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Why social media matters

Rachel Sullivan | May 6, 2013
The news that music retailer HMV was going into administration was broken to the world by one disgruntled ex-employee who hijacked the company's Twitter account and tweeted "There are over 60 of us being fired at once!" among other pithy comments that concluded with a final update reading: "Just overheard our marketing director (he's staying, folks) ask 'How do I shut down Twitter?'"

The platform's uptake has resulted in a reduction in email use by more than 50 per cent, while improved teamwork helped the Personal Insurance Group meet its target of shaving 3 per cent off the bottom line.

"We shouldn't underestimate its ability and speed to solve simple problems," Pancino adds.

One of the reasons for the success of social media networks is that they help address a major flaw in current search technologies, according to Mittelmark.

"A search engine's search and categorisation functions are limited. Context makes it easier to filter or find specific groups, especially where you don't know what keywords are associated with the context.

"You may have a specific query relating to your project that cannot be answered through normal sources. By putting the query out there on social media in the right context, you may find a colleague from Tokyo whose existence you were previously unaware of, who is a perfect fit for your project or can reveal IP that you didn't know was available or valid."

After a couple of decades of siloed functions, "Every company I know is exploring collaboration, and 90 per cent of the answer is social.

"Generationally, this is still in transition between people who may use social media but aren't totally integrated and digital natives. Over time, it will come to be second nature."

Unfounded fears

"Social media is expected by a lot of people. They are comfortable with it and use it everyday as just another channel of communications," says Pancino.

Even traditionally conservative, highly regulated enterprises, such as financial services and government, are going to have to adapt or lose good staff and business opportunities, according to research by Gartner analyst Andrew Walls that shows by year-end 2014, 70 per cent of large enterprises will permit access to external social media, compared with 50 per cent in 2010.

The move is driven by expectations from job candidates that they will have access to external social media from the workplace and deprecate job offers from firms that do not enable access. Another key driver is new approaches to corporate operations, such as online recruitment, sentiment analysis for brand management and CRM via microblogs, that are forcing organisations to enable at least minimal levels of access to external social platforms.

Yet, despite the success stories and gradual easing of restrictions, a niggling fear remains among some managers that staff will import their behaviours from Facebook into ESN. But Riemer says these fears are unfounded. "They do not chit-chat in ESN; only about 10 per cent of communication is informal talk that would otherwise happen around the water-cooler. It's healthy to socialise and it doesn't create too much noise.


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