Why social media is the future of communication in your business

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Many companies still see the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as ‘bad’. They view them as distractions getting in the way of their employees doing their jobs and think they lower productivity and are unrelated to work.

Although there may be some truth in that, there are many ways social media can be used to a company’s advantage, and not just written off as bad debt.

Enterprise social media is the next big thing for business and companies with ostrich mentality might need to start rethinking their corporate culture.

Social media is often seen as a hindrance within the business environment if abused. Thing is, it wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry if there wasn’t some good in it.

What social media can teach business

The lesson we can learn from social media is that people want to share, collaborate and engage with others within their communities. Social media is the new age ‘town square’. Where one used to get the local news from the local butcher or the hairdresser on a Saturday morning, today we turn to the likes of Facebook or Twitter to get the latest 411.

So if it works so well in a personal environment, why can’t it work in a business environment too? Well it can, and that’s what Enterprise Social media is all about: leveraging the principles of social media to enhance internal communication and collaboration.

What is your company’s communication style?
Before the social business revolution, many companies were looking to the likes of intranets for internal comms. The problem was that the systems didn’t allow for that much engagement and content sharing, and so the business world turned to public social networks for a little inspiration.

Internal social networking is very compelling, according to Rob Koplowitz of Forrester Research: “Internal social networks have the potential to drive knowledge worker efficiency to new levels,” he said. “They are incredibly effective at allowing efficient exchange of knowledge and expertise across geographic and organisational boundaries that have traditionally stifled knowledge capture and sharing.”

If one compares this to email, for example, social networks allow employees to communicate in more productive and often, unexpected ways. This form of communication transcends department, experience or superiority boundaries and often the most unlikely candidate is able to add substance to a conversation.

Sharabilty = collaboration
Where an email is limited to only be seen by the people who you send it to, sending a message via an internal social networking platform extends you question, problem, or idea to a lot more eyeballs within the company.

Now I can see many skeptics having an issue with this. They might well ask “what if my content isn’t relevant to other departments?” or say something like, “I can just email the relevant people who I need input from”.

That may be true, but it is limiting. Within the social business environment, the key is to expect the unexpected. Knowledge, ideas or insight can come from any number of places. The customer services guy in your call center right have access to a number of customer insights through direct interaction and communication with the. But it doesn’t get to your desk or the desk of the CEO because there isn’t a relevant platform for him to express his insights on. That customer service guy’s insight could have a major impact on your overall communications strategy. And in this instance, what you don’t know will kill your business.

Making the right choice
Another example could be a post about a specific project’s progress, which might prompt suggestions from people who “follow” the poster but would not necessarily have been included in the “To:” field if that that same progress report had been sent via email. It’s not that their input is not wanted, but often we are unaware of the hidden gems, or skills of other employees within the business.

There are a number of different products out there to choose from, so when you decide to go with one you need to ensure it is the right one for your business. The clip below gives a good overview of how any one of these Enterprise Social Media tools can effectively be implemented for your business.

Good employees are happy employees
“In the social enterprise, organizations are flatter — you can discover people in other parts of the organisation who have critical skills and relevant knowledge, instead of having your perception narrowed down by their formal job descriptions,” said Peter Coffee, VP and head of platform research at Salesforce.com, in an interview with the The BrainYard about five enterprise social trends for the next five years.

At the end of the day, your biggest asset is your employees. If they are happy, your customers are generally happy. And if they believe in the company and the company culture, they can be your biggest brand ambassadors.

Rethinking the norm
Making things easier for employees will not only make the experience the customer is exposed to that much better, but it will create a more productive and efficient working environment. So perhaps it’s time to rethink your take on social media and use it to adapt a social business approach.

Trust the experts
In the YouTube clip below, Socialtext’s Ross Mayfield shares his perspective on how social media tools in the workplace are helping employees share content across departments but also allowing the transition for new employees to become that much easier. Making the entry into a new company easier for new employees does not only help them settle into their new potions faster, it also allows them to excel and stand out from the crowd.

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