Panel: Avoid social and you risk missing business growth opportunities

Panellists from ANZ, Twitter and LinkedIn discuss why not seeing social media as a new way of working is a bigger risk than any real-time brand reputation issue

Brands and executives that haven’t yet realised social media as a new way of working or seen its potential beyond customer support could be missing out on an opportunity to help their organisations grow.

That was the view shared by panellists discussing the brand risk and reputation issues associated with social media during the Social Business conference at this year’s CeBIT event.

For ANZ Banking Group head of digital and social media, Amanda Gome, social media has changed the game around customer engagement, which in turn is transforming the way organisations need to function.

“Social media is where your customers get information, and that has changed everything,” she said. “It’s been around for an incredibly short time to trigger such as powerful change from how we go from the producer to the consumer, and critical mass - it’s only been 10 years really. I think it’s a once-in-a-humankind shift that’s bigger than the industrial revolution; it’s certainly taken place over a more concentrated period of time. We’re really at the start of it, and just starting to really explore the possibility of it.”

While many people are still talking about social media in terms of channels, Gome described it as a “completely new way of working” impacting every part of a company’s operations.

“The great thing is it impacts things in a really positive way. A lot of change is hard and awful, but when we start people on the social media journey we say to them that they’re actually going to have fun. And they’ll email us back, saying how much it’s transformed their lives in so many ways,” she commented.

ANZ’s own CEO, Michael Smith, has just embraced Twitter as a communication channel and is now encouraging the whole financial services organisation to become more open and transparent with customers through social channels.

To cover any potential brand or reputation risks in its endeavours, Gome said ANZ had set up a comprehensive social policy that gave staff guidelines on how to use social channels for business process and customer engagement, while empowering them to have those conversations.

“The most important thing was training our executive experts,” she said. “We started with a program to tackle female leaders in the business, and trained them to be social media advocates, talking and sharing their expertise with stakeholders. Now we’re extending this to the male staff.”

LinkedIn sales and solutions director, Mike Dick, said too many organisations are still missing the opportunity that exists with social media to help their business grow.

“Recent research from IBM indicated that north of 80 per cent of sales prospects that you want to reach for your organisation should be reached through social media,” he said. “The big risk for organisations is not realising that potential and capitalising on the opportunity presented by social media. That’s the bigger risk in my mind [than brand reputation] – if we don’t advertise and speak to customers where they want to be, then how is your business going to grow?”

While panellists agreed several organisations are still fearful of putting their brand voice out into the social media world, Dick believed hesitancy was also driven by confusion over value and ROI.

“It’s not necessarily a fear of using this channel, but more about how you integrate that into your business,” he claimed.

According to Twitter sales director, Shana Allen, a lack of education on knowing where to start, along with resource limitations, has made jumping into social a daunting prospect for many organisations.

“That education process is a key focus for us with brands, even before we look at revenue and what we can bring in and how we can connect a brand with consumers,” she said. “So we start at a smaller scale, with a content calendar and just doing organic tweets, then gradually helping that brand connect to things outside of that and in the every day, specific campaign moments, and so on.

“For many businesses, the education and resource are the scary parts of social media. But for a lot of users and consumers, if they don’t see a brand responding to them, that brand may miss out. It’s also the opportunity for another brand with a good listening process to step in and offer something... to that consumer.

“Users are getting more used to having one-to-one conversations with brands so it’s a very personal connection.”

Allen added the better the content being delivered via social platforms, the better the person or brand will do on the social platform.

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