Social Media and Its New Role in Business | Article

Rahul Koul, Manager, Strategic Marketing, and Kathik Nagendra, Manager, Wipro Council for Industry ResearchWipro Voice: A Conversation with Rahul Koul, Manager, Strategic Marketing, and Kathik Nagendra, Manager, Wipro Council for Industry Research

It’s cheaper. It’s more effective. Its reach is virtually boundless. And it’s all in one place. “Social networking and new media are powerful tools to help companies, whether small or large, get their message across, reach out to new customers, attract the right talent, and grow their business. They are an equalizer, offering the same opportunity to all,” observes Karthik Nagendra, Manager, Wipro Council for Industry Research.

What is social media? It is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, audios, and videos.

Although the principle idea of social media started at the personal level, the Wipro executives believe its business potential “is waiting to be tapped.” Nagendra says social media “work tremendously well for business because its fabric is both one-to-one and one-to-many.”

Companies, especially those with consumer products, ignore its use at their own peril. According to Webber Shandwick Inline Research, consumers say social media has become the most influential reason for purchasing a product.

Because social media provides a two-way platform, “companies can become plugged into customer experiences, both positive and negative, on a real-time basis,” say Rahul Koul, Manager, Strategic Marketing, Wipro. “Companies get first-hand, barefaced feedback.” He says when companies address their problems instantaneously; it has a “huge impact on their customer satisfaction index.” This is called “the super-fresh Web,” he adds.

Why companies can’t ignore social media now

Social media is now the number-one online activity, beating e-mail, according to a Nielson Wire study. It found two-thirds of the global Internet population visit social sites.

According to the January 2010 report, global consumers spent more than 5.5 hours on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in December 2009, an 82 percent increase from the same time a year before when users were spending just over three hours on social networking sites. In fact, time spent on social sites accounts for 10 percent of all Internet time, according a Nielson Global Faces and Network Places study.

In April Twitter had its first developers’ conference called Chirp. At that time CEO Evan Williams announced Twitter had 106 million registered users. It adds 300,000 new ones a day. All those folks write 55 million posts daily, he told the gathering.

Facebook reported users shared one billion items (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) a week in July 2009, two billion a week in September 2009, then a big jump to 3.5 billion in December. In February 2010 that number leaped to five billion a week.

Facebook users posted 60 million status updates a day in February 2010 or 50 percent more than they did last September, the company reported.

Globally, social networks and blogs are the most popular online category when ranked by average time spent in December 2009, followed by online games and instant messaging. With 206.9 million unique visitors, Facebook was the No. 1 global social networking destination in December 2009 with 67 percent of global social media users visiting the site during the month. Time on Facebook has also been on the rise, with global users spending nearly six hours per month on the site, according to the Nielson study.

Who is using social media? Not just teenagers and college students. According to a February 2010 study by Pingdom, 64 percent of Twitter’s users are 35 or older. The average Twitter user is 39. The numbers are similar for Facebook. The study found 61 percent of Facebooks’s users are also 35 or older. The average Facebook user is 38.

“Social media is a game-changer,” says Koul.

Early adopters: customer care and HR recruiting

Customer care and HR recruiting processes are early adopters of social media functions in outsourced services, according to Koul.

Nagendra says social media can take customer relationship management “to another level.” He says it’s an effective way to stay connected to existing and potential customers. He praises social media because it’s “swift and can at once reach out to thousands, mitigating tedious one-to-one meetings and follow-ups with clients.” In addition, social media are so flexible companies can tailor their messages to small, specific groups.

Using social media can help the bottom line by cutting expenses. Companies with consumer products can use social media to improve customer satisfaction and cut costs by having fewer calls to their call centers.

Employers can attract better candidates using social media. Nagendra points out companies can make “smart recruiting moves” through the new media since most job seekers today are increasingly turning to the Internet instead of leafing through newspaper classifieds. “Smart searches can pull out the right candidate, saving a lot of time for recruiters who otherwise would have to go through a laundry list of resumes, many of which are irrelevant.”

In addition, the Wipro executive says the new media help recruiters get a better feel for the candidate’s potential through his or her social profile. “Recruiters can match the criteria with fit-for-the role objectives,” says Nagendra.

Wipro, for example, set up a recruitment center in Second Life where prospects send resumes; it’s the place where discussions and interviews happen, Koul reports.

Social media is a good business development tool. Wipro, for example, set up virtual labs in Second Life for its sales teams to give demos to clients, so they can get a real feel for the Wipro experience. ACS, a Xerox company, also uses Second Life but as a training tool.

Tips for buyers

Whether a buyer wants to add social media services to the scope in an existing outsourcing relationship or plans to establish a new relationship, buyers need to assess the supplier’s technology as well as the talent in the offering.

Koul says the challenges for business today “rest on where and how companies will invest time, money, and resources to master social media and their huge potential. Communication strategies today are not complete without social networking,” he says.

Wipro, for example, has the capabilities to manage social media as a communications, marketing, and branding channel.

Lessons from the Outsourcing Journal:

  • Customer care and HR recruiting processes are early adopters of social media functions in outsourced services.
  • Companies with consumer products ignore its use at their own peril. Consumers say social media has become the most influential reason for purchasing a product. Social media create a super-fresh Web because companies can learn about problems and address them immediately.
  • Corporate communication strategies are not complete today without social media.
  • Companies have to determine how they will tap social media’s potential, which includes the decision to outsource.

About the Wipro Council for Industry Research:

The Wipro Council for Industry Research comprising of domain and technology experts from the organization aims to address the needs of customers by specifically looking at innovative strategies that will help them gain competitive advantage in the market. The Council in collaboration with leading academic institutions and industry bodies studies market trends to equip organizations with insights that facilitate their IT and business strategies.

For more information please visit www.wipro.com/industryresearch.

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