Social Networks, Suitably Altered, Becoming Workplace Mainstays


It is clear that social networks and related platforms are making an ever-bigger impact in the enterprise. Companies using these approaches, however, should be crystal clear about one thing: Employing blogs, Facebook, Twitter or any of the myriad other social media tools in a business scenario is significantly different than consumer use.


Much flows from that one statement. Unlike the freeform use by teenagers-and, increasingly, us electronic village elders-corporate social media initiatives must be carefully researched, secured, measured and managed.


This useful No Jitter piece starts with the important context that corporate use of social media long predates today's initiatives. It goes back to forums and bulletin boards-and anything else that is predicated on creating interactive communications with customers, prospects, partners, vendors and others.
The writer, Martha Young, is the founder and principal of Nova Amber. She looks at some properties of "outward-facing social media," including creation of a corporate voice, its role in running campaigns and the ongoing leveraging of company loyalists. Young writes that there are dozens of platforms available, and implementing one can have the double benefit of improving customer service and cutting costs. The end of the piece offers an extensive description of corporate social media best practices.

A tremendous amount of information about social media is floating around the Internet and elsewhere. Some of it is true; much isn't. This very good BusinessWeek piece looks at six misconceptions about corporate use of social networks and, in the process, provides a tremendous amount of valuable data. The writer says the misconceptions are that social media is cheap or free; that anybody can execute a plan; that it is easy to generate a lot of attention in a short time; that a social-networking initiative generally can be done in-house; that people will automatically find good content and that it is impossible to measure results.

WebWorkersDaily expands on one of the issues mentioned by Young. The number of people who position themselves as social media experts will grow in proportion to the number that have a rudimentary knowledge of these platforms and to the slump in the economy. The piece describes what to discount and what to look for in a perspective consultant. Pay no heed to such things as how many personal Facebook friends or Twitter followers a candidate has, unless they are business connections. Look for relevant past experience and whether the person operates in a manner consistent with the way the business should be represented.

Twitter, the hot social-networking service of the moment, lets people post messages of 140 characters to their "followers." A Forbes contributor, a Twitter-resistor who finally decided to see what all the fuss was about, provides two examples of executives who are leveraging the platform: The CEO of the Zappos shoe site has more than 55,000 followers and the head of social media at Ford has 10,000. What the writer found was a great way to build brand loyalty, create a closer relationship with customers and prospects and in other ways do what advertising and marketing is intended to do: Break through the barrier between the company and those it seeks to influence.

First, do no harm. The bookend to finding better ways to exploit social networks is ensuring that they do not damage the company's reputation, endanger its security or otherwise cause problems. Daniel Hoang says companies should set formal policies and procedures on social media and networks. He adds that proper disclaimers should be included and offers examples of suggested policies. The post itself is good, and is followed by links to company policies employed by IBM, Sun, Harvard Law and Ernst & Young for its Facebook page. Finally, Hoang offers four other sources on creating social media policies.

Any company that doesn't think social networking is a corporate tool is missing a big opportunity. Indeed, it may be playing with its very future because the differences between success and failure-especially in the current economic climate-is thin. Social networking may have come of age due to its use by teenagers, but companies must be far more careful about its implementation.