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What are the challenges of integrating social media into your business?

In this post, I'll look at the obstacles that businesses encounter in fitting social media into their day-to-day activities without disrupting the workflow. 

Today’s consumers expect their brands to be social. They want to engage in a two-way conversation with organisations on their own terms and they want the businesses they like to be a constituent in their own personal brand.

And in return, this conversation makes them closer, more trusting and more loyal to a business. As a result, many organisations have seen this opportunity and have developed Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn presences with different degrees of detail and success.

However, this move to social has caused almost as many challenges for businesses as it has opportunities.

For example, in January, the newly appointed head of Comms at Ryanair, Robin Kiely, made his first significant strategic announcement, revealing he would focus more on what he referred to as “traditional” media, and turn Ryanair’s back on social media.

One of the main reasons for this decision was his claim that Facebook is a 'two-way tool' and maintaining a dedicated account would probably mean 'hiring two more people just to sit on Facebook all day’.

Another example, especially significant in the Financial Services sector, is compliance. Compliance legislation requires financial institutions to be incredibly cautious with their communication with the outside world.

The FSA, SEC and FINRA recently issued new guidance for FS companies using social. Promotion and advertising, supervision and monitoring, and recordkeeping have all come under the spotlight, and FINRA now requires detailed recordkeeping to prove inappropriate claims have not been made to a customer or prospect.

As a result social media is rightly viewed as a serious compliance risk. 

Workflow challenges

However, one of the largest obstacles that applies to every business is how can social media fit into an organisation’s day-to-day activities without disrupting the workflow?

By way of illustration, a business may well have a customer services programme in place, such as a dedicated phone line for inbound enquiries, an email address, or even something as advanced as Live Chat.

These services have an established workflow behind them, supported by years of developed best practice. A complaint raised will be sent through established channels to a team briefed to deal with the problem.

When a response is required, it will be swiftly and efficiently directed to a division that has the necessary background and understanding of the business and specific area to be able to respond according to company policy. However with social, it’s different.

Take Facebook for example. There is capacity for mass interaction on a wide range of issues related to the brand, at any time of day. This could be complaints, claims processing, change of address, accounts payable, uploading of images, and so on.

How do businesses collate this information and put them into the correct workflows without hiring dozens of execs to sit and monitor the information, 24 hours a day?

And at the same time, all enquiries are visible to those that land on the page, so how does a business act swiftly to deal with the enquiries, so that the Facebook page doesn’t just turn into a brand damaging wall of complaints and unanswered issues?

Brands like O2 and American Express have solved the workflow problem by injecting money and time into developing and managing a two-way, compliant social media workflow. It’s an effective solution and both have rightly been praised for taking a leadership position in the space.

American Express Twitter customer service

However, processes like these at enterprise organisations involve heavy resourcing, which then leads to justification on spend at board level. The spend is signed-off due to the clear mass migration of consumers to social media and ultimately, a business benefit, but it is still a drawn out process.

And because social media remains relatively nascent, there is no best practice and the resulting structures are based on trial and error. Translate this problem to smaller businesses, later adopters or those with a more archaic view on new media, and these resources disappear.

Facebook and Twitter pages become one-way company news portals that exist only to ‘have a presence’ and this reflects as badly on a brand as having a wall of unanswered complaints.

Social cannot be ignored by businesses

Nonetheless, economic volatility, expectant audiences and the proliferation of smartphones and tablets are forcing many businesses’ hand on social and a solution to the workflow issue will become a necessity as we move through 2013.

With all these conditions taken into account, you could be forgiven for thinking the challenge is almost insurmountable. However, because the workflow problem is becoming critical when managing effective customer services and protecting the face of the brand, substantial work has gone into software solutions to bring these issues together, efficiently.

There is now technology that allows a business to monitor all in and outbound information through textual analysis, interpret how a user has communicated, lock information for legal hold and then direct it into specific company workflows.

Communication has evolved and it’s now clear that businesses that fail to embrace social will get left behind as consumers’ social media expectations continue rise exponentially.

Social cannot be ignored by businesses and those that act swiftly to integrate it into their business processes will reap the benefits.

A fear of meeting the workflow challenge is no longer a valid excuse.

Michael Veenswyk

Published 13 March, 2013 by Michael Veenswyk

Michael Veenswyk is CEO at Integritie and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

2 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Matt Peskett

I would add another aspect to the reason why 'Social cannot be ignored by businesses' and that is of course SEO. As we know by now, Google counts Facebook and Twitter URL mentions and furthermore Google Plus (even though many clients will say 'Google What?!'). Consequently I find myself recommending even low budget clients to have a presence on all three, voting for content internally with staff personal accounts at the very least... it's better than nothing from an SEO perspective.

Social is a big headache for SMEs, they are smaller or niche, 2 way conversation is often low volume to non-existent and in many instances nobody really want to be social about topics like 'gas bottles', 'central heating flushing' or 'conservatory blinds'. It is for this reason I fear that social media will become full of a lot of spam accounts and fake ReTweets to appease the might of the Googlebot in coming years.

about 3 years ago

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Joe Buhler

Yes, both workflow and compliance are issues that need to be addressed but going forward organizations will have no choice than to adapt and integrate social web engagement into their activities.

These are short term issues and in quite a number of cases excuses for not realizing how customers expectations have changed in this age of radical transparency and immediacy.

Of course, being successful in this endeavor starts at the very top and with the right corporate culture. The fact that Ryanair is not intending to engage with customers on the web using social tools is valid proof as this would be contrary to their quite well known culture of not giving a hoot about customer experience.

about 3 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

Excellent article. Our European director just sent me an article about the best practices of UKs top twenty brands on Twitter. All cool stuff about real time interaction and taking advantage of current events.

I had to explain to our team that big brands have staff sitting on the channels 24/7 - I gave the Ryan Air example!

We are a SME, about 200 employees and I am the full time Social Media Manager. I update all the channels and manage the content development of videos, blogs as well as creating strategy and training throughout the company. I am at the point where I'd like to have someone sitting all day on our main channels but would it justify another salary?

Instead of doing this I am evangelizing the use of social media within the company. Encouraging our staff, mainly the technical staff that interface with clients to do use twitter and Linkedin. I'd rather have twenty of our technical staff posting on Twitter and Linkedin and engaging than being all over our official brand channels.

I admit that my strategy for Twitter is to be a broadcast channel but I make sure we are a service to our community of followers by tweeting good content, ours and third party (around 80% is third part content). We've had very positive feedback and do generate leads from this.

about 3 years ago

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Danusia

I think it can also depend on how focussed your SM strategy is on consumer engagement, brand awareness, customer service, etc. and where the SM responsibility - and therefore manpower resource - sits within a business structure.

about 3 years ago

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Treepodia

A very accurate description of some challenges with accepting social media that still exist. Second to seeing social media as one-way news portals that exist to have a presence is the somewhat far-fetched idea that social media can be used as an e-commerce front. Selling on social media is not what it's about!

about 3 years ago

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