Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: Social networking ultimate guide

Part one of our guide looks at the benefits of social networking for businesses and employees alike.

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are just three examples of the vibrant world that is social networking. Or social media as some also call it. Today, it seems everyone is jumping on the social networking bandwagon. There are anecdotes a plenty flying around of the business chief or manager asking "Are we doing social networking/social media?". It's a potentially very dangerous game to be entering with your eyes not entirely open, or perhaps more realistically, looking in the wrong direction. 

Having a social networking presence isn't just about putting up a Facebook page and hoping for the best. There are many benefits to social media; the trick is knowing the right way to go about it. 

Social networking has transformed the landscape of the internet over the last few years. No longer is it just a place where people can find old friends and keep everyone updated with the ins and outs of their lives, the business world too can use social networks to keep in touch with their customer base, garner loyalty, respond promptly to address and resolve dissatisfaction and more.

It's better to be involved and engaged than be an ostrich while your competitors are busy raising their profile and garnering communities of their own. 

That said, according to a survey carried out by CompTIA in 2012, while most organisations have a presence on Facebook (82 per cent), Twitter (68 per cent) and LinkedIn (68 per cent), less than 20 per cent of respondent use social enterprise tools to build a coherent strategy for engaging with customers, partners and employees via social networks.

And yet the same survey of business and IT executives found that the benefits of using social networking enterprise tools were better communication with clients (61 per cent), brand positioning (49 per cent), real-time customer satisfaction (48 per cent) and potential lead generation (43 per cent).

Desire without the right drive

Chris Lee, digital strategist and trainer, at Planet Content says that businesses need a social networking presence because, whether companies like it or not, a conversation is happening about them out there on the internets.

"It's better to be involved and engaged than be an ostrich while your competitors are busy raising their profile and garnering communities of their own," he says. "There are also massive opportunities to build advocacy, sell products and compete better on search engines."

For Kate Craig-Wood, managing director of Memset, having a social networking presence is definitely a boon.

"Often customers who are unhappy won't tell us but may mention it on Twitter or Google+," she says. "We can then try to remedy the situation, publicly, which generally results in us being able to demonstrate our flexibility and passion for customer service. We are a very open, transparent and honest company so engaging with our customers and others in this way fits us well." 

Craig-Wood adds that if you don't have a social networking presence then you are deaf to the conversations about you. Without doubt that is definitely a hindrance rather than a help.

Rather than relying on a huge marketing budget, UK start-up and e-shopping firm Flubit decided to build up a community through Facebook and Twitter. The aim was to have regular dialogue with customers and drive increased word-of-mouth referrals as a result.

"One of the biggest benefits of having strong social media presence is not only building relationships but also building credibility and trust," says Gary Dalton, head of marketing at Flubit. "It's particularly important for a startup as it means that consumers will be more willing to give you a try if they can see you are active socially."

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