by December 1, 2010 0 comments

Amrita Premrajan

The ‘social networking phenomenon’ doesn’t need an introduction, as most of us are already there on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. At the crux of every social networking website is the fact that it enables you to build a virtual network of people whom you want to connect to and engage in real-time sharing, of thoughts and information. But for whom is social networking relevant in the corporate context? For any business to be successful, it is important to understand and capitalize on two sets of people – its employees and its customers. This is exactly where social networking capabilities are becoming highly relevant and are set to take a leap in the coming year.

Enterprises would create private social networks for quick employee collaboration

For 2010 and beyond, Gartner has predicted that greater availability of social networking services both inside and outside the firewall of enterprises, coupled with changing demographics and work styles will lead 20 percent of business users to make a social network the hub of their business communications. It adds that during the next several years, most companies will be building out internal social networks and/or allowing business use of personal social network accounts.
Imagine a private social networking platform similar to Facebook, that connects you with your colleagues spread across geographies. There are plenty of benefits that enterprises can obtain out of such social networking platforms, but a key point is bringing the employees to work through the enterprise’s social networking platform. This might be slightly challenging, as organization would need to do some coaxing since employees are already comfortable with the current way of working with emails, phone calls etc.
It makes real-time information sharing possible by allowing team-mates working on same project to share documents, updates and real-time feedback making communication transparent for all team-members to see. It would enable employees at all hierarchy levels to get connected to each other, developing an open work culture. Another benifit is that it would bring together employees from multiple locations with various expertise and give them a chance to pool in their feedbacks and valuable experiences, around an idea and innovate effectively.

Enterprises to develop entirely new skill sets around designing and delivering social media solutions.
Organizations can build their own private social network by either developing one, using open source social networking software like Elgg, or by utilizing enterprise social network services like Yammer. But since the area of social media solutions is just taking off, organizations will have to struggle initially, evaluating various social networking platforms available and deciding which ones are best for their businesses. Not just the enterprise users, but the IT organizations who are used to develop and deliver collaboration technology platforms such as e-mail, IM and web-conferencing would now be focusing on delivering a social solution that targets a specific business value. Gartner predicts that through 2013, IT organizations will struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution. It says that, enterprises will need to develop entirely new skill sets around designing and delivering social media solutions. Until this happens, failure rates will remain high. A dearth of methods, technologies and tools will impede the design and delivery of social media solutions in the near term. But long term, enterprises will realize that social media is not a ‘hit or miss’ activity naturally prone to high failure rates, and that a calculated approach to social media solution delivery must be an IT competency. Post 2012, the social software market growth will accelerate as will the overall impact of social media on business and society.

Enterprises would step into social networking bandwagon and would engage with consumers directly
One of the prime reasons why we are on any social networking website is the freedom of expression that we experience there. It lets us be ‘heard’. As a consumer, it allows us to talk about our first hand experience with a product/service, complain about it or recommend it, draw in more people who share similar experiences and also make informed choices. Suppose you put up on a social networking website that you are unhappy with brand X. The next thing you see, is that around ten of your friends re-emphasise this and recommend brand Y or Z. With recommendations coming in from people whom you trust, you are bound to ignore brand X’s fancy ads.
Now look at this from a business’s standpoint. The good and the bad word of mouth about its products/services are just floating around the numerous social networks, multiplying. Realizing the importance of such user generated content would motivate businesses to first step into the social networks and create their own space and engage with the consumers directly.

Companies already using social networking to their advantage: Many enterprises have realized the importance of connecting directly to their online customers and have already stepped into the social networking bandwagon, especially to Twitter and Facebook. To name a few, brands like Dell, ICICI Bank, Kingfisher Airlines and even Parle Agro’s Hippo Munchies are already there on Twitter.
Dell India, Home and Home office has 6000+ followers on Twitter and apart from tweeting latest news; it is using it to directly address consumer queries. Kingfisher airlines has over 6000+ followers on Twitter and around 17,000+ on Facebook with both social networking platforms being cross-linked. They are using it in to engage their current customers and pull in new customers by conducting contests on these platforms and rewarding them right there.
Another interesting case is that of Parle Agro’s Hippo munchies which started its Twitter account as ‘Hellomehippo’ and now have around 1000+ followers. In Feb 2010, Hippo asked its Twitter followers to tweet to Hippo whenever they don’t find the munchies in any store across India and promised replenishing stocks within hours. At zero cost, Hippo now has number of people tracking its stocks across markets, not only helping it replenish stocks in time but also identify potential markets.
Enterprises would invest in social media monitoring
Once businesses step into the online space they would realize that any given point of time, there is plenty of online buzz around their product/service that is lying unmonitored and multiplying. Businesses would understand the benefits of leveraging the positive buzz and importance of handling the negative buzz around its products/services. Here is where we would see enterprises exploring social media monitoring tools and social media agencies in the coming year.
Social Media Monitoring Tools: A social media monitoring tool enables real-time tracking of conversations happening on different social networking platforms, about your products/services, analyse the positive and negative comments and even analyse demographics like gender and age. We have talked about many such ‘free’ brand monitoring tools in, in the past ( ).
Since most companies are still on the verge of getting into the social networking space, currently there isless focus on creation of an in-house social media team which could religiously use such social media monitoring tools. Hence in the coming year, we would see enterprises taking the easy route of adopting services of social media agencies.
Social Media Agencies : Currently we are seeing some social media agencies coming up which are offering services of monitoring the social media buzz for enterprises and handing over to them an actionable report to work on. Some of them are Windchimes, Blogswork, Drizzlin Media, etc. Windchimes, has its own proprietary brand monitoring tool, called WORM (Windchimes Online Reputation Management Tool), now patented which is an analytic tool allowing them to get daily monitoring reports, a list of influencers, analyze trends and generate graphs and tables for the brands that they handle. The software uses an algorithm to give out a criticality score for each negative mention so that companies can prioritize accordingly. They also have now integrated mobile services with it —so for every important mention, client also has the facility of getting an SMS alert for a faster response from their side.

Enterprises would use business social networks as an authentic recruitment resource
A trend that is set to accelerateis the employees and the employers moving on to business social networks like LinkedIn and enterprises leveraging it as a recruitment resource. Business social networks are no-nonsense websites that are purely for executives which allows them to connect to only ‘trusted contacts’ that includes colleagues, connection’s connectio and join groups to interact with like-minded professionals or subject experts.
Individuals are building their resumes complete with their professional expertise and even recommendations from peers. From an enterprise’s standpoint this is building a large pool of human resource who take their careers and job-roles seriously. Understanding this, enterprises are building their own Company page here, which its employees, ex-employees and other professionals are free to follow. This is set to serve as an authentic interface between the company and the executives on board, enabling them to learn about the company, their employees and the work culture.
Companies are leveraging this platform and are posting their job openings, in the Career section on the company page, attracting the best brains in the
industry. These platforms are allowing the employers to easily carry out pre-employment background checks of the applicant, which are much more balanced than the reference provided by the candidates themselves.

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