Businesses Failing at Social Networking, Study Says

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Companies are doing a poor job of using social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, to engage their customers and employees. In fact, 70 percent of consumers want to interact with businesses via social media, but only 30 percent of companies are equipped to handle it. The grim news comes from a study by research firm Yankee Group, commissioned by Siemens Enterprise Communications.

Most customers and employees would rather use social media for business communications, but one-third of enterprises either lack formal social networking polices, don't allow their employees to use social networks at work, or are unaware of their company's participation in social media, the study showed.

By failing at integrating social networks, including corporate blogs, into regular business communications, enterprises are missing a golden opportunity to engage their customers and enhance worker productivity.

"Social media is changing the way businesses, customers and employees interact, and this creates significant opportunities for contact centers and the enterprise as a whole to leverage the integration of these tools into business processes," said Yankee group research Zeus Kerravala, in a statement.

Other study findings show the importance of a strong social media presence for business:

• Fifty percent of survey respondents use social networks daily, or several times a day.

• Social media boosts devotion: Almost 60 percent of customers say that business outreach via social networks would improve their loyalty to a company.

• Enterprises should monitor social networks for consumer feedback, customers say.

• Employees love social media. Nearly 70 percent of workers want better tools to manage social networks for business. Example: They want the ability to launch a Web conference and invite people from their social and work networks.

The Siemens news release for the study included a pitch for its OpenScape software tools, which help enterprises unify their communications services with social networks. The self-serving nature of the announcement ("Your social media strategy stinks, so buy our software") might lead some to question the veracity of the study's conclusions.

However, the Yankee Group's findings corroborate earlier studies that essentially say the same thing: Most businesses are too disconnected from social media for their own good.

A poor or nonexistent social media presence gives customers and employees the impression that your business is out of touch or disinterested in open communication--a strategy that could drive business elsewhere in the long run.

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