The Next Big Challenge for Social Media

This article was originally appeared in the November 2012 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.

Social media, particularly Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, have become wildly popular consumer platforms, and it’s now common practice for businesses and organizations to use social media and text messaging platforms. Thus far, however, businesses have typically focused their social media efforts on externally-directed communications, such as those aimed at:

  • Increasing public awareness around issues, brands and products
  • Introducing new products or companies
  • Driving traffic to other interfaces, such as websites and smartphone apps
  • Providing customer service

The next challenge for businesses and organizations, however, is to develop social media as a critical productivity tool within organizations. After all, social media “help accelerate and improve our ability to connect, communicate and collaborate” (Jue, Marr and Kassotakis, 2009, p. 44), a fact Microsoft clearly recognizes with its recent acquisition of the business social site Yammer, which it plans on integrating with its SharePoint cloud service.

Real-World Applications

So, what might social media look like on an organization’s intranet or other private network? The examples below show how social media is already being used within large, globally dispersed corporations, and by a non-profit interested in connecting current and former volunteers to one another.

IBM employees have “a rich connection to the people they work with” on Beehive, where they can make new friends, keep up with coworkers and renew contacts with people they’ve worked with in the past. Each employee has a Beehive profile page, with functionality similar to a Facebook page. Employees are able to use their page to upload photos, share their thoughts and organize events.

The site was created to help IBM employees build relationships with coworkers in their large, dispersed environment. The team that created the site is evaluating how it facilitates connections and whether employees are using it to find out about projects and activities beyond their immediate teams.

Current and former Peace Corps volunteers can connect with one another and find out about events and activities of interest to them at a special Ning.com site. Maintained by the National Peace Corps Association, the social network features individual pages and profiles, groups, events, photos and videos, blogs and even job listings. Members can see the latest posts and other site activity on a home-page ticker.

LivePerson, a company whose mission is to help businesses make meaningful connections with their customers, created a social intranet to link employees at its offices in New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tel Aviv, London and Melbourne, Australia. The network, called LivePerson Nation, grew out of a desire to enhance collaboration and working relationships among LivePerson’s globally dispersed employees.

The company had been using a variety of tools to communicate and share information, but multiple channels and systems proved confusing to employees. LivePerson customized its intranet, which was powered by Jive Software, to accommodate its unique needs.

LivePerson Nation was chosen one of the world’s 10 best intranets in January 2012 by Nielsen Normal Group.

Why Develop Internal Social Platforms?

In 2012, Treem and Leonardi conducted a huge review of social media usage within organizations and concluded that in four key areas, social media provide unique organizational functions either not supported by previous forms of technology or supported much less efficiently by non-social media tools. These four areas are defined as:

  • Visibility: affording users the ability to make behaviors, knowledge, preferences and communication network connections that were once invisible (or at least very hard to see), visible to others in the organization
  • Persistence: the ability of communications to stay accessible in the same form as the original media after the actor has delivered or presented his/her initial information
  • Editability: the ability of an individual to modify or otherwise revise content they have already communicated
  • Association: more discernible and useful connections between people and people, and between people and their user-generated content

New tools and platforms such as Ning.com are providing low-cost, cookie-cutter, private social media solutions for organizations to take advantage of for internal operations. Combining several types of social media (e.g., blogs, forums, social networking profiles, etc.) into one platform, services like Ning are making it possible for organizations to capitalize on these new interfaces for organizational advantage. Here are a few ways in which organizations are using these kinds of platforms:

  • Using blogs, microblogs, forums, discussion groups and/or audio-video sharing tools forKnowledge Sharing on a set of skills, procedures or specialized information within an organization so that others in the organization can benefit from internal expertise
  • Holding Contests for agency staff to encourage initiative and innovation around products and/or services
  • Using Reputation and Rewards to stimulate information sharing and collaboration inside and between sections of an organization
  • Holding Meetings in collaborative environments and/or virtual world platforms, particularly for those not co-located in one building or area
  • Building Trust among and inside teams and departments through a number of social media tools
  • Brainstorming and Innovating new methods of delivering services, managing projects, tracking goals and developing accountability
  • Preserving Informationfor the future of the organization and its staff, leadership and volunteers

Is your organization benefiting to the fullest from social media? Please contact NSI Partners to learn how we can help you leverage social media both externally and internally.

References

Jue, A. L., Marr, J. A., & Kassotakis, M. E. (2009). Social media at work: How networking tools propel organizational performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Treem, J. W., & Leonardi, P. M. (2012). Social media use in organizations: exploring the affordances of visibility, editability, persistence and association. Communication Yearbook36, 143–189.

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A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

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