A guide to using social media for business

Businesses should be listening to online discussions now to enable them to take advantage of social media, a social media consultant advises.

Businesses should be listening to online discussions now to enable them to take advantage of social media, a social media consultant advises.

Whether it is for work or leisure, internet users are using social networks and businesses of all kinds. Businesses need to carefully consider what how they can use them, according to Christophe Langlois.

Christophe Langlois is the founder of Visible-Banking which provides consultancy services to financial services companies about using social media. He says although it is important that businesses get their social media use right, they should get aboard sooner rather than later. "Any presence is better than none."

With Forrester Research expecting the number of people using the web to increase 45% to 2.2 billion by 2013 it is no secret that businesses need to engage online with potential customers.

Facebook recently overtook MySpace as the most-used social networking site, with 108.3 million users globally in December 2008. This represented a 168% increase in a year. LinkedIn saw a 137% increase and had 15 million users in December 2008, according to the online research company Nielsen.

Simon Kelly, director for corporate solutions Europe at LinkedIn, said the social media site gets one million new members every 17 days. MySpace had 81 million members.

Microblogging site Twitter had a 3,000% increase in UK traffic, according to Hitwise

Langlois says UK finance firms have other priorities at the moment following the economic turmoil, but the principles of social media in the finance sector can be applied to any industry.

He says it needn't cost a fortune to get started. But he warns businesses to tread carefully and complete social media projects in stages. "You do not need to invest a lot in technology and it is manageable because it does not need a lot of dedicated workers."

Christophe Langlois breaks the implementation of social media into business strategy into four parts:

  1. Listen and learn
  2. Participate
  3. Engage
  4. Improve

 

Listen and Learn

"You cannot afford not to listen," says Langlois. "The first thing is to understand what people are saying about you online. This can be done by monitoring online discussions. Use the information to help you make decisions."

A good example of this is when HSBC reversed a decision it made about scrapping interest free overdrafts for graduates after a backlash on Facebook.

 

Participate

Businesses should set up their own social media networks and start joining in with other social networks.

 

Engage

Businesses should exchange content with the community and entertain them. They should also reward them with information only available in the social network and run competitions.

 

Improve

He says the goal for businesses using social media is to reward people in the community.

 

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