Corporate use of social networks

As Web 2.0 technologies increase in popularity, their use on the corporate scene is rising too. Below are some examples of this trend in action.

Starbucks – This company  has been harnessing the collective intelligence of their customers through a social network which accepts, amongst other things, suggestions for new or improved products and practices. Users can submit comments in three categories – ‘Product’ ideas (about the food/drinks/music/merchandise Starbucks sells), ‘Experience’ ideas (about sales process/locations and atmospheres at the Starbucks stores) and ‘Involvement’ ideas (about how to engage and interact with the community of Starbucks patrons). Not only do these customer submissions help Starbucks improve their business and align it more closely to what its customers really want, it creates consumer buy-in and sense of loyalty/belonging through particular attention to strengthening its surrounding social network of shoppers. One risk of this approach is that the customers interacting on the social network don’t get along. I took a look at one of the ideas being discussed and it became apparent that people were getting angry at each other’s posts and attitudes. Arguments were held through the commenting system and posted material became sarcastic and offensive. The outcomes of this and similar incidents were but it is conceivable that the people involved would boycott the site or even Starbucks itself as a result. This threat could perhaps be managed through staff moderating the site but removing control from the customers in this way might also damage the site and company by denying people free speech.

Starbucks also offers options for people to share their content through Facebook, Twitter and many other existing social networks but still requires its users to create an account with Starbucks itself in order to submit content.

Visa – Visa has launched the ‘Visa Business Network‘, a free social network where small businesses can maintain a profile and connect/interact with each other. Supported functionality includes giving and receiving advice on meeting specified goals, mentoring other business people and holding conversations. It also supports blogging and integration with Twitter, which helps to broadcast updates to a larger audience. This network is made available through Facebook, thus tapping into the vast Facebook community to attract users. By allowing users to sign up through Facebook, Visa has simplified the joining process which might prevent abandonment at that point by people who don’t want to go through a lengthy process or volunteer their data to yet another site.

Jeep – has a social network where Jeep owners can post Jeep-related photos. Once photos are uploaded, viewers can see when the photo was taken and who took it. Clicking on the photo links back to the Flickr page for that photo. Commenting is also allowed but is done through Facebook, meaning that would-be commenters have to sign in to Facebook to leave messages. Viewers can also share the photo through Facebook, Twitter and Delicious and ‘like’ it for Facebook. By using these existing social networks, Jeep has tapped into huge base of users but runs the risk of excluding key functionality from people who aren’t already members these networks.

As indicated above, there are advantages and disadvantages for making use of existing social networks instead of creating a new one. Companies like Visa and Jeep have access to an existing group of users but are to some degree ‘off limits’ from people who don’t already belong to Facebook. Approaches like Starbucks’ open up the network to people who don’t want to have to join Facebook/other social networks.

Ideally, networks should offer both sign up methods to reach more people. It is also desirable for businesses to offer options to include their content on social networks (such as a ‘like’ option for Facebook users).

If you’re interested in more examples of companies making use of social technologies, I found this link.

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6 Responses to “Corporate use of social networks”

  1. Hisham Beshayer Says:

    Great post!
    Your article was very informative, and you provided great examples. The text was perhaps a little long for a blog post (perhaps using shorter paragraphs) and was a bit hard to read as a result. But none-the-less you provided a very well researched and written article.

  2. amielazim Says:

    That’s exactly true with what you said about Jeep and Visa. When it comes to using web 2.0 tools, companies should realize that it’s vital to take advantage of all the tools. It’s no rocket science, having a variety of web 2.0 tools in your organization might be hard to maintain, but it’s worth the trouble because you’ll be able to reach out to more users. As the saying goes, the more the merrier. That said, it also enhances their opportunities to gain more customers and i personally think that Starbucks has done that very well.

  3. abdalzizalredainy Says:

    I really like the information’s and examples that you put in your blog. The Jeep example I really like it the most coz it’s wonderful if people have the same interest in something and the company that produce this product gives the fans the ability to share what they got. Good information’s and blog.

  4. Snowden Tapper Says:

    The Starbucks example was great… They have really implemented a proper Web 2.0 platform/strategy to increase customer satisfaction.

    I also agree with Amielazim, companies definitely need to take advantage of Web 2.0 tools in their core business practices.

  5. Avishay Says:

    Interesting read, I like the part you written about Visa simple and concise just like most other organisations uses the integration of facebook and twitter which is useful the fact Visa has simplified the process of maintaining a profile is even better for an enterprise use.
    Great blog.

  6. bianyang Says:

    Good work.
    I have done some research about how enterprises adopt web based applications. Social networking tools including Wikis, blogs and Facebook take lead in companies. Enterprise social networks serve to expand an organization’s ability to filter, funnel, and analyze the growing amounts of available information, to better determine what is useful to the execution of the business.

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