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Social media in the enterprise moves beyond monitoring

Monitoring is a critical part of social media in the enterprise, but now companies face the challenge of analyzing, engaging and acting rather than just listening.

Some companies first turned their attention to social media for damage control, after realizing that it could be catastrophic to ignore unhappy customers who take to Twitter or Facebook to voice their opinions.

But businesses are finding additional value -- and new challenges -- in more proactively engaging with customers on social media. While some strategies for social media in the enterprise still center on monitoring and reacting to customer service issues, companies now need to take a more strategic approach by bringing in analytics to gather business intelligence and discover new ways to engage audiences. Social media has become a powerful tool for marketing and boosting brand exposure.

Meanwhile, social networking inside the enterprise is becoming more important. Employees who are accustomed to social media in their personal lives are starting to expect similar tools for collaboration, which poses a new set of opportunities and challenges.

Here are some challenges that enterprises need to address as the influence of social media in the enterprise grows.

1. Engage an audience across multiple channels.

For companies that recognize the importance of gathering and analyzing data from social media, the complexity of the social media world presents quite a puzzle. Certain groups may use only Twitter and Instagram, while others are staunch Facebook fans -- and the demographics of these groups can be wildly different. Social media monitoring and analytics tools can help create a clearer picture of a company's audience and activities by aggregating data from multiple social channels. By using a standard set of tools and metrics, companies can turn raw data into actionable information to drive further engagement, direct the creation of new content and improve marketing campaigns. Using customer intelligence can even lead directly to sales -- though being able to see the exact relationship between social media activity and sales remains elusive today.

2. Analyze social media data -- without a data scientist.

Clearly, social media monitoring is useless if companies aren't prepared for the next step -- data analysis. However, not every company has in-house analytics experts, and with the fast pace and complexity of social media, it's easy to develop false conclusions about your constituencies without the proper data insight. But never fear, not everyone needs to become a data scientist. If the social media analytics learning curve seems too steep for your enterprise, it might be worth investigating social media monitoring services. These services can help turn raw data into useful insights and provide recommendations for what to do with those insights.

3. Resolve the social media records management problem.

At first glance, social media seems more ephemeral than the email and documents that make up enterprises' traditional communications, but a well-placed tweet or post can have a large and lasting influence. For companies in certain industries, social media information can represent a potential compliance and e-discovery liability. But the prospect of capturing and organizing the data that social media in the enterprise generates seems overwhelming. Enterprise content management (ECM) systems may be able to help, but they aren't designed to handle the complex, scattered nature of social conversation. ECM principles combined with nontraditional tools may make social media records management less daunting -- and more valuable to a company. For example, storing social media data in a marketing platform could help address the records management issue, while opening up new opportunities for customer intelligence and crowdsourcing.

4. Use social networking to improve collaboration.

The other side of the challenge of social media in the enterprise is internal social collaboration. Some companies are giving enterprise collaboration a makeover, moving from email and document repositories to platforms and tools with social networking features like chat and news feeds. These tools may make collaboration more efficient and productive by improving connections between increasingly dispersed workforces and making communications more transparent. However, these tools work only if the company culture supports social collaboration and employees are shown the value of these tools. Poor user adoption of social collaboration tools continues to stand in the way for many enterprises.

5. Keep a new wave of employees engaged.

To boost employee engagement, email missives and even in-person communication may not cut it anymore. Many modern enterprises allow employees to work remotely -- and this is increasingly important as Millennials move up in the ranks -- but the downside can be a lack of community feeling. Social software can bring disconnected workers back into the fold by making collaboration more fun and efficient. And social collaboration doesn't just break down geographical boundaries, but information siloes that make productive sharing difficult. As anyone who uses social media outside of work can attest, it creates connections between people who might never interact in real life.

Next Steps

Create a social strategy that puts customer engagement first

How to make cloud collaboration a welcome reality

Common mistakes to avoid when monitoring social media

Dig Deeper on Enterprise social media management

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What's the biggest challenge that social media poses for your company? Tell us here.
I would say the biggest challenge is analytics - being able to understand how to respond to the various metrics, and to tie social activity back to defined business goals.