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How is business benefiting from Social Media and how will this evolve in the future?

I was recently interviewed by a business journalist in Turkey and thought I would share my answers with you.

How is the business world benefiting from Social Media?

The overriding, but by no means only available, benefit businesses are getting today from social media is a direct doorway to their consumer and stakeholders like never before.

The most increasing utilisation of this is for business intelligence, offered by what I regard as the nirvana of market research; real-time access to ‘answers without questions’ from a sample size in the thousands if not tens of thousands to almost any business question; be that product, brand, Comms or service related.

The rise of micro-blogging and smart-phones sees this becoming increasingly relevant to all brands no matter what the product. In the past you would never have got someone writing a blog post about their favourite cup of tea or chocolate bar. Now on places like Twitter you do and in the context of their whole lives. This is a goldmine of rich data as people list alongside their updates all their interests not just generally but this very minute.

From a communications perspective brands are playing the part of the media owners. If they create enough interesting content and are prepared to invest time and resource into the engagement of their audience they can have unmediated relations with their consumers and their peers.

If they are consistent and strategic in their communications they contribute to a growing communications & retention platform they own with the social network rather than renting eyeballs from media owners. This means a shift away from wasteful on-off campaigns to iterative planning and ongoing communications. This proximity allows for CRM to feed into new acquisition through peer-2-peer communications as brand engagement and therefore advocation becomes increasingly visible in peoples ‘life-streams’.

Any example-setting corporations, what’s done, how did they benefit?

We work with a number of clients all capitalising on this opportunity in different ways. With Honda Europe we feed real-time and actionable data across a number of departments of their business ranging from; Marketing through to Product & Corporate PR to Customer Service and Customer Insight.

They are responding by resolving negative issues in open environments, demonstrating they care, as well and reporting their subject matter to those who could benefit from the insights internally. They identify those advocates engaged in positive conversations generally or in owner forums and use them in the planning and launch of future communications activity. Recently crowdsourcing a roadtrip around Europe called Live Every Litre where 60% of the team were from outside of Honda or their agencies.

We work with retailers who are engaging those representative and influential of and in specific consumer groups in social media for ongoing and continuous feedback to inform product stocked in store as well as their broader business strategy.

The overall benefit is two-fold. One is your output (be that Comms, product or service) are a better fit with the consumers needs but also the means through which to communicate this benefit become less wasteful and more efficient.

What will the future bring and how will social media transform businesses?

As this data flows into and across a business it will become increasingly apparent there is more of an opportunity to innovate via social media; across the whole supply chain than there is a threat and reason to ignore it.

Opening up your business in social media does require a converged response team including at the least; PR, Customer Service & Marketing but ideally everything through to HR and New Product and Service Development.

When you open up a social media profile you have to be prepared to answer any question, not just say the good stuff. These can and sometimes will be negative so you must be prepared to workflow this quickly to the people who can respond and this takes planning. The same goes for valuable insights to dramatically improve the business. Not sharing these should be a serious issue for any business.

The Net result is business will need to evolve to become real-time, responsive, open and inclusive where possible protecting its sensitive activity.

The biggest strain we see on our clients is in the staffing of these new roles. Whose job is it? How are they measured and rewarded? How and where can they hire people for these roles and how much should they be reliant on an external supplier to plug the gaps?
The big challenge will be how much does businesses shift spend currently going to external agencies and use it to create internal teams to manage these opportunities. Employment laws and an incorrect uncertainty of the permanency of social media mean businesses find it difficult to commit. This is why often why we provide interim staffing solutions to plug internal gaps on a day-to-day level as well look at the bigger strategic piece.

What range of services 90:10′s offer/provide?

Social Media Unit / Staffing
Daily Listening
Insight Auditing
Change Management
Social Media Setup
Cocreation initiatives (NPD, NSD)
Social Media Campaigns