Businesses should not be afraid to experiment with social media to reach out to their customers and partners, says analyst firm Ovum.
Richard Edwards, principal analyst at the firm, says social media services allow firms to build relationships with customers with little financial risk, as the cost model does not require the kind of up-front investment you would have made in the past.
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"If you look at the enterprise market, in the past you have had a lot of utopian visions and they have failed to deliver. Part of that is you have put in huge amounts of infrastructure. Now you pay a monthly fee. The barrier to experimentation in terms of technology is low," he said.
Speaking in advance of a presentation at the Ovum Congress in May, Edwards says social media services, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, will improve the productivity of the workforce by helping them find information they need to do their jobs more effectively.
"CIOs have automated everything that can be automated, but for any organisation with employees, it is about getting people to work more effectively," he said. "One of the biggest costs is the workforce. Information work is probably 80% or 90% of your employee costs. We have all heard figures on the amount of time people spend searching for information."
Businesses can use social media in imaginative ways to reach out to their customers and business partners more effectively than with traditional forms of communication.
"Over the weekend I happened to tweet how useful it would be if my mobile phone provider offered synchronous communication with their helpdesk," he said. "They kept missing me, phoning me up when I am busy. After my tweet they direct messaged me, saying 'can we help?'."
Services such as Yammer, a version of Twitter for businesses, allow organisations to communicate with their workforce through short blogs or mobile phone messages.
"If you are providing a new product, you can use YouTube to provide video-based tutorials," he said.
"If you have a field-based workforce, sending a weekly or monthly podcast ensures you can reach them more effectively than with a letter through the post or an e-mail."
Businesses should think how they can use social media to communicate from the business to the customer, from business to employee, and from business to business.
"As corporate IT people, we often look at things in the consumer world and think that's novel, that's fun, but don't think there is something in there that we can use ourselves, " he said.
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