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Why social media matters

Rachel Sullivan | May 6, 2013
The news that music retailer HMV was going into administration was broken to the world by one disgruntled ex-employee who hijacked the company's Twitter account and tweeted "There are over 60 of us being fired at once!" among other pithy comments that concluded with a final update reading: "Just overheard our marketing director (he's staying, folks) ask 'How do I shut down Twitter?'"

Uvent is a complaints website (built by Mittelmark) that allows industry access to the complainant. It operates on the principle that "the first person to resolve my issue when I put it out there will gain my business" and while Mittelmark says it is still relatively new on the scene, he believes that sites like this offer companies a great opportunity to attract new customers, and strengthen relationships with existing customers.

"Of course, this depends on their being able to act swiftly enough in response to a complaint being posted."

The social enterprise

While media attention focuses on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, enterprise social networking (ESN) is also gaining traction, and bringing substantial business value.

Associate Professor Kai Riemer is chair of business information systems at the University of Sydney Business School, and has been researching enterprise social media since its inception.

Finding ways to predict and measure the ROI of a social media initiative is still a work in progress, with Riemer commenting, "We will have to rethink the way we measure the success of infrastructure-enabled change in organisations as opposed to more conventional tool-driven change." It might be hard to measure using conventional wisdom, but the business benefits of ESN are clear to see.

Suncorp uses Yammer for enterprise social networking, where it is breaking down organisational boundaries, and creating a united culture, according to Matt Pancino, head of business technology applications at insurance and banking services provider Suncorp.

"When it was introduced, 7500 staff signed up voluntarily, and in the last 28 days 1800 staff have been actively engaged on the platform.

"The Suncorp Group is a collection of brands and products -- personal, commercial and life insurance and well as a bank," he explains. "Our strategy is to create one company with many brands.

"Yammer enables the culture we want to create by getting rid of bureaucracy, and ripping apart cultural and geographic boundaries and allowing anyone to contribute to a discussion.

Matt Pancino, head of business technology applications, Suncorp

He says it can be difficult in large organisations to find the right staff member who can help with a particular problem, and Yammer, along with other enterprise social networks, allow employees to sovle problems more quickly and collaborate across different teams to generate business value.

At Suncorp, the 'groups' function is used to harness the knowledge of employees collaborating on projects, no matter what division or where they work. Mobile apps let them tap into the network wherever they are, while external networks allow partners and vendors to be included in project planning. And Wiki-like notes enable teams to easily and rapidly crowdsource documents and solutions.


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