Strategy Clinic: How do I exploit my social networks better?

To get value out of social networks you need to understand how people use them and what the benefit to them will be.

Consult with people who know the technology well and use it, writes Isabelle Jenkins, head of financial services technology at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

I always consult one of our special advisors on social networks, Matthew Partovi, a bright, young twenty-something with a real passion for social networking. To get value out of social networks you need to understand how people use them and what the benefit to them will be.

For example, PwC recently created a Facebook group for all its new graduates to allow them to get to know each other before they started work. This exploited a technology that the community uses frequently and makes the transition into the working world less daunting for them.

However there are a number of risks and key areas that need to be considered to maximise the value:

  • How do you encourage adoption and participation?
  • Which networks should you support and which should you avoid? Choose relevant forums - don't spam.
  • Visibly contribute by responding to questions posted by your contacts - people will offer opportunities, advice etc more readily if you are seen to have contributed yourself.
  • Take the systems seriously - populate them with relevant data and don't appear to be 'taking' and not 'giving' back.
  • Be prepared to represent your organisation - bearing in mind your corporate policies on social networking.
  • How do you manage risk in terms of what is communicated and the way it impacts your public profile? What are appropriate policies and guidelines? If you don't have policies on social networking, get some. Make them common sense and intuitive. A number of other organisations have already tackled this. Learn from what has been done by others.
  • How do you measure the initiative of using social networks and what are the success criteria? Again, choose success criteria that are common sense and measurable.
  • How do you join up existing tools in the organisation, and integrate new tools?
  • Creating the right environment will improve the quality and range of input and output, by way of knowledge sharing and collaboration. Stakeholders will be more involved and feel a greater sense of ownership, thereby helping to make change stick and achieve success.

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