Surprisingly or not, social media can provide legitimate business potential for brands who strategically embed the technology into their operational processes.
Tech companies have yet to slow down when it comes to innovation. Apple purchased social analytics company Topsy for $200 million, Facebook acquired WhatsApp, a messaging app, for more than $19 billion, and Amazon is set to release a smartphone with 3-D e-commerce capabilities. As it looks right now, innovation has yet to curb.
And no other market has experienced the surge of innovative developments more than social media. What once started out as a slightly vain platform for sharing pictures of dinner and vacations has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry that has enthralled consumers and even made its way into Fortune 500 organizations. Surprisingly or not, social media provides legitimate business potential for brands who strategically embed the technology into their operational processes.
There are countless issues faced by enterprises throughout the globe that can be solved or alleviated through a creative use of social networking technology. Whether it involves solving a customer service issue on Twitter or equipping a marketing team with a custom social network for collaboration, social business are legitimately providing serious competitive advantage.
Is There Room for Improvement When It Comes to Communication?
There is no denying the communication capabilities of social networks like Facebook and Twitter - long-lost siblings have united through a Facebook post and entire revolutions have sprouted from a flurry of spirited tweets. It is quite clear that social media has completely disrupted the communication paradigm.
In fact, enterprise social networks (ESN), which are essentially custom-built social media platforms for corporate use, are being adopted by some various international brands. For example, Burberry, renowned for its innovative use of technology inside its retail stores, has implemented Salesforce Chatter as their customized ESN.
The interface for the software resembles the standard layout for a social network, which works wonders for user adoption. Employees receive real updates from the chief executive (CEO), the chief operation officer (COO), or any pertinent executive attempting to communicate to their global workforce. And on a smaller scale, store managers, associates, and regional managers can converge in discussions in a news feed or share special moments of customer service interactions to inspire the group.
ESNs are the future of corporate communication, and social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook have directly contributed to this trend.
Do Employees Need Faster Access to Information?
Knowledge management and instant access to the data an employee needs to do their job is crucial in today's fast-moving world. In a recent McKinsey report exploring the impact of poor knowledge management on organizational productivity, they showed the average employee spends more than seven hours every week looking for the information they need (which adds up to more than 364 hours a year).
ESN software applications not only increase communication, but they also provide a platform for instantly sharing documents or collaborating on them. Access to information is crucial, and custom social networks can provide a marked improvement on existing systems for knowledge management. Equipping business users with tools that look and feel like the software they use for leisure, will increase engagement and add to productivity. The software can also be accessed via mobile apps, further increasing connectivity.
The average social media user spends hours every week on their favorite platforms. By emulating the user interface (UI) and design of LinkedIn and Facebook, business users can easily adopt the new software and put the productivity enhancing functions to work. For brands considering social, it's important to remember the value for internal processes as well as external customer-facing operations.
Is Your Customer Service Strategy on Point?
A brand's social media account is the most effective way to personalize interactions and directly communicate with customers. And while much of the coverage of social media focuses on the marketing aspects of social networks, many businesses are focusing on delivering enhanced customer service as well. Airline companies, retailers, and technology companies alike are using social networks like Twitter and Facebook to handle customer service interactions on a massive scale.
Representatives can monitor Twitter for customer complaints or positive feedback. In many instances a brand can spot a customer complaint and resolve the detailed issue before he even contacts the brand directly. Simply broadcasting a complaint is enough to make a brand act. If they fail to attend to issues aired in the public space of Twitter, a PR crisis can snowball or customers will lose faith in the brand.
The usability of social networks like Twitter as compared to automated phone systems is incomparable. Not only can a real person directly contact you before you reach out for assistance, but there's even a timestamp to assess how long it took a brand to solve and respond to a problem.
Customer service in the social era is defined by proactive response times, pervasive monitoring of social content, and a human approach to interaction between a corporation and individual customers. With an adequate social customer service strategy, brands can start to move on from outdated call centers and automated messaging systems.
When to Consider a Social Business Model...
As with any new technology implementation, there must be a clearly defined road map and objective. In fact 80 percent of social business efforts will fail due to poor strategy, according to Gartner. To avoid a failed implementation, enterprises must focus on the weak points in their existing operation and assess if social strategies can solve the issue.
For brands hoping to improve on their internal operations in addition to reaching customers in a memorable and personable way, social has evolved into an effective enterprise solution.
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Himanshu is responsible for the strategic and overall business development of Icreon. He founded Icreon in 2000 and grew the company through a mix of acquisitions and organic growth. Under Himanshu's leadership, Icreon has grown to become a leading IT consultancy in its space working with some of the world's largest and most influential brands including National Geographic Channel, Fox, PepsiCo, Nokia Siemens Networks, and more.
A strong business-informed technologist, Himanshu has directed Icreon's heady growth through diverse economic climates, dot-com booms and busts, by maintaining a long-term view on relationships, keeping a close eye on the data and business dashboard, and by enabling informed decision-making. Himanshu is a natural entrepreneur. His first encounter with entrepreneurship was a comic rental business at the age of 13. Other ventures he started and exited successfully included an ERP consulting firm, an education-training institute, and a real estate trading business. He has also been as a technology advisor to boards of non-profits and SMBs in New York and globally.
Himanshu is part of the Owners and Presidents Program of Harvard Business School. He received his MBA in international business from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. Aside from his work and family, Himanshu is passionate about keeping up with the latest technology trends, physical fitness, and supporting entrepreneurship and the tech community.
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