Companies Need to Get on Board with Social Media
Social media has already started to change the way companies interact with their customers and how employees interact with one another.
I recently finished doing a study with Siemens Enterprise looking at the demand for social media within companies (from both customers and worker perspectives) and the related use of it to see if usage is indeed keeping up with the demand. The result of the joint Yankee Group-Siemens Enterprise study was that most organizations have not heard their customers and employees and are lagging in their use of social media.
* 70% of consumers want to use social media to communicate with companies but only a paltry 30% of companies are set to meet this demand
* A little over 30% of companies do not have a formal social network policy or just deny employees access to social networking tools and applications
* 50% of workers use social media as part of their daily activity
* 70% of customers surveyed would like to use social media to reach company experts and would trust information on social network sites
* Almost 70% of employees feel they need better tools to track and manage social media for business.
The last bullet is of particular interest to me. If you've ever sent an email to my yankeegroup.com address, you’ll see my signature line looks like (click here for a bigger view)
I try and be reachable by almost any method but as you see here I need to manage three phone numbers, three voice mails, some numbers work overseas, some don’t, 4 IMs, 3 social networking sites and twitter. This doesn’t include the three email addresses I have or the use of Sametime within our company. I could really use something to help me manage this better.
From anecdotal conversations I have had with companies I can tell you the majority of companies either have no idea what to do with social network tools or just flat out do not allow employees to use them. Refusing to let employees use social networking is a short term "fix" and will very shortly, if not already, put organizations at a competitive disadvantage.
Gaining full value from social networking requires more than just throwing the tools at workers and telling them to figure it out. The problem with this strategy is that people that are tech savvy enough to figure out how to use the tools will choose all of the consumer ones and the level of productivity enhancement will not be consistent. The employees that aren't tech savvy enough just won't use the tools. So if throwing the tools to the employees isn’t the answer and blocking isn't, then what is?
The answer is similar to how UC should get adopted and that's to have the social media tools integrated into business processes and applications. This would make the use of social media tools a true must have for companies and allow organizations to alter processes to be more efficient.
For example, companies could use social media, UC and application integration for the following:
* Automate the routing of Twitter, Facebook and other social media interactions to contact center agents or technical support specialists to improve customer service
* Automate the update of a worker's presence status through the integration of unified communication tools
* Improve employee collaboration with the extended enterprise by automating audio, web and video conferencing capabilities through integration with tools such as Twitter to make connecting simpler
* Streamline finding the best available subject matter experts through mining information on social networking sites, blogs or wikis and then integrating the results with presence to understand the availability of key individuals
* Accelerate the sharing of information from blogs, wikis, chat sessions, conferences and other social networking tools by integrating the information into knowledge management systems and making them available through UC desktop interfaces.
These are just a few examples of how organizations can improve business processes by integrating social networking tools with UC and business processes and applications. Social media has already started to change the way companies interact with their customers and how employees interact with one another.
I believe the early mover advantage here to be significant too. I prefer to work with companies today that have chat capabilities and respond to Tweets rather than companies that always force me to call. I know there are people that don't, but the generational influence will drive almost every company this way. As for my work life, well let’s just say that analyst firms are never the first to adopt the technology we write about, so I'll need to be patient there.