Why ALL businesses need to engage in social networks

Posted by on July 27, 2009 in Blog, IT Strategy, Social Media | 2 comments

Why ALL businesses need to engage in social networks

This guest article kindly submitted to me by Ann Hawkins who attended the recent Travelling Geeks visit to Cambridge where they discussed how small business and corporates are beginning to utilise social networking and social media to properly engage with their clients. Unfortunately I was unable to make that meeting, however I was lucky enough to meet the Travelling Geeks at the Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge the following day (picture below) where we discussed how corporates are gradually realising that social networking allows them to connect with their market in ways that have never been possible before. If you want to learn how it’s done, and wish to have your business realise the true benefit that social networking will bring your organisation then I suggest you read on, there are some great lessons to be learned here…

At a recent meeting with some of the world experts in social media and business it became apparent from the number of examples quoted that businesses not engaged in social networks are missing out.

Every business owner has three choices:

  1. You can try to ban your staff from using social networks in working hours but you can’t control what they do in their own time. If your staff are not fully engaged with your business it will show.
  2. You can ignore social networks but they won’t ignore you. Customers are talking about you and if you’re not there you won’t know what they’re saying.
  3. You can mandate your staff to engage in their usual on-line networks and set up a tracking system that shows up every time your company is mentioned. (try using [blippr]Social Media Firehose[/blippr]). Train and reward your staff to respond appropriately and your customer service will soar through the roof.

There are hundreds of examples of companies using Twitter effectively, here are a few:

  • Zappos (view CEO’s tweets) There are more than 400 Zappos workers on Twitter. Tony Hsieh, their CEO encouraged employees to Twitter as a way to build a cohesive corporate culture.
  • Comcast (view tweets), with a team of 7, listens to what customers say and replies with private tweets to offer help.
  • Dell (view tweets) has more than 20 Twitter channels catering to different audiences, including international ones.
  • General Motors (view tweets) began Twittering at auto shows to publicize certain events, but then discovered it gained traction when it started engaging in conversations with customers.
  • H&R Block (view tweets) originally thought of Twitter as a free and easy way to push messages out to people, but as time went on realized it made more sense to use Twitter to listen to people and respond
  • JetBlue (view tweets) use Twitter to communicate with passengers about weather delays and field questions about things like why JetBlue charges $7 for pillows and blankets.
  • Kodak (view tweets) began using Twitter as an entertainment and information tool to share personal experiences during the Olympics in China to put a personal face on the brand and build a one-on-one relationship with customers.
  • Southwest (view tweets) shares the case of passenger, Christofer Hoff, whose flight was delayed two hours, and then his luggage went missing. While waiting around, he tweeted his displeasure. Southwest responded the next morning with the following Twitter message: “Sorry to hear about your flight –- weather was terrible in the NE. Hope you give us a 2nd chance to prove that Southwest = Awesomeness.” Southwest followed up to make sure his flight home was a better experience. Hoff recounted the experience in a blog post.
  • Whole Foods Market Southwest (view tweets) offers $25 gift cards for the tweet of the day, one of which was ‘Stepping into Whole Foods is stepping into a sociological case study.’

Travelling Geeks at the Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge

Travelling Geeks at Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge 11 July 2009 Jim (”call me Sky”) Schuyler | Susan Bratton | Howard Rheingold | Robert Scoble

Have your say

What are your experiences of social media being used in your business? Please use the comments below to share your observations and feedback – Many thanks


Next Steps:

If you would like help with your social media policy development, or social media training for your staff and management teams on how to use social media effectively while protecting your brand and reputation, or would like to book Ian to speak at your next event then:

Call Ian on: 07979 593 970 or CLICK HERE>


About Ian McKendrick

Ian is a social media and IT Strategist, Broadcaster, and Keynote Speaker on IT Strategy, Social Media and Information Security. Connect with Ian on Google+

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  1. Great Post Ann! I was impressed by the message spread during the the tg2009 conference in Cambridge. In spite of what Robert Scoble stated at the conference the training and the change of culture required is quite massive. I still believe that a policy of empowering every employee of a company to speak (better, write) and interact freely with twitter, blogpost or other similar technologies will take a long time to be practical, given the way most companies are organised nowadays. The most used model is still that the marketing director (or even the CEO) must authorise everything being published on or off-line.

    • Very true Massimo, and there are also underlying problems with staff fully understanding security issues through social networking, particularly with information leakage. However, as corporates do step up to the challenges of building closer relationships through engagement with their customers then their policies and procedures will have to be developed and enforced to protect them. The main issue I’m seeing in the marketplace is not the writing of the policies, but staff awareness of the constantly changing limitations of their policies. The reason it’s so difficult for organisations to keep employees educated and trained is due mainly to the breathtaking speed at which social networking applications and strategies are evolving, particularly with the wealth of new persuasive technologies that emerge almost daily. I truly believe that companies wishing to remain at the forefront must continue to pursue their pioneering attitudes and do whatever is necessary to enable them to fully embrace social networking to meet the ever growing needs and expectations of their customers.

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