Social Media – The Killer App for Unified Communication?

The rapid growth of social media is forcing businesses to develop strategies for integrating it into their operations. Unfortunately, the poor attempts greatly outnumber the successful ones so far. A primary contributing factor in many failures is the tendency to view social media channels as just another marketing medium, a new way to push out press releases and sales campaigns. More enlightened companies realize that social media is more about pull than push.

Social media provides its users a way to communicate, both as individuals and communities. The really good strategies understand this and position social media as a conduit for customer communications. A recent white paper by Yankee Group explores how social media, combined with customer service and other revenue-generating initiatives, helps make the relationship between a company and its customers more effective for both.

The paper, sponsored by Siemens, presents the results of an online survey of 750 consumers and employees to identify their opinions and needs related to social media usage and their interactions with businesses. The findings support the growing realization that social media has become a significant channel for customer communications. A few interesting findings include:

• 80 percent of survey respondents believe businesses should review social media sites to see what people are saying about them.
• 70 percent of consumers want to be able to leverage social media sites to see real-time availability of company experts in technical support, billing, etc.
• 58 percent of consumers say regular communication with a business via social networking sites improves their loyalty to that business.
• 67 percent of employees need more tools to track and manage their social communications for business purposes.

Unified communications (UC), one of the most over-hyped and under-utilized technologies since the early days of CRM, is presented as a perfect way to integrate social media with a company’s operations. I think they’re on to something here. Social media just may be the “killer app” that propels UC into the mainstream of corporate infrastructure. Before getting into that though, let’s look at some of the advice in the paper on what a good social media strategy looks like.

The author agrees with me that businesses are struggling with social media strategies, along with policies and procedures governing employee usage. One telling statistic presented is that while an average of 30 percent of businesses already use some form of social media tools, another third have no formal processes in place, do not allow the use of social media at work or have no idea if their company participates in social media.

That needs to change – obviously. Three areas of understanding necessary to develop an effective social media strategy area discussed: the younger generation acts differently, customers want businesses engaged and employees are already using the tools. A significant point explored in detail in the paper, is that leveraging social media means serving, not selling.

OK, back to UC and social media. According to the paper’s author UC has been touted as technology that can help individuals collaborate, improve worker productivity and dramatically lower the total cost of corporate communications. However, despite the promise, the survey results reveal that the majority of UC applications deployed today revolve around basic conferencing services and unified messaging. More strategic UC applications such as presence and mobile integration remain low in both adoption and plans to adopt.

The paper concludes that UC has a tremendous amount of potential to change the way we work and collaborate. To unlock the full potential, however, UC solutions need to be integrated with social media. There are two detailed scenarios illustrating the potential impact the integration of UC and social media offer. One on improving contact center and marketing communications, and a second one on improving sales effectiveness.

UC and social media are two game-changing technologies. Integrating them together and using this technology combination to streamline business processes can help organizations cut costs, improve collaboration and bring productivity levels to new heights. Download the full publication, Social Media Means Serious Business, to gain insights into the importance of social media for your company and ideas on how to develop an effective strategy to leverage it within your business.

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