Social Media Here to Stay for Business Use
Like it or not, it appears social media tools are finding a permanent home in your enterprise.
While a recent survey by research firm Robert Half Technology found that almost one of three organizations (31 percent) still prohibits any use of social media at the office, "likes" and Tweets are rapidly becoming accepted as beneficial to business. More than half the CIOs surveyed (51 percent) said they allow employees to use social media sites like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook on the job as long as the use is for business purposes.
In 2009, only 19 percent of companies had been open to the business applications of social media, according to the survey, which was based on telephone interviews with chief information offers from 1,400 companies across the United States with 100 or more employees.
Even though the use of social media has its risks, the dramatic increase doesn't surprise Ted Schadler, vice president and principal analyst at another research company, Forrester.
“There are things that happen outside the enterprise — they happen in the home first, and people master them and use them at home and they see business relevance and business purpose for the technologies,” Schadler said. "It’s inevitable,because people will do what people will do.”
Although social media provides a way for a business's marketing department to engage with customers or potential customers, it’s the CIO who is responsible for understanding the ways in which his company can benefit from it.
Schadler said while CIOs can create rules, structures, disciplines and guidelines for the use of social media, they must empower their employees to use it to solve customer and business problems.
Joanne Kossuth, an associate vice president at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., said CIOs willing to adopt social media tools first have to formulate a strategy and identify the audience.
“If it’s the folks in every department in the organization, how do you get them to pay attention? How do you get them to choose their communications channels? And once you do, how do you keep those communication channels relevant and current in a sustainable manner?" Kossuth said. "For example, if I’m a CIO at a pharmaceutical company, I’m going to want them to know all the things that we’re doing around the new medications and the new research grants and get their feedback.
“At Olin, a lot of parents use Facebook and Twitter, so we try to use Facebook to disseminate information to parents and our alumni. And Twitter is also a good tool to send out reminders [to students and faculty]. You really have to use all of the channels.”
Kossuth said once a company opens up a social media communication channel, it should make it as interactive as possible.
“Don’t just push out information, because you get less traction that way,” she said. “If you have a way for people to talk back to you, you can get instantaneous feedback and you can incorporate that into your strategy. That’s huge.”
However, she warned of the potential to create a lot of negativity for a company by people who have had bad experiences with it. That’s one of the risks of social media, Kossuth said.
“So if someone has a bad experience, you have to have a strategy to respond to that,” she said. “And there are also challenges around intellectual property. You want to encourage feedback, but when you do, you take the risk that your employees will put information out that really shouldn’t be out.”
According to Forrester Research, social media technologies are key to the interactions with customers, colleagues and business partners. So that means IT needs to get involved to determine which employee initiatives are worth pursuing, then figure out how to make them safe and ready for the enterprise.
Robert Half Technology offers these tips for using social media in the enterprise:
- Be sure you’re clear about what type of social networking use your organization allows.
- Never share sensitive or confidential company information, and never post negative comments about your employer or current or potential clients and customers.
- If it’s allowed, use social media sites at work to connect with customers and clients, follow the thought leaders in your field, or gather industry news.
- If you use social media on behalf of your company, protect your feeds by creating secure passwords. Refrain from clicking on questionable links, and limit access to select employees.