Business FunctionsConsumer social networking sites are not only transforming how people live their daily lives, they are also influencing several business-related functions. More and more of these socially-enabled tools, platforms, and best practices are fundamentally changing the way companies handle data, manage customers, and perform market research. Businesses can harness the power of socially-enabled tools that promote collaboration and eliminate departmental boundaries that might inhibit innovation. We aren't talking about the need for small business to have and manage their own social media accounts. At this point, such initiatives should be a given. The focus is on ways social sharing is altering business processes at a core level, transforming how people "work."
News Sharing Services
Small businesses rely on up to date information to guide many facets of their enterprise, from their marketing strategy to the timing of sales promotions. However, with a small staff, most small companies cannot afford employees spending too much time on market research.
Comunitee is a new social sharing website that actively learns what types of news users read and then automatically shares this content with a set group of friends or co-workers. This can allow you and your employees or co-workers to seamlessly share industry news. Services such as Comunitee enable faster market and competitive research, two endeavors that demand substantial resources and are also critical to the success or failure of the typical small business.
If you only read the entertainment news, Twitter might seem to only function as a public forum for spats, put-downs, or paid Tweets regarding "I just tried amazing Product X." For the savvy small business, Twitter can be a valuable resource.
For small businesses to succeed with Twitter, it's important to remember it isn't just a platform for broadcasting new offers and product information. It's vital to actively interact with customers and any influencers that cover your particular industry. Tweets need to be presented organically and with a sense of humor in order to help grow an audience.
Companies such as Basecamp utilize the power of group thinking and collaboration on a very large scale. Basecamp is a multi-language collaboration platform that encourages people to discuss projects openly. Much broader than simply back and forth email, platforms such as Basecamp allow businesses of any size to involve a larger number of employees in projects while receiving quality input. Google docs is another widespread tool that features an inherently social design, where multiple users can input content into a single shared document in real time. It also promotes openness of communication, encouraging documents to be shared in real time, instead of relying on email and managing multiple versions of documents. All of these systems are cloud-based, so companies of any size are not restricted by time or geography in order to manage projects.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Traditional CRM systems include basic information about prospects and current customers. Email, address, and perhaps some buying statistics or other behavioral metric is attached to each customer. Social CRM is much broader, and is more about getting in front of customers in a more organic fashion. Such systems are more customized to the customer, treating them as an individual instead of just a demographic group based on some metric such as age or geography.
The future of CRM platforms will be considerably more socially oriented. Customer usage of the company's social sites will be monitored, and marketing can be tailored towards the most popular outlet. So the system might recognize a consumer as a very heavy Facebook user who ignores other services, so the marketing team will know to concentrate their efforts to that social site.
The business workforce is continuing to move to smartphones and tablets as the main productivity tool, and various tools and platforms are implementing social elements in order to satisfy this new way to work. Social networking for small business means more than just creating accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. There are new tools and services which use social learning and sharing to allow employees to boost efficiency and make smarter decisions.