With statistics all over the map, some believe that up to 98 percent of companies currently have a presence on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and others. Social media has had a major impact on the way companies communicate with their customers, but has not much changed the way employees within a business communicate with each other. Consumer-focused social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube serve primarily as methods for businesses to communicate with consumers and consumers to relate to other consumers. These tools do not work well for employee-to-employee or business-to-business communications. Consumer-focused social networks have a role in business communication, but even more important is the role that enterprise social intranets, also known as enterprise social media, play.
There are three separate groups of social networks, and businesses with a successful integrated social business strategy should use all three to enhance communications with different factions.
Public social networks like Facebook and Twitter are the best solutions for making contact with current and prospective customers.
Social extranets are primarily customer communities that are used for in-depth communication and collaboration with customers, and private business-to-business (B2B) networks for conversations with partners and B2B customers.
Employee social networks (ESN) are the most effective tool for internal company communication and collaboration and are also known as enterprise social media applications.
Of the three types of network, internal employee social networks for businesses offer the greatest potential for business value. An ESN is an internal workplace that streamlines communication between co-workers. This gives employees a sense of online community and helps create connections between departments.
VARS will have to show customers how ESN technology can be integrated into existing communications tools and how it can improve productivity and efficiency. For vendors who can successfully sell ESN tools, the market opportunity is expected to be huge. The market for enterprise social apps and associated services is expected to reach $6.4 billion by 2016.
Simplicity is the key to making ESN sales. Businesses use so many existing communication and collaboration tools and employees are entrenched in consumer-based social media tools, making it unlikely companies will want to invest in separate enterprise social software. Enterprises will want to see how these technologies impact their business efficiency and corporate culture.
NewsGator’s Social Sites, for example, integrates with Microsoft SharePoint, providing social network capabilities and allowing for the implementation of features including communities, spheres, microblogging, questions-and-answers, activity streams and social profiles. Other companies, such as Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce.com, are utilizing their existing channel partners to offer the social facets of their collaboration solutions. IBM announced new channel incentives around social media, and third-party enterprise social networking vendors are building their channel strategies to penetrate this growing market.
Industry leaders agree that enterprise social networking adoption improves ROI, reduces costs and increases productivity. User adoption and changes to behavior is the key to gaining these benefits. The VAR has to help the organization by identifying business problems they need to solve, choosing the best tool to do so, integrating ESN into existing infrastructure, demonstrating best practices, determining stumbling blocks to participation and analyzing the chosen cultural transformation. This will allow VARs to become successful in the enterprise social network game.
Is there any additional aspects of how to talk to social media in business communications we can address in a future blog? Feel free to comment below.