This century is witnesseing the continuing development of one the world’s greatest inventions – the internet.
The internet makes it possible to order clothes, shoes and even food to your front door, and gives you the ability to book a summer holiday in less than ten minutes. But the most exciting tool yet to come from the internet is social media.
There have been an endless number of articles and news stories regarding the rise of social media over the last few years, tackling issues such as how powerful the tool is and how vital it plays in the communication process. Social networking sites are not only used by individuals, but are also becoming one of the most popular networking tools used by businesses.
I praise the fact that we do not have to wait until the next newspaper comes out or until the six o’clock news to find out the latest breaking news and I love the endless amount of information that is available to us via social media. For example, I think that it is fantastic that I am able to ask ASDA if they have any special offers or Topshop if they have any current job vacancies. But is all this exposure of businesses and insight into their companies a little too much?
Many businesses have embraced the ability to quickly access large groups of potential clients and if used correctly, social media could potentially be a great way to market a business. It is evident that organisations have also gained the ability to target more hard-to-reach audiences for their business. But is the use of social media becoming too risky?
It is obvious how the tool can be a success for your business, but would one mistake cause an even bigger failure and something that would take a lot more time and money to save?
With rewards come risks
If social media is misused this can cause a negative effect on a business. Notable risks can include offensive comments being posted by employees or potential disclosure of confidential information regarding the business or their clients.
To ensure a business makes the most of the opportunities that arise from social media, employers should adopt and implement effective guidelines that clearly define the use of social media at work, which will also regulate employees personal use and how individuals market themselves on behalf of the business using social media tools.
A strong example of an organisation carrying out these regulations is the BBC. If you have not already noticed, most celebrities who work for the BBC have on their twitter accounts “These views are my own and not those of the BBC”.
Social media is used as a very successful marketing tool. Companies themselves have Facebook profiles, employee profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter accounts with news streams. I think that it is important that an organisation should strike a balance between allowing communications to take place and ensuring that employees are aware of the risk that certain comments or ‘tweets’ may cause embarrassment or damage to its reputation.
Taking all this into consideration, are all businesses being safe when it comes to social media? Or are the risks exaggerated? By this, I mean is one simple smiley face on Twitter or cheeky comment on Facebook going to actually cause great damage to a company?
It is evident that social media can now be seen as one of the most important interaction tools that could be used by businesses and if they are not using it to their advantage, they should definitely start.
Social media is so important and vital for the success of a business, so does it really matter if the line between work and play is becoming blurred? As long as the tool is helping boost the success of the business then I say with the right guidelines and precautions, full steam ahead with it.
Case Study: ASDA
To emphasise my point, I decided to take a look into the communications department of ASDA, focusing on their social media activities. I attended the CIPR lecture by Dominic Burch, head of communications for Asda in the UK, and found his passion for social media fascinating. Burch insisted that the key to success for any organisation was to engage with their customers and he insisted that social media was the best way to do so.
Burch explained that Asda is relatively new to social media; that “it was 18 months to two years ago that we wanted to have a dialogue with our customers and involve our customers in generating content”.
The most exciting element of social media, says Burch, is the ability for customers to contribute. “A lot of our customers want to be engaged with how we do business, and we want to overtly insert customers into how we do things.”
It also plays a vital part in connecting with their target customers – mums. Burch revealed that 47% of mums’ leisure time is spent browsing the internet; they use this to their advantage.
Burch expects ASDA’s social media strategy to have one main outcome – customer loyalty. “Our view is that loyalty comes from having trust,” he says. “By lifting the lid on how we doing things, by having conversations and openly answering their questions on Twitter, Facebook etc, then we believe this will encourage loyalty.”
Burch explained that by using social media, their customer service levels improved and they are constantly receiving good feedback. He said that if there is a problem, it takes two minutes for the communications team to detect it through social media, and it takes a further five minutes to sort it out instead of letting it run away and the negativity to spread. Burch admits that they are not always in control and sometimes mistakes do happen; but he believes that their followers and audience understand that they are only human.
Listening to the lecture, it further embedded the importance of social media in my mind. It is evident that social media has improved Asda’s customer service.
If the line between work and play is becoming blurred, does it matter? As long as social media is helping boost the success of the business then I don’t think it does.