We have all witnessed the explosion of the internet in recent years and how it has heralded a new web 2.0 era of communication. Social media tools like blogging, micro-blogging, social networking, podcasting, video distribution, event coordination tools, wikis and photo sharing sites are fast transforming the business landscape. They allow businesses to communicate, educate and share information directly with existing and potential customers.
As the use of Social Media Platforms (SMPs) becomes ever more important, I would like to focus on the economical relevancy of these platforms to a business organization. Considering that information is central to any business, I believe, the main value of SMPs lie predominantly in their ability to provide some mixture of reliable and new information. In this context, I would like to refer to a survey of SMP usage across around 20 Silicon Valley firms.
The survey revealed that most firms used a variety of both internal (ISMP) as well as external/public (ESMP) social media platforms. While ISMPs are mostly limited to large firms, the use of ESMPs was nearly universal across all survey participants with an overwhelming 90% using them for their business. The most popular ESPs were Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In, in that order. However, pre-authored content platforms (blogs, multimedia content) were reported as more valuable as they enabled greater control of information (despite being less collaborative) and flexibility of delivery, and are used primarily for building awareness and promoting the firm's products and services. This finding clearly points out that sites that offer multiple, complementary platforms are likely to be more valuable than sites that offer fewer or non-complementary platforms and are thus preferred by firms.
According to my analysis of social media trends, recruitment can benefit greatly from external social media. However,outward facing business functions - such as competition analysis, supply-chain management and building strategic alliances - do not really benefit from external social media. On the other hand, while pre-authored content was seen as valuable in ISMPs, wikis were also an important aspect and used for building project teams, project management and problem solving. I would like to point out though that both internal and external SMPs were mainly viewed as positive contributions to a firm's business.
Going ahead, I expect that the proliferation of interactive devices like smartphones, tablets, and gaming devices along with rapid technological advances will further drive the integration of social media into everyday use. While social media benefits for businesses are yet to pick up, I find that organizations will continue to embrace social media more tightly as technology around it matures and enhances the experience. With SMPs holding the promise of bringing businesses closer to end-customers, employees, vendors and suppliers, I anticipate the impact of social media on the future of business will be felt enterprise-wide, offering fresh opportunities for business transformation in the near future.