Enterprise tackles social media minefield

Summary:While some companies have taken to social media like ducks to water, others are frightened to even dip their toes in. ZDNet Australia held a roundtable this month with IT executives from top Australian companies to gauge how social they are and how social they'd like to be.

Weeding said that staff who consider social media to be essential to their jobs are likely to be from an organisation that is more likey to be innovative.

"I think organisations that are quite innovative have got these channels and are using them quite well," he said.

"If your organisation doesn't do it, you're not going to attract the right people who create innovation. That's what every senior manager needs to consider."

Of course, there's also the risk of alienating older workers if the conversation becomes completely social.

"I quite often refuse to look at my email, sometimes for days," ATO's Smith said.

"So I'm prepared to bet pounds for peanuts that if Twitter or Facebook suddenly became the avenue of choice, I would ignore that too."

Finding the meaning amongst the crowd

When embarking on the use of social media to engage with customers, it was important to first find out what people are saying about your company, according to Weeding, which is why his company started its social media push with a listening phase.

"There are lots more conversations going on than you actually think," he said. "I find it so revealing, I wish I could utilise it more.

"The information is so rich, so powerful, so unbelievable."

For organisations where the executives have customer sentiment as a key performance indicator, watching social media is a great measure, he said.

The bank uses tools to measure sentiment and keep track of conversation, one of which is Brandtology.

"I've got daily alerts coming in when conversations are going on," he said.

He said that if someone sat him down without the tool and asked what conversations were going on, he wouldn't answer the same as he would with the tool.

Without such tools, it can also be easy to miss conversations.

"A concern I've got, is there are so many forums, how would you know?" Frankish said.

Even after companies find out what people are saying, the question remains as to how they should engage with them.

Desdoigts said that AnimalLogic is cautious of responding to commentators.

"There are people that are pretty nasty out there," he said. "Sometimes presence may be the start of an issue."

"We have a recent policy that when there are things negative written about the company, we actually don't say anything. The best thing to do is say nothing, because 90 per cent of the people will see what it is as a rant or someone who's had a bad experience. The best thing you can do is leave it alone."

He was also concerned about companies misusing the medium.

"Social media is not for companies and people," he said. "They're expecting social media being an interaction between people ... Any sort of company involvement outside of listening is seen very quickly for what it is — a commercial interaction.

"I don't think people go to Facebook to listen to what companies have to say, they want to listen to people and to people they care about."

Weeding said that Citigroup responds to those who seek it out, but won't enter into a conversation uninvited.

"Only one in 10 people will complain. So there's another nine or 10 who aren't complaining," he said. "If I see one issue on the channel, my team has to think, hit it straight away, fix that problem.

"If he's had a problem, maybe five others have had a problem."

Rocla Industries head of IT/BDM, Mike Lukban, said that it can be tricky, however, to know what to say, referencing posts that his company had made on a professional forum.

"It's a debate in the open," he said. "Sometimes it's the quality of the writing of our people that will either make us look good or bad. And that's a bit risky for us."

It wasn't a casual conversation to him.

"When it's out there in the internet, the words need to be chosen carefully," he said. "We're still using it, though we're very careful now."

Engagement certainly required careful consideration, Weeding said.

"It's not about going out there and selling in your traditional marketing way," he said, pointing to his company's dining program as an example. Customers who go to certain restaurants and pay with their Citigroup credit card get a free bottle of wine with their dinner.

Customers would post on social media about this experience, he said.

"Great brands will let consumers tell their own story," he said. "That's how we've been approaching it and ask our marketers to approach it.

"If your customers are telling their own story, it's going to be a lot more powerful."

Topics: ZDNetLive, Government, Government : AU

About

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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