With so many people realising the power of social media outside of the enterprise in their personal lives, we mustn't forget its power across the enterprise, and by this I mean customer-to-employee AND employee-to-employee. Despite the surge in social media adoption, it is the area of biggest disparity between home and the enterprise.
Why? Well, 98% of employees say that communicating and collaborating with others is increasingly important for them to be able to do their jobs. And when there are no company social media channels, employees will often turn to their more familiar tools, such as Facebook or Twitter, which undermines the security and management of the network and employee productivity.
Recent research at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise has shown that while 65% of employees use social media at home, only 32% can use it at work for professional purposes. Compare this with mobile web/email, instant messaging, presence, video calls and IP telephony, where there is no more than 5% difference between home and work use.
So while businesses are increasingly learning how to exploit social media as part of today's 'must do’ communication with the new 'social' generation, they need to act now if they don’t want to see Facebook and Twitter displace their corporate network.
It's becoming clear to me that businesses need to adopt a holistic approach to social media that considers both customers AND employees as part of their overall social media strategy. Social media needs to become a more integral part of our home and business lives.
How? Sites such as Facebook and Twitter can feed into customer services systems. We should be using them to learn about our customers and listen to what’s going on in these highly collaborative channels as much as push out information.
But while channels such as Facebook and Twitter provide valuable sources of information and communication with customers and prospects, they are not ideally suitable as enterprise communications channels, primarily because of security concerns. So enterprises must create their own internal social collaborating channels that reflect the preferences and practices that are prevalent in employees’ personal lives.
And there are a multitude of companies now encouraging staff to use social media to collaborate: Asda operates its Green Room forum for 170,000 employees, and Virgin Media staff interact via wikis and blogs.
Denial that these developments are going to impact corporate networks and communications is short-sighted to say the least. Companies should look to integrate their existing unified communications and collaboration assets such as IM, telephony, video, presence and email with new age tools such as wikis, blogs, as well as enterprise social platforms. This allows an employee to communicate through the channels that they are used to, via their company desktop, laptop or smartphone.
The employee engagement benefits to this unified approach are huge: it creates a community feel across the enterprise – both increasing morale and encouraging more collaboration – and it takes 'water cooler conversations' into the public domain, letting more people learn from what were previously private conversations, therefore leading to better and more structured knowledge management and collaboration.
Manish Sablok Head of Marketing (Northern Europe) Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise