Thursday 31 March 2016

How social media is changing organisations

Social media has had a big impact on our personal lives. Think of how many people we’ve reconnected with, who we never thought we would see or speak to again. Or how we’re able to stay up to date with what is happening in our friends’ lives even when our schedules are too busy to allow us to see them in person.

Similarly, social media is changing the face of organisations, in many different ways. It’s affecting everything from ways of communicating to productivity to maintaining client relationships.

Here’s a quick look at some of these changes.

Social media provides new ways of communicating and collaborating

One of the big revolutions that social media sparked is the way in which communications are presented. No matter whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, we have what is generally called a “timeline”. This gives us a central “dashboard” showing a wide variety of communications from other people, from quick text updates to video sharing.

Attached to this is usually an instant direct messaging system, which integrates the general communication on the timeline with personal communication. It gives us the ability exchange private messages with those same people, in real time.

This has increased the efficiency and richness of an organisation’s communications, both internally and in the marketplace.

The instant messaging systems can also be used to transfer documents, allowing for better and faster collaboration between members of teams.

Social media changes the marketing conversation

Social media has completely changed the nature of the conversation between an organisation and its stakeholders and customers. For the first time ever, this is now a two-way conversation – the people we talk to with our marketing and media can talk back to us, and discuss things with each other – all in the same public forum, be that Twitter, Facebook or any number of customer feedback platforms.

This has changed the way in which organisations must engage with their customers. They must speak more personally and engage directly with customers individually. They must be aware that their voice is only one part of the conversation, no longer the only part.

Social media allows better customer service

This two-way conversation created by social media, along with its immediacy, allows organisations to hugely improve customer response times and service levels. They are able to become immediately aware of customer issues, respond to customer communication instantly and sort out the issue as soon as possible, while maintaining a constant, real-time conversation with the customers.

It also allows organisations to become more innovative and responsive to customer feedback. Social media provides immediate, live feedback so companies don’t need to wait for results of surveys, for example. They can gather customer information in real time and respond to changes in customer demands and tastes immediately.

This all translates into a more agile, modern and effective organisation.

Social media lets you use mobile

Mobile has overtaken PCs, laptops or tablets as the most common way of connecting to the Internet in Africa. What’s more, a significant proportion of time spent online with a mobile device is spent on one of the various social media platforms.

Social media thus provides a direct channel of communication through the device that most people use most often – a powerful tool for organisations to use.

Unfortunately, social media also comes with a warning

For the very reason that social media has connected business activity and communication with personal interaction, organisations have become vulnerable on completely new fronts.

As the same channels are used for both business and personal online interaction, lines between personal representation and business representation have become blurred. The result is that social media has presented organisations with a reputation management challenge.

It’s all too easy for a careless employee to post something damaging to an organisation, even when they are acting in a private capacity on social media. We can just call this the “Penny Sparrow effect” and move on.

There could also be more malicious intent, such as posting an opinion on the organisation’s activities or an exposé of working conditions, after resigning.

All of this means that an organisation needs to constantly monitor and manage social media - astutely, empathetically and responsibly. Used to its full potential, social media represents one of the most important large-scale changes to the world of communications and marketing in history. Forward-thinking organisations are changing in response, and reaping the rewards.

Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter @EduloanSA

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