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What are the most important advantages of social networking sites for business?
This question, to which many different answers are given, was the focus of an international study conducted by Heliview Research. The study was based on interviews with managers in 13 countries, primarily in Europe. Although the results differed greatly between countries, the averages provide a good picture of current opinions about social networking sites. Of the managers interviewed, 29 percent stated that the sites have no influence on business. The most frequently cited advantages of social media were attracting new talent (28 percent), promoting cooperation and communication (24 percent), strengthening the brand (21 percent), checking candidates' backgrounds (21 percent), improving the engagement and professionalism of employees and promoting innovation (10 percent). These results show that managers in most companies are still insufficiently informed about the influence of social media on business, and about the opportunities to generate additional turnover and develop new business models offered by these media. The possible threats to turnover and profit margins of their companies are also insufficiently acknowledged. Competition is increasing in many business sectors due to the deployment of social media.
Although general access to the Internet in emerging economies still lags far behind the industrialized west, these countries are taking the lead in using social media for business purposes. This was one conclusion presented in the International Business Report prepared by Grant Thornton. The three countries with the highest scores on intensive use of social media for business purposes are Mexico (80 percent), Turkey (73 percent) and Thailand (68 percent). Europe is far behind in this respect: countries such as Germany (25 percent), Belgium (26 percent) and France (22 percent) are at the bottom of the list of the 39 countries in the study. One exception in Europe is the Netherlands: its score of 56 percent put it in fifth place.
According to the study, business use of the Internet focuses primarily on advertising (53 percent), communication with customers (51 percent) and recruitment (43 percent). Despite the rapid rise of the new media, businesses continue to be extremely faithful to both printed and online newspapers. Four out of five (79 percent) business owners read a newspaper at least three times a week, and printed or online newspapers are their preferred news source (51 percent). However, it should be noted that the new generation of entrepreneurs (‘entrepreneurs 2.0’) primarily acquire their information online.
Making and maintaining business contacts
As stated, successful business use of the Internet requires a broad and integrated strategy, one that is not limited to twittering, creating a business page on Facebook or opening a LinkedIn account. It is essential to see social media as a component of the total strategy (organization, communication and business), in which a multidisciplinary approach is essential. Achieving business success on social networking sites requires a long-term approach, preferably one measured in years. All companies and entrepreneurs should listen actively to the various target groups on networking sites and get these groups interested by providing up-to-date and appealing information, opinions, ideas and collective projects (social or otherwise). They can do this by jointly devising new services and products and organizing appealing events and societal and social activities. They must also understand that positive and negative news about anything and everything, including companies and brands, can now reach a large public at lightning speed via the Internet. Companies and brands should take emphatic notice of this situation. Consumers increasingly base their choice of a company on its image (social and otherwise) and brand. Therefore, companies and brands that position themselves socially, and that demonstrate this convincingly with tangible activities, can recruit and connect with consumers. Adequate deployment of social media can aid this process. Here, this concerns the added value (social or otherwise) you provide. You must be relevant to your target group. That's what counts!
Instructive examples of a wrong approach can be found here.