Social media has quickly evolved from being an online tool for personal communication to a powerful marketing channel for business. Now, we’re moving one step further into the realm of social business. This is about those companies that use social media as a means of engaging with employees, suppliers, clients, the press. In other words, it’s about doing business in a very casual,transparent, and inclusive way.
FedEx and Ketchum have just released a new study that looks at the emerging trends in social business. The common thread you’ll see throughout the study is the expansion of social media from brand awareness to a relationship tool.
More than 50% of the companies in the study said they feel that their social media efforts have strengthened their relationship with their current customers and the general public. 40% said they use social to build relationships with partners and suppliers and many are using it as a means of improving communication with their own employees.
Involving employees in the social scene is working two ways. First, companies say it helps employees feel like they’re a part of the business so employee retention and productivity are higher. They also realize that their employees are in a position to be enthusiastic and credible brand ambassadors. So they’re actively encouraging these folks to post on Facebook and Twitter on the company’s behalf.
85% of the companies who use social media to engage employees reported that employee participation in their organization’s social business efforts increased over the past 12 months. These companies believe they are effectively using these strategies with employees in the social space to:
Strengthen relationships (46 percent)
Share and tap into expertise (44 percent)
Foster collaboration, dialogue and discussion (44 percent)
Increase participation in a program or an initiative (38 percent)
The downside here is the loss of control at the management level. As we discussed earlier today, one person has to be responsible for reviewing all that’s being said and done in public to make sure the message is appropriate and consistent.
Stop, Listen, and Learn
The FedEx / Ketchum study also reveals a trend toward social listening. Now, we aren’t just using social media to broadcast our message, we’re using it to conduct a two-way conversation with partners and customers. B2B companies in particular said that this tactic has led to an increase in innovative thinking and stronger business relationships.
One change that is just emerging is mobile awareness. Companies are only now starting to tweak the types of communications they send out so that they can be easily accessed on mobile. They say they’re moving more toward graphics and lowering the amount of text in a message so everyone can see the point quickly, even on a small cell phone screen.
This area has been a particular challenge for me as I routinely send complex reports to people who almost always read them on their cell phone. Sweetly formatted docs with bulleted lists and graphs simply don’t translate. Often the answer is a shared doc online or a cloud server that can be accessed while on the go.
The Measure of a Man
Any discussion of advances in social media wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory nod toward measurement, or the lack there of. 84% of the companies surveyed said they measure their effectiveness in terms of engagement. 69% looked at impressions and 53% said they “analyze influence.” Some said they attempt to track the correlation between profits and social media. To that I say, good luck.
84% of those surveyed have come to the inevitable conclusion that some aspects of social media can’t be measured even though they are important. That’s a fact we simply have to learn to live with because social media is here to stay.
If you’d like to read the full study, visit http://www.2012socialbusinessstudy.com.