The arrival of social media as a communications channel for brands has generally been dominated as a way to publish marketing messages. While using social networks as a way to engage in conversations with customers has been a very successful approach, the truth is that social media can be used in many ways that go beyond external communications, and this is an area where a social media strategy can pay off.
The term “social business” can be a bit confusing, especially as it can also apply to businesses that operate ethically or with social responsibility. In a social media context, though, it refers to a business that has evolved its use of social media channels to become integral to how the business operates. Here are three areas of business that can be used to illustrate this:
1. Customer service
Best Buy is a great example of this, with their Twelpforce that empowers employees to assist with customer service issues or queries. Being able to respond and react to customer issues quickly through social media can turn perceptions around – even if a customer service representative is unable to resolve an issue immediately, a customer feeling that their issue is being acknowledged and responded to in a timely way can prevent further upset.
2. Internal communication and collaboration
Social media used internally can offer a variety of benefits. Even in a small organisation, sharing documents and being able to edit them collaboratively can save the hassle and confusion of tracking various changes in email threads.
In larger organisations the potential to share can allow employees who may never deal with each other day to day, to understand their projects and areas of expertise. Sharing knowledge and skills in this way can amplify the talent available and allow for improved productivity.
Enterprise social networks will become increasingly normal, and emulate existing social networks in their look and feel – many existing recruits, and almost certainly the majority of future ones, will be familiar in how these systems work and how to interact on them, but in a secure environment.
3. Recruitment and employee retention
As I touched above, the workers of tomorrow and beyond will not only be familiar with how to use internal social networks, but be deciding where they want to work as a result of it. Sourcing talent through social channels already exists through networks such as LinkedIn, of course.
Businesses can go beyond this though, and use social channels like blogs to really show how their culture is. If a business is truly social, it should have employees that are proud to share and represent the company on social channels. Increased transparency may worry some, but ultimately this should encourage companies to listen to the concerns and suggestions of their employees. A responsive company will be able to save recruitment costs in two ways, and increased employee satisfaction can’t hurt productivity.
What this means for the future
As companies gain confidence in social media for marketing, it will be clear that they can use it for other communications. The ones that are already starting this transformation tend to be technologically based, with in-house expertise, but the trend is definitely there for the future and it’s never too soon to start thinking about how it can be integrated in your business.