Exchange: Why businesses need to be social and embrace new ways of working

Our latest Exchange panel debate explored the value of a social business.

With social media playing an ever prominent part in our personal lives, this morning's Exchange debate explored how businesses can utilise social media and embrace new ways of working.

The debate, chaired by Helen Dunne, Editor, CorpComms Magazine, included a panel of senior communicators; Malcolm Padley, Communications Director, Rentokil Initial, James Thomlinson, Managing Director, Bell Pottinger Digital, Andrew Williams, Director, FTI Consulting and Anthony Hua, Social Media Manager, TSB.

“Social media can bring a company to life”

One of the underlying themes in today's discussion was the difference between a business that simply uses social media and a social business.

You need to be where your customers are and it was agreed that platforms such as Twitter are fundamental in creating a positive connection with the consumer, promoting greater levels of transparency and humanity.

But social media can also have overwhelming benefits within an organisation. The panel discussed at length the positive impact social media can have if embraced internally. One panel member noted that platforms such as Yammer can foster collaboration across departments, providing employees with a forum to share ideas and discuss problems free from the rigidity of a corporate structure.

One panel member also highlighted the benefits of using social media to encourage staff to become brand ambassadors. Giving freedom online comes with possible drawbacks but the panel agreed that once trained, you have to be prepared to "let go and empower employees" to talk about your brand.

“Social media is about choosing what's right for your organisation”

The panel encouraged embracing new technology and adapting to new ways of working, although red flags were raised against implementing a social media campaign which doesn't suit the particular needs of a business. For example, blogging may be a more effective means of communication than Twitter; "Match the needs of the business with the needs of the audience" was the advice.

The question of whether CEOs should be active on social networks was also raised.  It was advised that if senior management are on Twitter they should be comfortable using the platform and have time to devote to it. Authenticity is lost if a communications team becomes solely responsible.

“How should you deal with parody accounts?”

The discussion then turned to questions from the floor. One question that raised particular interest was how organisations should react to parody accounts. One panel member stressed the importance of monitoring posts for harmful content, continuing to put out strong content of your own and ensuring that your audience knows the right place to find you online. In some cases though, it was noted that if the content is funny rather than negative, parody accounts can sometimes provide opportunities for a business.

A final question asked the panel's opinion on the use of social media automation tools. Although convenient during out of office hours, when engagement levels are high, the panel was against scheduling posts at the risk of falling behind in a constantly changing social media environment.

You can read extended coverage of the discussion in the next edition of CorpComms Magazine.

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Claire Melly
Head of Marketing, UK & Ireland

Call me +44 (0)20 3130 7424