The question about social networking used to be whether or not you used it. Now it is a question of how much you use it and what for.
The other brutal fact of social networking is that it is not standing still. US research giant the Pew Institute runs regular analysis of citizens’ use of networks. Between 2013 and 2016 the relevant list of the eight most used sites for news coverage gained one member, Snapchat, and lost three sites – MySpace, Google+ and Pinterest.
There are few other areas of established business which have lost three out of eight of the biggest players in just three years.
Although the big mainstream players will remain important it is likely that we will see an increasing number of smaller, niche players too.
It won’t be which social networking site we use, it will be how many we use for different aspects of our working and personal lives, and some of which we use for both.
For enterprise IT the main question about social networking used to be how to stop it, or at least control it.
But with sites like LinkedIn becoming vital tools for sales teams, for human resources and almost every other area of the business that attitude has changed.
This creates new opportunities but also potential problems for the enterprise.
You need to make sure staff understand the impact of their social activity which is linked to their working lives and their employer.
There’s a general belief that younger people are inherently better at this than older staff, but that is not always the case.
Staff need to understand more than just privacy and data protection. They also need to understand the etiquette of networking. Most people would be unfazed by a business request on LinkedIn but might feel differently if such an approach was made on Facebook.
Business must understand how staff are already using networks in order to take advantage of best practise and avoid reputational risk.
These new networks are also a vast potential source of data for your business. It can provide a way to measure aspects of spending which are typically difficult to quantify like marketing and public relations.
But accurately measuring social intelligence can benefit all parts of the business, not just sales and marketing.
To make best use of this information requires a big data project which can deal with large amounts of unstructured data. Depending on your business you might not believe there is much to be learnt. But at the very least it is important to know who is talking about you and what they are saying. For consumer brands this is likely to be a big project. For a company specialising in a smaller number of bigger deals this might mean monitoring a smaller number of niche sites. But either way this is a growing data source which cannot be ignored.
At its best enterprise use of social networking can provide almost instant feedback on what your customers think of you. It can allow you to road test marketing and sales campaigns for less risk and far less cost.
It can provide a seamless way for sales teams to contact truly interested leads.
There are hundreds of ways for your business to use social networking. The only strategy which is no longer viable is just ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away.