What is the role of social media in business?

I'm often asked what the role of social media should be in business - the answer is absolutely none!

The problem rests in the terminology not the technology - the words "social" and "media" strike fear in to the heart of any employer who envisages the entire team socialising, chatting with friends and watching "cool" videos. Of course there are employees who have used trusted access to the internet to use their time inappropriately - just as there are employees in banks who help themselves to cash - in both cases this is caused by weak management / supervision not the the fact that the internet allows access to a world of info or that banks contain lots of cash (well they used to anway). In some cases company's "solve" the problem by imposing security policies which prevent access to social media tools and even external internet access as well. Wrong answer.

Let's start by just calling it "online networking" instead ..... remember that this is netWORKing, not aimless wandering around looking at stuff, so there is a business purpose other than entertainment or alleviating boredom.

The IT community has long known the value of forums and chat to enable developers to seek quick free answers to issues and problems - the first place a developer goes for help will be outside the company to a worldwide network of other developers who might know the answer. In return he will contribute his knowledge to others for free. So long as the giving and taking is in balance this works fine and is a lot faster and cheaper than hiring a consultant, going on another training course or trying to figure it out yourself from a book.

Similarly in Marketing there are many online networks now established - the emarketing group on LinkedIn has over 118,000 members - so if you have a problem in digital marketing there will be someone out there who knows the answer.

What about other functions? Well organisations are often structured in vertical silos and are very adapt at reinventing the wheel in each division / country. Allowing all staff to network and connect (maybe through a group in LinkedIn if you want to retain some control) would allow an easy exchange of ideas and solutions. Who wouldn't welcome fewer meetings, less travel and better ideas?

What's humbling about this is the realisation that neither your company, your team nor even you can have all the answers needed - but there is someone out there in your company or elsewhere in the world who does know the answer. Allowing a team to resolve their own problems and develop more robust solutions has to be worth the risk of granting people the freedom to "network online".

This is a guest post by Stephen Dann, from DBT, a database and Internet solutions company.

Comments

Hi Stephen / Adi,

Interesting article.

I would like to add that businesses can, and some say should, use Social Media to virally spread news about their products and services. Social Media can also be used as a great feedback mechanism with your customers, for example, Facebook pages can be used to gain feedback from existing and future customers, as well as helping to keep these informed of new products, services or special offers.

Another example would be Twitter which can be used to build relationships with customers and allows for instant communication.

Obviously all Social Media activities need managing so that, strategically, companies get their message across in a coherent way, although increasingly this is being superseded by individual to individual communication.

To find out more on this please feel free to chat to me on http://www.twitter.com/mgeorgeson or mike@netdesk.co.uk

Thanks
Mike Georgeson
Director of Social Media @ www.netdesk.co.uk

Stephen has hit the nail on the head with this short article. For it is very apparent that many middle and senior managers do not know how to take best advantage of business networking web facilitators, such as Linked-In. Like everything in life this has to be learned, it is not something one knows naturally! Business owners, directors and managers must take the time to follow Stephen's lead and get to grips with these new (ish) forms of communication and how they can be used for business advantage.

Half of the problem seems to be fear because you're essentially letting your employees loose on the outside world. Many companies don't even want to get feedback from their customers in an open environment, let alone letting their employees out there. All of which is a shame as a culture of openess can do wonderful things for a company.

Smaller personal networks will always exist and evolve to make life easier for those who are in them be they Freemasons, Alumni groups etc.. That's life and LinkedIn will never supplant those networks, but work along side them.

What technology does do is allow the truly innovative to compete with established networks and create faster, better leaner, new companies which gets the best outsiders into personal networks

Hi Adi,

This article really wonderful according to the importance of social media, i would like to add the cooments by taking social media as representative of society. For the growth and stability of any business society play an important role, though both have totally different idealogy but have to grow together if we ignore one sector other can not flourish.