Social Media Is Good Business

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Social media is transforming the way companies do business. To maximize results and minimize risk, successful organizations focus on strategy, security and policies.

Greater Profitability and Success

As the Internet has evolved and mobile tools have taken off, social media has emerged as a significant force in the business world. McKinsey & Co. found that heavy use of social media correlates with greater profitability and success—though the vast majority of companies are still early in the adoption curve.

At Black & Veatch, there's a focus on both internal- and external-facing social media. The company uses Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Orkut, LinkedIn and YouTube for a variety of marketing and human resources initiatives, says Fredrik Winterlind, vice president of global marketing and communications. These tools help the company stay in touch with customers and business partners spread across the globe. "They have become valuable tools," he notes.

But it's the internal capability that is revolutionizing the way this organization operates. "The use of social media internally has created new and powerful ways to collaborate,” Winterlind says. “In the past, knowledge sharing wasn't possible—or it would take days or weeks, and involve strings of e-mails and faxes. Now workers have a direct link to one another through the MySite application."

Employees share documents, files and expertise, he adds, but social media also helps bridge language and cultural differences. Ultimately, it creates a more connected and cohesive organization.

At present, about 1,300 Black & Veatch professionals use the system, including remotely via a virtual private network (VPN). The company has developed clear, concise policies on social media use. The four-page document includes a discussion of what's appropriate to post, what's contained in a good post and the types of things that are best avoided.

For example, the firm discourages pseudonyms, requests that employees reveal any vested interest they have in a topic or discussion, speak in the first person and make it clear that they are stating their own opinions. It also requests that employees carefully consider what they post. “Social computing blurs many of the traditional boundaries between internal and external communications,” it states.

According to a recent Gartner survey, 60 percent of companies will oversee employees' use of social media by 2015. At present, only 10 percent monitor workers for security breaches. Gartner Vice President Andrew Walls noted in the report that companies must walk the line between legally permissible monitoring and a potential backlash from employees who perceive tight monitoring as a violation of their right to free speech and privacy.

Gary Loveland, U.S. Advisory Security Leader for PwC, says a social media strategy is the sum of policies, security practices and training. "There's no technology that can completely control what employees post—particularly when they visit sites from their computers at home," he says. "Social media can be highly beneficial, but it comes with a certain amount of risk. The goal is to minimize the risk through a holistic approach to security."

This article was originally published on 2012-08-28
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