Recent progress in the information technology industry has led to various developments, including the concept of social networking. Social networking involves the creation of virtual online communities, with users comprising friends, families, and organizations with similar interests. Theses social networking sites allow users to create profiles through which people post information about them. Whereas the original idea was to facilitate online communication between individuals, social networks have evolved to accommodate private businesses, companies, organizations, and even government institutions. These entities create their profiles on the social networking sites, and use them as a platform through which they can interact, either in-house, or with the external environment. Examples of such social networking sites include Facebook, Orkut, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
There are a number of reasons why organizations are rapidly, and firmly, employing the use of social networking tools in their activities. Some of these reasons include:
1. Social networking sites provide an avenue through which companies are able to reach a large audience using minimal resources. This is orchestrated by the large number of users who visit social sites in a day, with some visiting up to five times a day. Facebook alone boasts of a subscription of over one billion; this is approximately 14 percent of the world population.
2. The use of social networking within organizations fosters employee relationships. This is because it creates an environment through which employees can interact; they can share work related ideas even if they work in different departments or subsidiaries in different cities.
3. Apart from reaching a large number of clients, organizations can use social networking sites to get feedback. This information will enable them to identify ways to improve service delivery.
How Can A Company Implement The Use of Social Networks In Its Systems?
Whereas it is easy to create company profiles in social networks, not all of them yield the desired results. Companies and organizations should, therefore, put the following factors into consideration when creating presence in social networking sites.
1. Include everyone in the decision process. This would make people, especially employees, to own the project; hence they will embrace it without much resistance.
2. Identify the best social site: according to Brett Bonfield, the selected social platform should contain a majority of the target audience; Facebook would do for a campaign targeting the youth, while LinkedIn is the best if the target audience is composed of professionals.
3. Employ professional marketers to help with the content of the profile. This is important since improper wording would fail to attract the attention of the audience.
4. Start with a small presence on the social media: Steven Overly states that this creates curiosity to the audience, and they will keep coming back to get updates on the latest developments.
Social Networking at Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is a low cost carrier that operates in Dallas, Texas. Having been in business since 1971, and with increasing competition from other airlines, Southwest identified social media as a means of boosting its customer base. The airline created a profile on Flickr where its customers can post photos and videos of their flight experiences. These pictures and videos, together with comments associated with them, are automatically updated into the airline’s blog. This project gives its customers a sense of belonging. It also attracts new clients, who are amused by the experiences of the airline’s existing clientele; customers trust other customers to give more reliable information than the company itself. The result is that the airline gets many clients, hence, boosting its revenue (Southwest Airlines).
Bonfield, Brett. Should Your Organization Use Social Networking Sites? Signs that a social networking site might work — or not work — for you. TechSoup, 8 Jan. 2008. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.
Overly, Steven. Social Networking Sites: 10 Mistakes Organizations Make. Washington Post, 28
June 2010. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.
Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines. Flikr, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.