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Social business benefits include increased revenue, expert says

Social business benefits are undeniable, says an AIIM expert. But companies can safeguard against risks by conducting a social business assessment.

LAS VEGAS -- Businesses -- and the records managers who are the custodians of corporate information -- have to acknowledge the benefits of social business whether they like it or not. That was the key message at the session, "How to Conduct a Social Business Assessment" at the ARMA 2013 conference this week.

The reason we're doing this is because it supports the business.

Jesse Wilkins, Association for Information and Image Management

Data indicates that companies have used social media to improve all sorts of business outcomes, including boosting market share and revenue, reducing costs and improving communication, according to Jesse Wilkins, director of research and development at the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM).

Wilkins urged records and compliance managers not to stand in the way of corporate social media efforts, which are likely to happen with or without records managers' approval.  "The better way is to find out the right way to do this," he said.

While attendees recognized the irrefutable tide of social business, they also worried about adequately controlling this information. "How can we ensure that what employees are doing with their personal accounts doesn't have negative consequences for our business?" queried a session attendee from Syracuse, N.Y.

Conducting a social business assessment

The best safeguard against rogue employees, even those with good intentions but poor policy understanding, is to conduct a rock-solid social business assessment.

The assessment involves a variety of steps that allow companies to take inventory of the social media outlets they use. The effort should focus on consolidating and shutting down inactive accounts, investigating third-party accounts that can do harm to the company, and training employees on proper policies and practices. Wilkins' presentation focused largely on how to do an inventory of social media platforms that are in use and how to control rogue employees' use of these platforms. Here are some of the steps that Wilkins raised in getting employees on the right track with social media platform use that will benefit the company.

  1. Do an internal review. Ask how employees are using social media and gather information from within the company on social presence.
  2. Do an external review. Go to Facebook, LinkedIn pages and other outlets to find company mentions and pages. In the case of AIIM, for example, search for phrases like "document management," "content management" and "ECM."
  3. Do an anonymous survey. Gather data on how the organizations make use of social channels without slapping employees on the wrist for social media use. Find out which of these sites help the business most.
  4. Use search engines. Use Google and Bing to look for company pages on social media platforms. Google can set up alerts, so you don't have to frequently recreate the search.
  5. Vet and validate. Review the accounts found in your inventory to learn which accounts are active and so on.

Why social business makes sense for business

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Avoiding social media pitfalls

For companies that remain hesitant about social media platforms, Wilkins suggested using internal collaboration tools such as SharePoint, Jive and Yammer before moving to customer-facing websites. "Social doesn't have to be the Wild, Wild West of Facebook and Twitter. You can bring it inside the firewall."

Wilkins emphasized that social media use cannot be easily controlled given the bring your own device trend. Smartphones are everywhere, and locking down employee participation isn't very realistic. "It's no longer something we can control," Wilkins said.

Finally, Wilkins reminded attendees to focus on the value rather than the novelty of social business. "The reason we're doing this is because it supports the business," he said.

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