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.

Feeding a Social Future

Another company that has acquired a taste for social media is Newly Weds Foods, an international provider of seasonings, spices and breadcrumbs for major restaurants, fast-food chains and private labels. It operates 27 plants around the world (including the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Thailand), and has 19 regional R&D labs with a total of more than 1,500 employees. Professionals, particularly those working in R&D, frequently need to discuss projects and seek out answers and advice when they are working on new formulas.

The company relies on IBM SmartCloud for Social Business to manage profiles, communities, microblogging, activities, email, Web meetings, instant messaging, file sharing and other tasks. "The collaboration and social media capabilities allow us to develop products and respond to customer needs faster," says Newly Weds business analyst Bob Brindza.

In some cases, activities and interactions that used to take days or weeks now occur in minutes or hours. The company has also cut travel and meeting costs by 10 percent by using online collaboration tools.

Because of the highly sensitive and proprietary nature of its products and recipes, Newly Weds places a premium on security. IBM has its own stringent protections in place, including firewalls and endpoint security, but Newly Weds also has specific policies, nondisclosure agreements and monitoring tools to keep intellectual property and proprietary information in check.

Some companies are also turning to social media for customer support. iWin, a developer and publisher of casual online and mobile games, including Family Feud on Facebook and Jojo's Fashion Show, uses social media for market research, as well as to amp up its customer support, says Markus Taylor, customer support manager. Overall, the company has garnered more than 5 million Facebook “Likes” across its portfolio of games.

"Social media has emerged as a major part of our business," Taylor says. The company uses software from Parature, along with analytics tools, to understand and react to customer needs on a dynamic basis. "Social media provides highly interactive tools that allow us to understand and get the message out to users quickly and effectively," he explains.

iWin also uses dashboards and analytics from Kontagent, Facebook Insights and Appdata to detect changes in usage patterns, as well as any rapid spike in support requests. The company can then tweak its offerings or adapt its IT infrastructure appropriately.

Accenture’s Dempski believes that companies must fully embrace social media and fashion a comprehensive and holistic strategy that spans everything from how it will be used to security issues, including the use of mobile devices. This means identifying who is authorized to use systems and content, how they're allowed to use it and what gets posted.

These rules and policies may vary, depending on internal groups or the individuals with whom employees interact. "The problem that many organizations have is that they approach social media halfway, Dempski adds. “They don't fully think through their strategy and security issues."

According to PwC’s Loveland, business and IT executives must become more involved with social media initiatives, ask more detailed questions and more fully understand the impact the technology is having on the enterprise. As social media takes hold, data and posts increasingly travel across multiple servers and systems. Accordingly, the risk grows.

"It is crucial to know what data is sensitive and have ways to fully track who is posting and what they are posting," he says. This might include a regular review of network and firewall logs, endpoint security, and strong database security and encryption to avoid inadvertent or intentional data breaches.

In the end, one thing is clear: Social media is an increasingly valuable tool for the enterprise. Black & Veatch's Winterlind says that it has already transformed the design, engineering and construction firm, and he expects even bigger changes in the months and years ahead.

"We are connecting people and putting data to use in ways that make us more competitive and efficient," Winterlind says. "Social media allows us to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time."

This article was originally published on 2012-08-28
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