Over half of employers are using social media for internal comms

You can either be shocked at how few or amazed by how many employers are now using social media to build a community among their employees. It’ll no doubt depend on how much or how little you use social media in your private life. A new survey from Towers Watson has revealed that globally, just over 50% of bosses are connecting to the workforce through a variety of social media tools including instant messaging.

However, there seems to be little consensus on what the best tools are and there’s a sense that employers are still feeling their way down a dark corridor. Only 30% to 40%, according to how you read the data, saw most of the tools as being highly effective while just 40% could say with confidence that it was cost effective.  However, these are still high enough percentages and suggest the trend is upward. It’s hard to believe that companies will be able to put the social media genie back in the bottle now that it’s out.

Kathryn Yates and Towers Watson explained:

As today’s workforce evolves, we know from our research that the growing number of remote workers are looking for clear communication, to be treated with integrity, and want coaching and support from afar. For employers to effectively engage and retain remote workers, they will need to connect them with their leaders, managers and colleagues. We think social media tools can be a real help in making this connection

Instant messaging and streaming video were seen as most effective by those who use those tools while out of the 53% that use social networks – only 29% could state that it was effective. Interestingly both leadership and employee blogs were used by half of those surveyed with about a third saying they made an impact.

How Twitter may really start influencing buying decisions

Let’s begin by looking at Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher. Anybody engaged with Twitter is in awe of the 13.7m followers that Kutcher has amassed – except for American professor Sinan Aral that is. The NYU Stern School of Business assistant professor wrote in the latest Harvard Business Review that he asked one of his classes how many of them followed Kutcher. Sure enough, nearly all his students raised their hands. Then he asked – but how many of you have actually ever done something because Kutcher suggested it? The hands collapsed into laps.

This made Aral wonder if, for all the hype about social marketing and the role of online influencers, corporate marketeers were wasting their time hoping that online chatter would do their selling for them. Worse, Aral suspects that the influence of friends and peer groups – who would flock together anyway as like minded folk do – is being mistaken for real, tangible social media influence. He thinks the influence of social media is way overstated.

Marketers are spending millions on social media strategies to that end; they’re working to gather followers, and they’re using “influence scores” devised by companies such as Klout and PeerIndex to try to understand how much leverage each follower exerts. Over time they hope to shift away from traditional, expensive, inefficient methods of mass advertising toward peer-to-peer, word-of-mouth campaigns.

So, are the marketing people who have embraced social media been fooled by appearances? At this point in time, he may have a point but things are about to change. And it’s the CEO of the aforementioned Klout – Joe Fernandez – who has woken up to the underlying potential of Twitter to influence. His company has up to now given Tweeters an influence score that boosts their ego and, it’s been reported, is used by some employers to measure potential recruits online impact. But Fernandez wants to go much further than that.

His plan – recognising the sort of criticisms leveled by the likes of Sinan Aral, is to directly link social media influencers to consumers at the point at which they’re making a buying decision. From this month, Klout is going to become a service where Tweeters can ask an expert when they need their advice most. As Fernandez explained to Wired:

In about a year from now, I hope that when I’m at Home Depot, I can pull out my phone, get an influencer in real time, and have a two-minute conversation about what to buy.

This will take Tweeters and Facebook users beyond their immediate circle of friends and family to informed and expert opinion wherever it can be found. Posting questions online isn’t new – Google and Quora have been putting up random and existential questions on life, the universe and everything for a while. But it’s the targeted and timely linking of expert to consumer that could be revolutionary. Klout will have a database of gardening, healthcare and cookery experts that could be segmented to very narrow areas of expertise over time. For corporates, this will mean having to monitor the emergence of uber-influencers who consumers will be able to engage with in real time.

So just when the skeptics were about to stick the boot into Twitter – the world of social media has recognised the problem and devised a smart solution.

Why CEOs should adopt social media – a helpful graphic from MBA Online

 

The social CEO – fascinating insight into how consumers and employees increasingly expect the company chief to be engaging with social media.

 

SEC social media announcement – more reaction

As we told you – the SEC has decided that companies can make their financial announcements through social media channels.  This is a major step forward in investor relations and broadens the use of social media beyond sales and marketing to core communications. It also puts CEOs firmly on to Twitter and Facebook in the longer term.

So – what’s the reaction been since last week’s SEC bombshell?  Well, Motley Fool noted that the Facebook share price jumped 5% and interpreted that as the markets giving this development a big thumbs up. It also observed that Facebook users may soon have to get used to seeing more updates from companies than from their own friends.  Other commentators cautioned companies to make sure they adhere to the SEC guideline that investors must be told what social media tools are going to be used to ensure a level playing field. And the US law firm Porter Wright blogged that companies shouldn’t abandon press releases and conference calls to use social media channels exclusively.

One thing is certain – the genie is out of the bottle!

SEC announcement could mean more CEOs on Twitter

CEOs not using social media today may need to in the future after a landmark ruling from the SEC last week. The face of IR is changing and the ruling may accelerate a process that’s already been underway. So what has the SEC done? It’s decided that companies can make market sensitive announcements on Twitter and Facebook.

The SEC was spurred into its deliberations by online movies on demand company Netflix.  CEO Reed Hastings had shared information with investors about the company’s growth prospects on Facebook. This led to a clamor for reform that the SEC has now responded to. Last week, it announced that far from stamping out this practice, it believed that using Twitter and Facebook could be seen in a positive light.

“We do not wish to inhibit the content, form or forum of any such disclosure, and we are mindful of placing additional compliance burdens on issuers. In fact, we encourage companies to seek out new forms of communication to better connect with shareholders.”

Under the SEC’s Fair Disclosure Rules, companies will have to inform shareholders through their website that they intend to use social media to provide information. The SEC’s concern is that shareholders who are using Twitter should  not get an unfair advantage over those who are not. So companies need to direct everybody to relevant announcements on social media.

This is a major step forward in the increased use of social media for internal communications and investor relations – as well as sales and marketing. Already, commentators are expecting the majority of investors in the future to access information this way as opposed to a press release or SEC filing. One effect of this will be an increased engagement by CEOs with social media as it becomes a primary channel for reaching out to global investors.  Social media demands a face behind the message and the face that matters most is the CEO.

Hootsuite blogged: “As investors make the transition to social media as a primary source of business information, putting a chief executive as the face behind this information is an easy way to reassure investors that the information is accurate and important.”  Very shortly after the SEC ruling, Bloomberg announced that Twitter feeds would be fully integrated into its service for the first time.