Can social media make your company smarter?

January 21, 2011

USA-LAW/BRAINYou’ve started a fan page for your company on Facebook. You’ve attracted a few followers on Twitter. You’ve got a presence on Foursquare, and you’ve started offering deals to customers through Groupon. Seems you’ve got that whole social media thing figured out.

Or do you? While social media presents, first and foremost, a cheap marketing and advertising option to help businesses generate leads and drive up revenue, some experts insist it’s about more than just setting up a few profiles and then moving on.

“Social technologies are to me holistic technologies, a lot like PCs or the Internet,” said Scott Klososky, a social media business consultant who’s releasing three new books on the subject this year. “I tell clients that they need to be using social tools as much internally as they do externally, as much to cut costs as they do to drive revenue.”

Klososky, whose clients range from managers at Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurs, encourages businesses to integrate different social technology tools into their day-to-day operations in a couple of different ways.

‘RAISING THE IQ’

One method Klososky suggests to managers is encouraging employees to build personalized “rivers of information” that push specialized, real-time information about their industry or expertise to them by way of social technology tools such as RSS readers, Twitter and Digg. A fairly simple idea one might argue, but a practice that many companies underestimate, said Klososky.

“That’s raising the IQ of the organization. That’s one of the big things that costs nothing, but is reaping huge rewards,” he said.

Klososky also spurs his clients to tap into crowdsourcing, an increasingly popular business model where entrepreneurs go directly to customers in search of new ideas and content. Kolososky put the practice to the test himself by crowdsourcing his forthcoming book “Enterprise Social Technologies” almost in its entirety, from the cover design and online publicity down to some of the content itself.

Social media also has the potential to alter the way businesses manage customer relations. Problem is, many companies see it strictly as a broadcasting tool and not as a means to improving the experience of customers.

“Treating social media as a one-way communication channel is an approach that’s doomed to fail,” writes Mashable’s Leah Betancourt.  “Check in with your fans and followers by asking for feedback, responding to questions and comments, and being personable to build relationships with customers.”

There are indications that entrepreneurs may be catching on. More small businesses in the U.S. now recognize the value of social media for improving the customer experience, according to a new survey from Ad-ology Research.

Of course, social media does come with its own set of hazards.  Employees with no discretion can say things about customers or the company they work for and beam it out for millions of people to see in an instant, Klososky noted. They can also spend hours on their personal profiles instead of working, he said.

If all that sounds a little daunting and risky, Klososky insisted social media practices are worth learning. “Leaders have to become much more technology aware. I don’t mean they have to learn how to be on Facebook. What I mean is they need to learn the concepts behind why technology is critical, how to make good decisions on technology, how to build digital plumbing,” he said.

(Image credit: An undated image of the human brain taken through scanning technology. REUTERS/Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara/Handout)

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