Top 10 social networking tips for enterprise - part one

Davey Winder talks to the experts to find out how businesses can best leverage Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et al.

social networking

You may be forgiven for thinking that social networking is all about orchestrating riots and stalking celebrities. However, the truth is that social media is a business tool that no enterprise can afford to ignore. But how can you implement a social networking strategy that actually works? IT Pro has been asking those in the know...

If your customers are spread around the globe, this affects not only what language you communicate with them in, but also what time, and the content and tone.

1. Be human

Kate Craig-Wood, managing director of Memset, has found that having a 'face' on your business account is really important, abiding by the old sales adage of people buy from people.

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"It might sound a little odd coming from a technologist who is a firm believer in the future of the cloud IaaS market as an automated, interoperable commodity market place much like the electrical power grid is today" she explains "but we are not there yet and even then there will always be people and values behind companies".

Craig-Wood also advises against the PR department approach to social media business. "Too often you see blog posts and Twitter accounts that are clearly generated by a PR department, or done generically from a company," she warns. "I think they are missing that important objective of presenting a personable face".

2. Globalise it and scale it

Any investment of resources into social media has to have longevity. To set up a Facebook or Twitter account without a long term plan would be folly.

To turn this from theory to reality, enterprises need to ensure social media presence is managed in a unified way by creating and maintaining one that is scalable, whether your company needs a global presence now or in the future.

Luca Benini, European managing director at Buddy Media, explains the business reasoning and advises to look at location first. "If your customers are spread around the globe, this affects not only what language you communicate with them in, but also what time, and the content and tone," he says.

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Then there's the small matter of analytics as your presence on social media grows. "It has to be tied to all enterprise social media channels on a global scale including applications" Benini warns, adding "so you can use historical benchmarks and adjust your activity accordingly. You have to work with key stakeholders within the business to determine appropriate KPIs, for large enterprises."

This also means making sure the KPIs apply to the performance of social media in every country and to every audience. What's more, businesses have to make sure the internal processes to manage this are also scalable.

3. Let community conservations drive your SEO


"It's more effective as you have 100 per cent control over the look, experience, SEO benefit, and most importantly the data behind the interactions" Mertz insists, adding "the best way to approach your community strategy is to tightly integrate it with both your Facebook and wider social web strategy."

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Indeed, any decent community provider should be able to expose your community conversations within Facebook as an app living alongside your Wall. "This exposes people on your fan page to your community, and in addition, when people post on the community app there's a double bonus" Mertz explains.

He adds: "First, that conversation gets exposed to your community; and second, technically speaking that thread is now helping drive your SEO."

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Because Facebook uses 'no-follow' links, the conversations on your wall aren't indexed by Google and therefore don't help drive your SEO but a community would be visible to Google and a fan page app therefore drives SEO.

Businesses don't need to have a presence on all social networks and there is no need to always follow the latest trends.

4. Embrace the conversation


"Social media provides invaluable information about your competition and customer sentiments" he says.

"How customers and prospects talk about your brand, the topics they bring up frequently and their favoured content, can give you insight into the features of your products or services that stand out more."

Social media is also the perfect modern method of providing the kind of critical feedback that money cannot buy: what does your competition do and how, what do both customers and prospects say about them?

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"This analysis may help to identify your unique selling points and ways in which you can differentiate your message and approach" Norman advises, concluding "listen carefully to, and share information from, the influencers".

5. Don't invest in dead business ducks


"It's not so much which ones to avoid but rather a case of which ones to engage with" Dighe says. "Businesses don't need to have a presence on all social networks and there is no need to always follow the latest trends. Instead, businesses should stick to the networks where their customers are active... and build a strategy, guidelines and team around managing their branded social presences."

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With that in mind, which networks are least likely to be value for money when investing in business engagement? "If I had to name some examples" Dighe confesses "social networks which are not useful for business engagements include: MySpace, Second Life, Friendster or Google Buzz. At this point, EMC has seen little or no investment by businesses into these networks".

Tune in next week for part two of our top 10.

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