Many businesses are opening up to social media usage by their employees as they realize a potential to boost the bottom line from the platform, says a research by Regus Group.
In a statement Regus said social networking was in the past largely viewed as personal thing and even a distraction to employees. “Many managers complained about ‘cyber-slacker’ staff wasting company time as they used social media sites to connect with friends and organise their social life. Many employers debated whether staff should even be allowed to access sites like Facebook at the office”.
Things have changed drastically. Many businesses are now encouraging their staff to spend time on social media sites. “They’ve realised they can harness their social networking enthusiasm for professional purposes – to attract and connect with customers, and project their business online”.
“As part of our ongoing research programme that investigates topical business issues, we recently conducted a survey into business usage of social networking and the findings certainly confirm the extent to which this channel is now a core part of business”. The poll of over 4000 business managers in South Africa found that 51% of companies have found new clients through business social networks in 2011 – 8% more than in July 2010, said Regus.
The Regus research also suggests that companies that use social media are more commercially successful – a higher proportion of them report increased revenues and profits in the past 12 months than those that do not use social networks to acquire new business.
“As SA companies wake up to the potential of social media in business, their marketing plans are changing: 33% of companies plan to devote more of their marketing budget to managing their company’s social media presence and activity.”
“Nevertheless, the growing enthusiasm for social media doesn’t throw traditional marketing out the window – as large numbers of companies in the Regus survey understand. Whilst 66% of companies think that social networking is an essential marketing activity, six out of ten (61%) think that single channel social media campaigns will not be successful if other media are not involved,” said Regus.
With more companies ploughing budget into social media, the online noise could turn cacophonous. Customers may sign up to your feed or be your online friend, but will they have time to read your output? How do you generate and measure a return on investment from your blogs, groups, Tweets, and status updates? How do you choose between the different marketing channels?
The answer is probably by using the skills that successful businesses have always used: intelligence, judgement, research, innovation, and creativity. Whether on TV, paper, digital or social media, good marketing and business development have always involved more than just putting stuff out there. They’ve always been about using the right voice, reaching the right audience, differentiating yourself and generating good ideas, and they always will be.
The difference now is that social media have increased the potential audience for your good ideas by a few hundred million people, and made it possible for them to interact with you as well – wherever you are and whatever you do. We’ve certainly seen this change within our own company. As a growing majority of businesses have already found, it’s a great way to acquire new customers.