Posted by: bevmeldrum | August 30, 2007

Creating Community – Using Social Networking Sites For Your Enterprise

Social networking sites such as My Space, Facebook and Bebo are the latest thing and it’s not just for teenagers.

A survey for the Institute of Corporate Productivity back in May 2007 found that 65 % of business professionals were using social networking sites. The researchers were expecting this to be for personal reasons but were surprised that many were actually using the sites for business purposes (read the article here).

I have become a big fan of social networking sites. I like the way I can easily keep in touch with people that I might not have made the effort to email or phone – it also remembers birthdays for you which is great. My personal favourite is Facebook. There’s a lot I like about the site, here’s my top 4:

  1. it’s not just for teenagers (although they remain the highest users – the first group I joined was called ‘Unlike 99.99% of the Facebook population I was born in the 70s’)
  2. you can create special interest groups – recently I joined the Social Enterprise Research Group
  3. you can add book reviews, RSS feeds (this blog is on my profile), share documents and all sorts of useful things
  4. you can do silly things like throw sheep at people – but what is great is that you can hide these things from all your other friends – great if you are trying to keep up a professional image

I think there is a lot of opportunity for businesses to utilise these resources. Here’s a few ideas:

  • setting up groups based around your business or area of expertise
  • advertising events
  • using ‘the wall’ for customer support
  • developing personal relationships with clients – you may want to restrict what personal stuff you allow them to see but actually if they aew kept up to date with what you are up, the films you’ve seen, the music you are listening to, the books you are reading then potentially there is a sense of a relationship building between you and your client without you having to do anything – they will feel like they know you better, which can lead to more trust in the relationship

Of course there are a few questions you will need to think through ….

  • which site do you use – it is best to stick to just one otherwise you will spend half your life updating all of your profiles
  • choose carefully – each one has a slightly different emphasis – My Space is focused around music, Bebo is younger, Facebook is more flexible and has more business use, You Tube is for videos, LinkedIn is used by companies
  • decide how much of your personal life you want to display to your work contacts – either think about setting up a seperate work identity or just restrain yourself from putting up the really embarassing photos.

At The Tool Factory we’ve been looking at how we can use these social networking sites for the benefit of our customers and over the next few months we are going to start trying out some of these ideas. It will be interesting to see how beneficial they will be.

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