed, American College of Surgeons ratified Wikipedia medical articles to be a highly reliable source for patients.
• Empower employees
Many companies decided to restrain employees’ access to social networks with the help of IT departments highlighting in this way how untruthful they considered them. Would you like you employees to feel this way? Whatever your answer, let’s consider that they will connect to these networks anyway – via mobile devices if not regular company network – and that the best solution remains to let them have access to them, furthermore to urge some of them to proceed his way.
Best Buy with Twelpforce, Twitter customer service account, bet on this approach. Twelpforce allows customers to air their request on Twitter dedicated account and Best Buy staff can directly respond to them. More than 2,500 employees have already adopted this practice, ready to answer to the ever growing customers’ empowerment.
• Establish a Social Media Policy
As you don’t hit the highway without code and guidelines, firms should set social media policy to help and govern employees’ interactions and conducts on social networks. They should have acute understanding of corporate culture –especially towards competition – and appreciation of enlightened ambassadorial role they will embody at every single post. They should be aware of their company’s legal framework and what possible consequence any clumsy behavior will induce for the firm. They have to take full responsibility of their assumptions and disclose identity and show transparency.
Social media teams develop firm's online presence using tools like Corporate Blogs, Facebook fan pages, Twitter and interactive forums, so that companies don’t have to keep a close watch on what people say about their brand but directly speak to them. Dell's IdeaStorm was created for this purpose allowing customers to give their ideas about Dell products and services thus connecting and gleaning customers’ innovative solutions and engaging brand advocates.
• Always make the first move…
…and get teams well properly trained for that. Inappropriate, irrelevant answers to delicate issues can dramatically worsen difficulties. When companies are failing commitments, complete transparency and honesty can drive customers forgiveness, acknowledging full responsibility for actions and high resolution to make things up. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg had to cope with violent criticisms with 2009 terms of service revision. His answer was sharp and clear: "We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.", followed by immediate actions changing these terms and submitting them to the community.
Social revolution is taking ground, online, and companies have to consider it with utter attention, to harness attention of crowd, innovation performed by communities and convenience offered by interactive tools.
Baker, Stephen. BusinessWeek, 12/14/2009, Issue 4159, p48-51
Bernoff, Josh; Schadler, Ted. Harvard Business Review, Jul/Aug2010, Vol. 88 Issue 7/8, p94-101
Kane, Gerald C.; Fichman, Robert G.; Gallagher, John; Glaser, John. Harvard Business Review, Nov2009, Vol. 87 Issue 11, p45-50