Social Media: A Mine of Business Opportunities

SOCIAL MEDIA GOING BUSINESS Over 25% of the Fortune 500 companies have public blogs, 35% have an active presence on Twitter. – University of Massachusetts study According to an estimate top 10 Social Media advertisers got more than 20 billion impressions in the year 2012. One of the companies that were in the above list commented that soon people will stop talking about it as it will become such a common expected communication channel. Some of the early birds who realized the unlimited potentials of the concept in the business world and implemented it have already started reaping the benefits.Social Media is all about co-creation of the content in an interactive manner by a group of people who are connected to one another though some channel. Web 2.0 facilitated development of its platforms (e.g., Facebook and Twitter etc.) where people can create such contents, have discussions, express ideas and post other media elements (photographs and videos etc.) and build virtual communities where these contents can be shared and evolved. Business organizations can leverage this platform for creating brand identity, fostering collaboration, creating knowledge pool and finding resources etc. more efficiently.Notes: There are different opinions regarding the definition of Social Media and Social Networking, and their scope overlap. This document considers Social Media as a larger concept and Social Networking as one of its prominent implementation channels. Social Media itself covers the other channels, e.g., blogs, virtual communities etc. as well.WHAT IS IN IT?Primarily goal driven organizations are leveraging the Social Media for achieving one or many of the following objectives:

Productivity improvement

Operational efficiency optimization through collaboration, communication and feedbacks

Innovative and creative products, solutions formulations and problem solving

Business Relationships improvisation- customers, employees, business partners, suppliers and other stakeholdersMost of the internet users spend a significant amount of their internet time on the Social Media sites. That makes it an excellent medium for advertisements and promotions. Although total advertising expense on it is relatively low when compared to the overall advertisement spending over the internet but it is growing and will soon catch up. A lot many companies are using it for creating brand awareness and promoting their products.Since people interaction is at the heart of the Social Media, news here runs through the word of mouth. And this provides an avenue for acquiring new customers based on the recommendations of another happy and satisfied customer. Many companies have already started considering surveys as a thing of the dead past and use it for getting customer feedback and satisfaction levels. Interestingly it provides an opportunity listening to the feedbacks given to the competitor’s products as well that can be a good value-add; and it is free. This same set of feedback can be compiled and analyzed for getting the market trends, product comparisons and so on.Organizations have successfully created consumer communities where the members not only share feedbacks but also share ideas for improvisations, find innovative solutions and solve each other’s problems. Such communities not only foster customer relationship and innovation but also save cost. Taking a step further many companies have started getting engaged with their customers individually as well by listening to their grievances and providing a personalized response.WHAT IT WILL BRING?Advent to Web 2.0 made the Social Media happen. As its wave is catching up and its unlimited potentials are being realized it will have a huge impact the way technology advancement happens. In a way so far it has adapted the way technology was going, but now the trend has reversed and the technology has to adapt itself to the needs of this social platform. The boom of hand-held smart devices that are already enabled for the required features and capabilities is no happenstance and more will follow. Windows 8, the latest OS version from Microsoft, by design support integration with Social Media with a click of mouse.As the wave catches up organizations that are reluctant to open their gates for this change eventually will have to consider the adverse consequences and gradually move away from that stand.Here content is mostly unstructured data and making sense of them is not a simple task. Getting valuable information from this pile of data necessitates tools that will facilitate capturing, monitoring and analyzing the data. There are already a good number of products, both free and licensed doing so. But their number will grow and capabilities and scope will increase in the future.WHAT TO DO?Given the wide range of innovative possibilities it has something to offer to almost any business scenario. But due to the ethereal nature of things over the web it is not always easy to make a successful implementation. Organizations that are taking a strategic approach towards their Social Media implementations clearly get an advantage over those who don’t.Not all the businesses target it for the same results. First good place to start is putting a plan. The plan should set specific and rational business objectives in relation to it. It is important to find metrics that will measure the progress and success. It should also access all the risks involved and a mitigation plan should be there in place in advance.Understanding the underlying dynamics and managing it for meeting the stated business goals needs very specific skills. Identify the resources that will be responsible for making it happen and setup a team. If any training is required arrange for the same. If the business intends a large number of its employees to participate in the process they all may need some kind of awareness training.It thrives on connecting people and getting them engaged for a fruitful interaction. Each business will need to target a certain group of audience. There is every possibility that there will be sub groups within those audiences having different preferences. It is very important to understand the intended audience and setting up both the content and the strategy accordingly.Once the right content is in place and things start moving monitoring becomes the most crucial aspect. The planning should entail the details of what should be monitored, how the monitoring will happen and how the responses will be adjusted depending upon the flow of the wind. There are many licensed and freely available tools in the market that should be accessed prior to implementation to find a best fit. Here is a list of 25 freely available monitoring tools:http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/09/20-free-social-media-monitoring-tools.htmlCHALLENGES AHEADAll the goodies that the Social Media brings with it will not be for free. It will bring its own set of challenges and risks and they are serious.

Some risks like lack of confidentiality and privacy are inherently part of the concept. Apart from that maintaining the copyright, meeting the industry specific legislations, validation of content and ensuring the identity are some of the challenges that need to be met.

As the workplaces are opening and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is getting popular, ensuring the security even within the corporate networks would be a daunting task. Organizations would find it very difficult to control the usages of Social Media for non-business purposes by their employees.

From the technical standpoint there is very little or no integration possible across different Social Media channels. If a business is tapping into multiple channels they will need to find out ways to have an integrated view.

Resources having necessary skills in Social Media domain are hard to find.

For the business managers it is difficult to compute ROI and access the tangible benefits even if there are intangible benefits. More over a Social Media event could be potentially a dangerous thing if it backfires or a disgruntled employee triggers something that becomes defamation.

Some critiques observe crowdsourcing as and avenue where workers can be exploited very easily and made to work for free or the wages well below than the permitted lower limit.As the adaptation of Social Media is snowballing technology and business together will need to face these challenges. Organizations must access the opportunity vs. the risks involved and take the precautionary measures to reap the benefits and mitigate the risks. There is no turning back, but we need to make the right moves at the right time to make it a purposeful journey.