By Chris Lee
The use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become a thorny issue for many organisations in recent years. In October this year many of the leading companies in Germany’s DAX financial index banned social networking sites, citing fears over industrial espionage, while some “work-related” sites such as LinkedIn and Xing are permitted.
Yet while external social networking may not be the darling of the boardroom, there is an apparently speedy take up of social networking for internal communications and to interact with customers. Firms such as BT, Virgin Media and Asda have been using social networks for some time to build team morale and communicate more effectively internally, so NMK went to find out how social networking for business can benefit firms.
It’s the inside that counts
“Social networking in a strictly internal capacity is something that businesses definitely should be looking to implement,” Bob Pike, chief operations officer for SiteForum told NMK. SiteForum creates social community software for companies, enabling them to build their own social networks and collaborate.
“By developing a comprehensive, private social intranet, businesses can provide a single point of reference for all employees to source and share information,” Pike added. “By making this part of a fully integrated solution which is also external facing and under ‘secure access’ productivity can also be improved.”
Pike argues that internal social networking “humanises the internal communications of the business”, which in turn alleviates pressure from the internal support desk because employees look to the intranet first for advice on particular issues or problems. An internal social networking space specifically enables employees to discuss issues directly with colleagues and business partners, saving time and making the workforce much more efficient, Pike said.
One SiteForum customer is Odgers Berndtson, a recruitment firm with 50 offices worldwide. The company uses social intranets – including crisis management applications, and a management information system which provides real-time reports across the world, eliminating a previously manual process.
An industry investing heavily in social media to improve business is the financial sector. One social network, Currensee, enables traders from across the world connect and see each other’s trade strategies in real time which the site argues helps them to make more informed trading decisions.
“The financial services sector is typically a very closed and opaque world from a customer standpoint. Customers – whether they be traders or investors – typically have very little input or viewpoint about their experience, how their accounts are run or managed, or how to engage with other customers,” said Dave Lemont, CEO of Currensee. “Social networking gives financial services companies the ability to begin conversations with their customers, enables their customers to talk to each other and builds brand loyalty between the customer and the company.”
So what does Lemont believe form the core components of a successful social network for business?
“It’s all in the planning. Start by having a clear vision of who your social network is for. Is it an exclusive network for a certain type of person or something that everyone could join and benefit from?” he advised.
Lemont said that another big component is organisations plan to attract people and spread the word.
“Think about creating viral campaigns that can give your members the power to make that happen for you. Whether it’s a video, a referral campaign or some type of other incentive, your members are your biggest advertisers so figure out the best way to get them to tell the story,” he concluded.