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Reflecting on Social Networking, 14 Years Later

September 29, 2021   Christine Wilson

Fourteen years ago, in one of our first ever issues of The Pulse, we explored the then-new phenomenon of social networking; that was 2007. Today, we reflect on what we wrote all those years ago, and how the landscape of business social media has evolved.


The Top Ten Ways Businesses, Associations, and Organizations Can Use Social Networking


The title of our 2007 article was “The Top Ten Ways Businesses, Associations and Organizations Can Use Social Networking”. The list included ways organizations can use social networking to connect with customers.


Do they still hold up in 2021? Below, we’ll look at a few of the points on our 2007 list, and seeing how they compare to today’s world.


1. Customer and Member Relationship Development


Customer satisfaction is at an all-time low, perhaps as a result of reduced business focus on actual relationships, and an increased business focus on ‘customer relationship management’ systems emphasizing management of data rather than personal connections. Online social networks allow a prospective customer or member to easily facilitate a real, human-level connection with individuals within an organization. This enables genuine business relationships to form while putting an authentic human face on the interaction, changing the perception of an organization from a sterile, faceless one into a collection of individuals who are ready to help.


Over the past fourteen years, we have seen quite the shift in the ways businesses represent themselves on social media. Some companies, such as Wendy’s, have created quite the human-like personality for their online presence. They’ve become especially known for ‘trash-talking’ other fast-food restaurants and users over Twitter.


For some businesses, a strong social media presence has absolutely bolstered a favorable public image and allowed them to reach customers. More importantly, it has become increasingly difficult for companies to operate without some kind of online presence. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, or even something as simple as a Google My Business listing, in 2021, your business is expected to exist online.


2. Customer Support (Connecting the Customer with the Right Resource)


Basic customer service includes, of course, assisting customers when they have problems or questions about an organization's products or services. However, online networks enable customer support that goes beyond the basics, which allows customers to connect with experts in an organization who have deep knowledge in a particular area.


Strong customer service is a must for any business, and social media is a great place to display your business’ particular strengths. The potential for instantaneous, quality customer service increased significantly with the introduction of AI chatbots. Expedia, for example, launched its virtual assistant in 2011. Since then, many companies utilize chat bots to answer visitors’ questions in seconds.


4. Ease Post-Acquisition Integration


The most common cause of failure, for merged businesses, is lack of alignment and understanding between individuals in the acquiring and acquired organizations. Online social networks, giving a view to the "real" individuals within the organizations, aid in the creation of understanding between both parties by allowing members of both organizations to view each other as a collection of individuals, rather than an amorphous "them".


There are a lot of great, current examples of merging businesses using social media to assist in the branding/rebranding process that comes along with this period of transition. For example, Canadian contracting companies Bird and Stuart Olson used the hashtag #OurBestBuildYet during the merger process to help integrate the companies’ public image and share their mutual values.


7. Supercharge Meeting Facilitation and Preparation


The unfortunate part of meetings and conferences is that it always seems like you don't run into the people you really want to meet until the final day of the event; when you run into them randomly in the buffet line. A dedicated online social network created before the event enables attendees to use their time at the event more efficiently by allowing attendees to determine who they want to connect with before they even leave home.


The past year and a half has certainly changed work meetings more than we could have ever expected in 2007. Platforms like Zoom, Webex, and Microsoft Teams have streamlined the meeting and teleconferencing process, and cut out the social media middle man, a lot of the time. The problems we have with conferencing today certainly look a lot different than they did fourteen years ago.


10. Share Knowledge


By connecting a social network with basic subscription technologies (such as RSS feeds, or "Really Simple Syndication"), an individual can easily subscribe to updates from customers and colleagues. This enables a straightforward way to stay abreast of the goings-on in projects of interest, as well as a way to share knowledge within an organization without additional effort. It also addresses the issue of email overload, as knowledge is pulled by those who have a need or interest for updates, rather than updates being pushed to those who may have only slight interest in an issue.


Knowledge sharing is one important way your business can establish itself as an industry expert. As social media has developed and expanded in the past decade, there are more platforms and opportunities to share your expertise, engage your consumer base, and build relationships. Better than in 2007, not all of these need to be on a subscription basis either. From articles, podcasts, videos, and infographics, there are endless methods to display your knowledge.


In conclusion…


Looking back to 2007, it’s hard to believe how much more access we now have at our fingertips. Most fields and businesses utilize social media, which has become an integral part how we work each day. In fourteen more years, it will be fascinating to see what else has changed.