This is the second in a three part series examining the strengths and weaknesses of email. View the first article here.Social media has changed the way businesses communicate with their customers, but it has done little to change the way people within companies communicate with each other, and with other businesses. The term “social business” means so many different things to different people that this distinction is often overlooked. Many companies establish a presence on social media sites and congratulate themselves for becoming “social businesses”, but the reality is that inside the company it’s the same old email-driven business-as-usual. Consumer-focused social networks do have a significant role to play in modern business communication, but it is important that we understand the strengths and weaknesses of each type of network if we are to use them effectively. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube are primarily business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer networks. With 1bn active users on Facebook and 300m on Twitter, these networks offer immense reach and are a great place to make contact with customers and prospects. But they’re not great places to have deeper, more productive discussions with customers. In many cases the company’s social media presence should be accompanied by a community that they use for more meaningful customer engagement. The idea of creating a private Facebook group for employees to discuss work issues may initially sound appealing – employees are probably already on Facebook, and it might give the impression that management “get” social media – but Facebook is not designed for business communication. It provides little ability to categorize or search for information, and fairly poor data management capabilities. As a result, it is of little use for “real work” and is only suitable for office chatter and trivialities, delivering very little business value. Most social business experts would probably be surprised that the idea of using Facebook for internal communication is even considered. But a recent survey suggested that 74 per cent of companies were doing precisely that. This is an astonishing statistic that I find hard to believe; I suspect it is another example of confusion caused by the terminology about social business rather than a true reflection of where internal business communication takes place. This confusion highlights the need to recognize that there are three distinct types of social networks. An integrated social business strategy uses all three to improve communications with different groups of people.
- Public social networks like Facebook and Twitter – good for making contact with customers and prospects, less good for deeper discussions;
- Customer communities – for deeper customer engagement. These can be characterized as “social extranets”, and also include private business-to-business networks for communication with partners and B2B customers; and
- Employee networks – for internal company communication. These can be characterized as “social intranets”.
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