Monday, June 24, 2024

BLOG | Making businesses more productive with social media

The notion that social media is nothing but a colossal waste of time is woefully misguided and inaccurate. Any company that participates in the information economy — which includes some aspect of nearly all businesses today — can greatly benefit from the constant flow of information and ideas generated over social networks.

It?s not surprising that a small percentage of companies have banned social media in the workplace given the concern about productivity. But this is shortsighted in most cases. The ideas that can bubble up from the collective conscious may ultimately prove invaluable, potentially saving employees from hours and hours of time spent in meetings.

Case in point: when Mexican cement maker CEMEX planned to develop its first-ever global brand of concrete, the company needed the expertise of as many product developers in as many regions as possible. The concrete would have to accommodate multiple specifications (which varies from country to country depending on climate, soil, etc.).

One of CEMEX’ first steps was to build a social network. The platform, called Shift, helped connect product developers in 50 countries and grew to include more than 400 active communities. The net result was astonishing: The cement company launched the product in one-third of the time it typically takes to launch a new product within Mexico. CEMEX operates two major manufacturing plants in the Philippines strategically located in Antipolo City and Cebu.

Another case study is when Citibank’s Global Transaction Services division organized a 55-hour brainstorming event to help identify new growth opportunities. About 6,000 people participated in the “Jam”, which was open to employees in 88 countries. By all accounts it was hugely successful.

The average participant engaged in the dialogue for about four hours. After the event, organizers mined the discussion to find additional insight. And as an equally valuable benefit, employees were grateful for the opportunity to have their voices heard.

The fact is that social media touches every business, whether they like it or not. Customers rave and rant about their service experiences; workers may talk about their employers’ policies; competitors might inadvertently leak sensitive information; the public’s response to a new ad campaign may be immediately gauged. It’s easy to dismiss the medium as trivial, but it’s not, assuming companies make some effort to actually make good use of it.

Social media provides massive amounts of nearly real-time data that can be used to gain detailed insights into everything from sales strategies to pricing structures. It’s the ultimate market research panel: Departments of Transportation can use social media to uncover traffic trends; movie studios can use it to project box office grosses; retailers can use it to identify merchandising trends.

But in order to benefit from these networks, businesses need powerful analytic tools that can sift through terabytes of data and keep up with the continuous onslaught of information. Several hundred million tweets are posted on Twitter daily; everyday, more than 50 million status updates are published on Facebook; and roughly 40 million photos are posted on Instagram daily.

Clearly, participation on social networks is not lacking. In fact, there is often too much information. Sophisticated analytic tools can help companies predict sales trends; they can pinpoint so-called “influencers” on social media and send customized promotions to those individuals.

Social media is not a technology trend that can be avoided or ignored. Those that embrace it will see lavish returns on a reasonably modest investment particularly in social business and data analytics tools.

Businesses that resist it are walking away from an incredibly precious resource, and more than likely, their competitors are not. It may seem like an “experimental” frontier now, but in the near-term future, it will become necessary and mandatory.

The author is the country manger for software group of IBM Philippines


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