No matter what we do in life there’s, more often than not, a challenge to meet us along the way. This is no different with social media and businesses. On one hand, social media allows businesses to reach out and connect with potential consumers they would never have reached by using traditional methods of advertising and promotion, but on the other it opens the doors to vulnerabilities such as anyone and everyone voicing their opinion, be it good or bad, true or false.
And then there is the question of your staff using social media, should it be accessible from the organisations computers? Will they abuse it? Will it effect productivity? If you decide not to allow it will they just go ahead and use it anyway ? When using social media, how can you ensure high level of security? What about malicious activity? All these are real insecurities which many employers face.
Some facts and figures
- Facebook recorded a staggering 800 million active users as of December 2011
- More than 25% of large organisations (500+ employees) developed and use social networking
- 68% of organisations use social media to communicate with potential consumers and potential employees
- 43% of employers are involved in monitoring the internet usage of their employees
So if over 800 million active users are signed up to Facebook any business would be crazy to ignore this database of potential consumers! Opening up your business to social media can be very effective if caution is used. For example one of the most precious resources of a business is that of tacit knowledge, the experience and knowledge held in the heads of those experienced staff and often difficult to record or document. Social media can be a very effective tool to assist with sharing this knowledge, it encourages relationships to be built within the organisational community. Building teams that feel at ease with one another and who interact well, creates an environment where asking for help and sharing tacit knowledge is common place. Surely this is what every company aims for?
Numerous companies form their own social media which is closed to those outside of the company, this way the information remains private and secure to employees of the organisation. This closed social media allows more control by top managers who are often very skeptical about allowing employees to use social media as a form of communication in case it encroaches on effective work time. Again, by introducing this simple method of sharing of knowledge, helps resolve issues more effectively by learning and developing from others past experiences.
Taking this one step further is a company called Best Buy. The management encourage and request that the staff use Twitter to communicate with customers, discussing their queries and resolving any complaints. Best Buy have obviously embraced social media by recognising every one of their employees are a potential spokesperson and so have encouraged this. As an outsider looking in, I love this idea. It empowers the staff to build relationships with customers and by encouraging this the management have stated which platform this discussion should take place on and therefore gives them the ability to monitor the interaction…perfect!
My feelings on the whole social media at work was once of skepticism but I really believe there is so much which can be achieved by embracing it and actively encouraging social media into the organisation. Not so sure I would encourage discussion with customers on Twitter to the same extent as Best Buy’s but I applaud them for encouraging this, after all in todays world it is highly beneficial to show people that yes ok you make mistakes but look at how we deal with them rather than playing your cards close to your chest and trying to keep control of everything. It is control, I believe, is holding many organisations back from the positive attributes that social media has to offer.
Miller, A. (2011). Cultural barriers to organizational social media adoption. In J. Girard & J. Girard (Eds.), social knowledge: Using social media to know what you know (pp. 96-114). Hershey, PA: doi: 10.4018/978-1-60960203-1.ch006