Social media has been a part of our personal lives for many years now. The first generation of social quickly evolved as businesses looked for ways to reach consumers. For example, Facebook is now a popular advertising and promotional platform for business, and many of the world’s largest brands use their corporate Facebook pages to engage with millions of customers. Twitter serves as an effective customer service channel for a growing number of businesses, and its recent launch of brand pages makes it even more appealing for enterprises. Google+, which is one of the newest and fastest-growing social networks, introduced branded pages just a few months after launch as a way to attract businesses and brands. And there’s LinkedIn, the world’s largest and fastest-growing professional network, a place to market, engage and interact in a professional context. More and more technology (geo-targeting, behavioral profiling, etc.) is being created to connect businesses with their “ideal” customers within these large and continuously growing social networks.
The big opportunity for business lies within the social and professional networks that transform the way businesses operate and employees work. Businesses are developing strategies to generate incremental revenue and increased productivity using social media.
Social networks provide an unparalleled ability to scale connectivity and make sense of the huge volumes of data available to us through networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. There is a narrowing gap in the time it takes to find critical information and how quickly we use it to make important business decisions. This accelerated access to networks of people and information makes it easier for businesses to be more responsive, to navigate, reach, target and retain customers, and compete more effectively on both a local and global scale.
A great example of a professional network that fundamentally transforms the way companies do business is LinkedIn. It is the only social network that is solely focused on connecting the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. A mecca for job seekers and recruiters, LinkedIn is also the largest business-to-business advertising platform and home to more than two million LinkedIn company pages. More than 150 million professionals have a LinkedIn profile today, a number that is growing by two new members every second.
Nathan Monk, a senior IT associate in the Information technology, Communications and Entertainment Practice at MaRS, says that social media delivers significant business benefits. “Social networks provide businesses with powerful tools to ‘listen’ and ‘observe’ customer interactions with their product or service. This information can then help businesses build new products or services, change existing ones or eliminate wasteful, non-value-adding ones. LinkedIn can help validate a business model through constant customer feedback and build awareness by engaging consumers and customers through content.” He also says it can help them make money by converting leads to paying customers, while providing an extended platform for content such as white papers, blog extracts, customer endorsements and more. He agrees that there has never been a better opportunity to make social media work for your business.
While each social network is distinct in its purpose, the common thread in business adoption for each is when executive “champions” within an organization are the primary drivers behind enterprise adoption. For executives that are looking to grow their enterprise and compete more effectively in this digitally connected world, social networks are ideal platforms.
Global connections begin with a personal profile
Your employees play an important role in defining your company’s corporate identity, not only in the workplace but also online. Regardless of which social network or networks you choose to help move your business forward, the key is to encourage your staff to create their personal profiles, establish a presence and engage. This will help to ensure that your organization fully benefits from the social network’s exponential reach. When your employees participate in social networks, they become engaged experts in your community. Whether they tweet company news, post a status update on their Facebook page, or join a LinkedIn group and answer questions, ensure your employees follow engagement guidelines that meet your organization’s specific needs and standards.
Establishing a strong corporate identity
Establishing your corporate identity on social networks can help to build your organization’s credibility, extend your reach across the web and elevate your brand in social search through search engine optimization.
You can use your corporate profile to curate content as well as develop your own voice to ensure your organization is seen as an expert and go-to resource in your field. Whether your organization has a company/brand page/profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+, the key is to use it to deliver relevant messages that people actually want to receive.
Using social networks to drive thought leadership and amplify your reach
Each social network provides a multitude of ways for you and your organization to support, engage and share content with your community of followers, fans, connections and circles. The key is to find the best opportunities and audience for your business to drive thought leadership and amplify your reach.
On Twitter you could participate in or lead one of the many chats that take place each week, or host a one-off Twitter party. On Facebook, asking questions or taking polls may be just one of many approaches you use to drive engagement. You may even experiment with a Google+ hangout with your circles as a new channel for customer service.
On LinkedIn Company pages, building a follower community and groups provide opportunities to interact with communities of like-minded professionals. In fact, more than three million users join a LinkedIn Group each month, discussion threads are growing by 10% weekly and corporations are growing their follower base by the second.
A social channel for online marketing
Social networks are amongst the most effective online marketing channels for organizations that are looking to drive brand awareness and generate leads.
From highly targeted sidebar ads to the recently introduced sponsored story ads within a user’s news feed, Facebook has very quickly become a growing channel for brands looking to increase awareness and grow their fan base. LinkedIn offers a wide range of marketing and advertising options for every budget, with the flexibility to target audiences based on geography, job function and seniority, industry and company size, as well as gender and age. While Twitter ads are beginning to gain momentum, the engagement rate is quite high among Twitter users, making it an appealing online marketing channel.
From mobile to social
Social networking by way of mobile devices is growing at a significant pace. According to comScore, nearly one-third of all US mobile users are now using their devices to access social networks, and close to 40 million Americans are doing so almost daily. While these numbers reinforce the potential for businesses to connect with target audiences while on the go, they are also a reminder to evaluate the potential for mobile marketing.
Whether it’s taking advantage of a location-based social network such as foursquare, creating a mobile website or dedicated mobile application, advertising on mobile sites, or using QR codes and SMS-based campaigns to drive further engagement, the opportunities presented by this growing market cannot be ignored.
Knowledge is power
A wide variety of business books, including the bestselling “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen, explain the importance of both observing and listening to customers, partners and prospects.
Social networks offer a wealth of information for business, offering critical insights that enable organizations – from startups to established corporations – to pivot their business strategies, fine-tune their products, or eliminate those that are not delivering value. In fact, an entire industry has been built on the premise of social listening, with organizations such as HootSuite, Radian6, Sysomos and others leading the way.
Using the world’s largest professional network to build a talented team
Social networks have quickly become some of the best tools for a business to identify and recruit top talent ahead of competitors. They can become your organization’s strategic and proactive recruiting network. Use them to tap into a passive talent pool of highly qualified candidates, while making it easy for potential employees to search your open positions. By using your existing employees as talent ambassadors, you have even more opportunities to showcase your brand with potential candidates.
LinkedIn is fast becoming the center of an organization’s recruitment and talent management efforts. It is driving a dramatic shift in the quality of talent being hired, while lowering overall recruitment costs.
Make the move to social business today
In today’s digitally connected economy, it’s not about finding credible reasons to incorporate a social media plan into your enterprise, but rather how quickly you can make it happen. No business wants to get left behind by competitors, but enterprises that don’t take advantage of social networks are missing out on the opportunities that will come their way tomorrow. The social ROI for business has never been clearer, with direct links to revenue generation and improved productivity taking center stage.
While the social media landscape is constantly growing and evolving, businesses that get the greatest returns on social networking continue to be those that embrace the tools that best enable them to meet their goals.
“We’ve had tremendous success by focusing on social business,” says Mark Nicholson, Head of Digital and Interactive at ING DIRECT. “It’s not just about delivering marketing campaigns, but rather, how we can strategically integrate tools like LinkedIn to drive our business forward.”