When the mention of social networks in a business setting comes up, the first thing likely to pop up in many managers and supervisors’ minds is the image of an employee posting cat pictures or tweeting about the latest adventures at the local watering hole.
Many companies have gotten past that stereotype and have found that social networks, when used properly, are a valuable tool in increasing productivity, solving problems and reaching out to customers. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to networks, as several companies have found different ways to leverage the features of this technology.
British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB (News - Alert)) has found that using social networking internally connected employees and outsourced agents. The mass media company chose Salesforce’s Chatter, an internal social media solution that functions much like Facebook or Twitter (News - Alert). It is especially helpful as a problem-solving tool when someone needs to solve a problem and the company’s knowledge base does not address it.
When management monitors the content, it not only limits counterproductive content like off-topic posts and excessive complaining, but also makes them aware of problems that need to be fixed.
Virgin America has used Chatter to support a large number of employees relying on mobile devices. Many of these employees like pilots, gate agents and flight attendants do not have a cubicle or office and need to log into company networks remotely from a tablet or smartphone. Chatter allowed them to connect with the company better.
For some companies, a combination of free media solutions and a strict but clear policy allows employees to connect with customers. Seattle-based clothing chain Nordstrom allows employees to post messages to customers on Facebook (News - Alert) as long as the company social media policy is adhered to. Employees can only post during working hours, they must avoid disclosing confidential information and specify that opinions are their own and not necessarily those of the company if they are not a designated spokesperson.
The underlying theme behind the social networks is conversations. Marketplaces and business is about these conversations and today’s companies need to be aware of them and have the infrastructure to respond or else they could be left behind competitors that pay better attention.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson