Social Media – More than just a department?

Five years ago, I worked for one of the big four financial services firm a few years ago. Employees did not have complete access to the internet. Social media and personal e-mail websites such as Gmail, Facebook, Yahoo and Hotmail, were blocked at work. These sites were believed to be a hindrance at work and were assumed to be counter – productive for employees. This was common. Same practices were applied in my family business where employees were not given access to personal and social media sites so that they don’t waste time and focus on work.

Now consider any large corporation such as Nestle. It has an entire department on digital and social media which is located at its headquarters in Switzerland. It produces 1500 pieces of original content on Facebook daily, without even considering responses and comments. “You can’t just throw the word engagement out like peanuts at a ballpark,” said Pete Blackshaw, Nestlé’s global head of digital and social media. “We have to be consistent with a local/global tone of voice using speed, agility and small-screen simplicity.” His statement encapsulates the role of a social media department very well

Compare the above situations to a company like IBM at the moment. They believe in ‘social business’. They believe that social media is too big and important to just be a department in a corporation. It needs to be integrated with all functions                 and should be a core part of training. Imagine using social platforms to get jobs done for functions like finance and legal. IBM’s legal department uses blogs as means to effectively communicate important legal matters. They see social media not just as means to spread information but as a way to get work done.

What I see here is a complete transformation of social media utility. It started off as entertainment and social sharing for individual users. The corporations picked up social media as they realized it was then a way of life. They started creating departments and used social media for marketing and customer engagement. IBM, giving us a peep into the future, pushes to use social media to get daily jobs done. This is the future. It is where the company encourages employees to be socially active.

The benefits are vast. It helps sharing the collective knowledge of people; something which remains unlocked otherwise. Holistically, it leads to better resource allocation.

This approach also comes with plenty of challenges. There are numerous considerations to be made: what social media should the company promote, how can on prevent too much personal distraction while using social media, what information can be permitted to share on social networks considering confidentiality principals and should employees be evaluated on social activeness.

Like every new idea, this approach has its concerns and answers for the above questions will be developed with time. People should be aware of what the social media will evolve to be. 

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