Use social networks for your business communication!

31 Mar

by Ben Miller

@ben_at_city

According to a study by BNP Paribas, 30% of internet users in Western Europe use social networks for professional means, chiefly to expand their professional reputation. This is a figure that cannot be taken lightly, especially when one looks at the rise of social networks, in particular ‘vocational’ ones like LinkedIn. Social communication within business is often seen as an unmanageable risk – you never know who’s gonna let something slip. This might, however, not be something to fear…

The business model has changed

The business model has changed! Today, the tight and traditional business model is fading in favour of greater openness.  Businesses in general must now deal with infinitely more complex systems. Interactions and combinations are multiple, and the set of the interdependence is confusing.

Business is no longer a closed entity. The boundaries between internal and external communication are increasingly fine, and it is difficult to contain information exclusively within your company, whether or not you yourself are an executive. Outgoing e-mails, facebook status updates, Twitter reactions, MSN, Skype… the list goes on. There are so many doors open to the outside that are not necessarily harmful to your business structure, provided that use of social platforms is monitored. A policy concerning what can and cannot be said on social networking sites should be developed.

Proaction in your day-to-day business activities

Many businesses have virtual doors which are communication channels, allowing informative flow both internally and externally. In 2011, it’s definitely impossible to close these doors, given the wealth of cyber communication available to employees. But the flow can indeed be controlled. Over 80% of business leaders don’t include their professional actions on social networks, and this is a shame. Social platforms are the perfect way to advertise and even show off your company in a particular circle, and it’s absolutely free! Andy Beal has defined a list of 12 key of e-reputation points that each company should monitor:

1. Your Personal Name

Whether you’re an independent consultant, or a very small cog on a big corporate wheel, you should absolutely monitor any media mentions of your own name. An extra tip, monitor your user names too: monitoring “andy beal” would likely not include mentions of “andybeal.”

2. Your Company Name

Another “no brainer.” Monitor your company name, but also monitor any likely misspellings or legacy company names. For example, GlaxoSmithKline should also monitor “GSK,” “Glaxo,” and “Glaxo Wellcome.”

3. Your Product Brands

If you’re Google, you should monitor the reputation of your key product brands. What’s being said about “Android” or “Gmail.” The same goes for your product brands. You may not be able to keep track of all your products, but you should track the ones that are the most vital to your business.

4. Your CEO (and other execs)

I’ll make you this promise. At some point in his tenure, your CEO will put his foot squarely in his mouth. You should monitor all possible iterations of his name, so you can be the first to know–or at least know before the WSJ finds out.

5. Your Media Spokesperson

Even if CEO might is a recluse, I’m sure someone in your company is in the public spotlight a lot. If I were Lenovo, I’d monitor mentions of David Churbuck–after all he’s likely discussing Lenovo on his blog and Twitter. (Knowing David, this post made his radar within 2 minutes of being published…hi David!)

6. Your Marketing Message

“So easy even a caveman can do it?” “Just do it!” What if those campaign slogans were accompanied by “sucks” or “I’ll never buy from them again?” Monitoring your marketing campaigns will help you understand if your message is getting across, and what your customers have to say about it.

7. Your Competition

Surely you’d find value in knowing your biggest competitor just got the jump on you. Reports suggest that inside Lenovo, execs knew about the launch of Apple’s Mac Air within minutes–important for Lenovo, as it was planning it’s own ultra-light notebook.

As we explain in the book, Pepsi found itself in troubled-waters over the revelation its Aquafina was nothing but purified tap water from New York. If Coca Cola monitored the buzz for Pepsi’s products, they would see how consumers reacted to the news–and prepared for the questions about its own “tap water,” Dasani.

8. Your Industry

If you keep a watchful eye on industry trends, you can spot opportunities and potential disasters. Everyone’s raving about the iPhone, but some hate the touchscreen keypad? Maybe BlackBerry should offer a handset that offers both a touchscreen and its highly-praised keyboard.

9. Your Known Weaknesses

Your brand has a weakness. If that’s a shock to you, I apologize for being the bearer of bad news. Still, it’s better I tell you now, than a customer tell the New York Times.

Take an honest look at your products and services and ask yourself, what are our weaknesses. If Dell has admitted to itself that it’s customer support sucked, maybe it would have been in a better position to discover–and respond–to Jeff Jarvis sooner.

10. Your Business Partners

If you’re Boeing wouldn’t you want to know if one of your airline customers just declared bankruptcy? How does that effect your quarterly sales numbers? For you, maybe the CEO of a company you did that “co-branded” campaign with, was just snapped leaving a brothel–how would that reflect on your own reputation.

Identify your key business partners and make sure you know what’s happening to their business.

11. Your Clients’ News

OK, for all of your internet marketing agencies–and anyone else that knows the value of keeping clients happy–here’s a tip for you. Monitor the news for your clients and then send them a note to congratulate them on their accomplishments–or maybe “get their back” if you see trouble brewing. Your retention rate will go way up!

12. Your Intellectual Property

If you invested the time–and expense–to register a trademark or copyright your work, shouldn’t you make sure it’s not being infringed upon? Apart from enforcing trademark infringements, you should also make sure there aren’t any cases of mistaken identity. Did someone just complain about how much their Google iPhone sucks? You might want to suggest a correction–or maybe not, if you’re Apple.

Simple!

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