Research published today shows that companies are failing to make the most of social media to develop conversations with both customers and staff. This comes at a time when more customers and staff are supportive of social networking for business communication and at a time when making savings on communication budgets is critical. Amazingly, one-third of businesses have no formal social networking policies and frown on the use of social media at work.
So, why are so many failing to see the opportunities that Twitter and Facebook among others can bring to communication?
The first problem is that many businesses have no way of monitoring social networks to identify what is being said about them, who is saying it and the impact that it is having on reputation. Many also clearly have no ways of monitoring customer feedback through social networks. And if you don’t understand what people are saying about you then how can you possible start a conversation. At worst jumping in with both feet will lead to confusion with one side talking about apples and the other hearing it is about oranges.
Only when you understand what is being talked about your company on-line can an organisation begin to consider its business and how social media can assist. And when all that is understood comes the move to develop a social media strategy that is clear enough to ensure staff understand in what way, when and how social media should be used.
In its purest form, the social media is just the latest development in communication methods that are available to businesses and industry to use. It is one of the most direct ways of starting a conversation with the customer, sitting just behind the preferred option of face-to-face communication. But in these times of stretched budgets and fewer staff, it becomes a very cost-effective way of having a conversation. At a time of austerity and recession it is even more critical that social media is not ignored.
There is another problem that exists to getting social media integrated into the communication mix. This is linked to the CEO and senior management in business and industry. They are usually of a certain age, and this means that they really are going to struggle to understand the business benefits of using Facebook or Twitter. Indeed, many have only just accepted the importance of internal communication to promoting the product or service, and recognise that the best advocates for the business are the staff dealing on a daily basis with the customers.
Getting them to appreciate the ways in which social media can support and develop customer relationships will only happen if communication professionals can bring it to life in an understandable way. We have all had to deal with those people who have only just got to grips with the introduction of computers into the workplace. Assisting them to see the opportunities that social media provides is going to take an investment of time and some real examples of the gains to be made.
This is an investment of time and effort that has to be made. No organisation can afford to bury their heads and hope that the social media disappear, or won’t affect them. They have to find out what is happening, understand their businesses, and then use communication experts to help develop the social media strategy. And that in itself is a document that has to stay alive to the changing landscape. We have been developing a social media strategy that is about to be signed off by the senior managers and our latest monitoring report has identified that Google Buzz is now becoming a forum where we are being discussed. Whatever is agreed by the bosses it will be a living document as new networks will emerge on regular basis.
If 70 percent of consumers want to interact via social media and 60 per cent believe company usage will improve their loyalty to that company, then how can we continue to drag our feet on this. The time is right, the time is upon us, to make the investment and maximise social media.