The Value of Social Media

The Urban dictionary defines 'Social Notworking' as the practice of spending time unproductively on social-networking websites, especially when one should be working. The discourse on using social networking sites at work is vast and there is no consensus on its use in the work place. Some employers believe that time spent on these sites during work hours is time that should be spent working, some believe that a little time spent on these sites revitalises employees and actually makes them productive and finally, there are those that believe that use of these sites at work should be banned altogether.

Some companies have been able to harness the power of social media and effectively leverage employee engagement through social networking to increase their brand’s visibility, value and equity. There are many examples of instances when companies have utilised events or situations to positively enhance their profile.

One such example is KLM Royal Dutch Airline and the ash cloud of 2010. While other airlines buckled under the pressure, KLM took to social networks to communicate with their customers.

The four day backlog caused by the ash cloud left passengers across the world stranded and frustrated. Airline call centres were jammed and little or no information was filtering through.

KLM turned to social media, employing 120 people to inform customers about rescheduled flights and answer any queries they had.  Customers were even able to rebook flights through social networks.

An example of the positive effects  KLM’s proactive approach had on its customers can be seen in the story of the woman who tweets that her baby was dehydrated due to a lack of water and receives a bottle of water, from a KLM staff who had seen her tweet, shortly after.

"All of the existing communications channels had failed so we engaged them through Facebook and Twitter," Peter Hartman, CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines told the Sita Air Transport IT Summit last year.

Not all employee use of social networking has a positive effect on the company; in 2009, Domino’s Pizza saw a drastic fall in their share price in the wake of a social media disaster where two employees’ uploaded videos onto YouTube showing themselves molesting food meant for customers.  In one video, one of the duo inserts cheese into his nose and wipes his backside with a piece of salami before placing both ingredients on a sandwich.

Despite claiming that it was a hoax and that the food seen in the videos was never sent out to customers, Domino’s faced a serious backlash from customers. Company’s sales dropped 3 percent, and the franchise location where the video was made went out of business five months later.

Whatever your stance on social networking, it is a powerful tool which, if used right can have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line. However, if a company is going to allow its employees speak on their behalf, those employees will have to undergo training and understand the culture values and policies the company espouses.

In general, using social networking sites require a degree of common sense, especially if you are employed by a company. Many companies have built a framework to help teach their employees about how to use social networking sites in a respectful way.

A great example of this can be seen in the video created by the Australian Department of Justice - please see the video below.