Social Media and Your Midsize Business--Five Issues to Consider

By | Nov 20, 2012

When it comes to social media and your midsize business, the question is no longer whether you should be there, but how you are going to approach it. Here are five key areas you need to consider.

Where are your Customers?

There are multiple social platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram is growing, too), so one of the first issues is figuring out where your customers are and how they use their favorite social sites. IT administrators can help businesses work this out by using analytics software to see which social sites send traffic to your business website. Another option is to poll customers online and offline about the social sites they use and what they do there. The information you get will provide a good base for working out the next key issue.

What is your Strategy?

Once you know how your customers use particular social sites, then you can work out where you should be and how you can interact with them. For some sites, it might be enough to secure your brand name. For others, you might want to be more active. Think about your purpose in joining a social site. You might join Facebook because the customer base is too large to ignore. And Twitter might be a good medium for responding instantly to customer feedback. Think about the capabilities of each site and how they can enhance your business.

Do You Have a Social Media Policy?

With your strategy in place, the next step is to work out how you will deliver your message, and this is an important area for IT administrators. Getting social is not just about marketing and delivering brand messages, but about ensuring that proprietary and customer information remains secure. Ideally a policy for social interaction will cover legal issues such as avoiding defamation or discriminatory language, information security, and will provide guidelines on how employees will represent the company. In particular, it will be clear on what they can and cannot talk about and give guidance on the appropriate tone.

Is the Network Secure?

Any policy will also govern network security. Many companies have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment and employees may also access social sites via less secure wireless networks. IT administrators must include rules about permitted devices and must educate employees about device and password security to avoid compromising company networks.

How will You Monitor Social Sites?

Finally, if you want to be sure you are meeting your targets and getting a good ROI it is important to monitor interactions on social sites. This goes beyond tracking the number of likes, tweets, pins, and shares. It must also include the quality of those interactions and sentiment analysis so you know how customers feel about your business. IBM's Business Analytics service can help midsize businesses manage and analyze social data. Only then can you use the data you get to help you strategize for your midsize business. IT administrators can integrate this into a business analytics solution so that your company gets the most from social media.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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