Social media, social networking or social business, regardless of the term used you will have no doubt read the media hype about platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and most recently Twitter. The seemingly overnight growth in the use of web-based solutions designed to keep us connected, informed and addicted to the web has never been far from the headlines, but why the massive interest and more importantly how can we leverage these new tools to make sense of the glut of people and information online?
We all want to belong, it's part of the human condition, but the opportunities to connect, learn and benefit from each others networks have become attractive commercially and, for the early adopters at least, its proving to be a serious competitive option. Whilst the technologists behind the larger social networking platforms try to find ways to monetize their efforts, many of us have already discovered that by sharing a little we can gain a lot.
Take Twitter for example, by simply offering a point of view or a nugget of information the resulting engagement can prove to be invaluable as a ‘free to air’ means of reaching clients and interested stakeholders. The recent Budget saw all of the major accountancy firms making use of Twitter to ‘tweet’ opinion and points of view during the Chancellor’s speech. This real-time narrowcasting bypasses lengthy editorial processes enabling a 140 character sound bite to reach an audience instantly, invaluable if you want to be seen as a knowledgeable advisor.
LinkedIn on the other hand helps employees maintain a connection with former colleagues and provides a trusted and valuable network when recruitment opportunities arise. The beauty of a professional network online is that the tendency to fabricate the truth with a highly visible CV reduces somewhat.
Aside from the obvious benefits of connecting there exists a rich pool of social capital, created by the exchange of insights, opinion and sometimes provocative debate, nearly all of which is given freely and honestly. If you’re not providing these environments to your employees, clients and stakeholders you can rest assured they are seeking forums where they are able to build their profile and in some cases provide rich pickings for the head-hunters.
The early and somewhat naïve responses to social networking as time wasting and dangerous need to give way to more mature, measured perspectives because despite what you might think, social networking is giving rise to a new way of working for many and the resulting ‘social business’ could provide a rich vein of revenue for existing business.
If you would like any more information, please contact Iain Simpson, Head of Commercial Insights and Digital Marketing at BDO