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January 6, 2014

Welcome To 2014, The Year of Social Media Dominance

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:39 AM

Social Media for the Enterprise - A Business Case [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjX3160MEPQ]

A little known but fascinating part of British history is that during the 18th century, the king forbade colonists in North America from congregating in groups of more than 50 people (excepting, of course, religious gatherings). The king's concern was that when a large number of people got together to air their grievances, revolutionary uprisings could take shape quite rapidly.

What this lesson shows is that we've long known about the social potency of a huge crowd. Enter social media, which allows online "gatherings" of hundreds of millions of people within minutes. As a global community, we're still coming to terms with just how powerful this new tool can be. That's why it's extremely important for organizations of all stripes to make certain they have the right systems and controls in place to make social media work for them - not against them.

The most glaring example of what can be a runaway freight train is the executive who sent a short message via Twitter that was offensive on many levels. What astounds me is that this particular woman worked as - get ready for this - a public relations executive. Although I certainly don't approve of her message on any level, at the very least I could see someone unfamiliar with the power of social media more likely to make such a blunder.

Yet this woman works in the communications field. So the fact that she used ugly language over a global social network is even more incredulous. Now here's the most amazing part: She sent the tweet and then proceeded to get on a long flight during which she didn't have access to the Internet. During that flight - from London to South Africa - the tweet went viral and spread more quickly than perhaps no other social media message in history.

When she landed in South Africa and turned on her smartphone, she must have been surprised at how quickly her message was re-broadcast and commented upon. People on every continent were chiming in. And the company that she worked for, an enterprise that specializes in corporate branding and messaging, publicly fired her in an effort to distance itself from her caustic remarks.

I presume that because the company that once employed her knows quite a bit about public relations and damage control in the modern age, that it minimized the damage to its reputation. Can you imagine if the company didn't act quickly? The worldwide outcry could have rightly turned to the enterprise as well as its rogue executive.

In some ways, the near-unbelievable power and efficiency of social media is a double-edged sword. Social networks give prominent platforms to every single consumer. So it allows savvy companies with the right software solutions to tap into consumer sentiment and expectations on a level never before experienced. Instead of companies telling its customers what will be next year's trend, the customers - over the course of millions of tweets and emails - relay to the organization what they're most likely going to want to buy in the coming year.

But woe to the organization that ignores the social media tool that it has at its disposal. A disgruntled customer could conceivably fabricate lies about an enterprise over social media. Those remarks, however untrue, could spread like wildfire around the world. That's why it pays for global enterprises to have online consumer strategies that are modern, complete, and take into account everything that could and usually does go wrong online.

We're all making a lot of predictions during this season. One prediction I have concerning the coming year is that social media "events" like the one involving the PR executive will become more commonplace. And the messages will go viral with even more force and speed. It's up to the corporate world to dedicate the right portion of its IT budgets to making sure they have safeguards against rogue employees and disgruntled customers. Not being prepared in the new year is getting ever more costly.

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