April 23, 2014

Social Media and Unified Communications – How Do They Relate

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At Carousel, we often have discussions with customers and colleagues about the opportunity that social media represents and the role that it should play in an enterprise’s [wikipop]Unified Communications[/wikipop] strategy.  When most businesses think about social media, they focus on Twitter, Facebook and company blogs and consider it in the purview of marketing.  However, the tools that have evolved in the social media realm are now making their way into the business world with a trend towards ‘social business and collaboration”.  IBM recently announced a major Social Business initiative, and as they describe it:
Social business is the world of possibility that occurs when all of the energy and opportunities that have been generated around consumer models, such as Facebook and Twitter, are focused, and brought to bear on business challenges.  Becoming a social business means an organization needs to change its culture and embrace the technology that integrates social collaboration into their business processes.
So what are some of these tools and processes that our customers are talking about?  Which make business sense, and what aspects of social business may you want to consider as part of your UC strategy?

Listen to Your Customers

People are talking, but are you listening?  Are they talking about you or the topics that are critical to your success?  Every organization should have people assigned to listen to the marketplace (start with Google Alerts if you are unsure of how to get going) to see if someone is mentioning your company on blogs, Twitter, in Facebook or on LinkedIn.  Do they have a question?  Get back to them with an answer?  Are they complaining?  This is an opportunity for real-time customer service….get ahead of any potential on-line flaming.  Are they complementing you? Thank them and engage them.  These types of actions are central to good customer-service.
Now that you are listening more effectively, give them more ways to interact with you.  On-line chat and customer service solutions integrated into your contact center are proven to substantially improve customer satisfaction levels.  Providing customers with the types of

social interactions and collaboration they have become accustomed to will pay dividends both in cost savings and happier customers.

Empower your internal community

Provide your employees with new tools to replicate the “Water Cooler Chat”.  We (and many of our customers) have
provided employees with InstantMessaging tools for immediate collaboration, making it easier to locate and contact key team members.  This tool set can dramatically increases efficiency and productivity for project teams and allows for a very social experience.  If it isn’t already, this should be a key component of your Unified Communications plan.  If social media is about collaboration around a particular topic or idea, this tool is ideal for the team members that need to discuss that topic quickly and effectively.
An overlooked toolset in corporations is ‘Group Chat”.  Many businesses are bastions of “tribal knowledge” where a few employees know the answers to problems that are asked over and over again.  Setting up “topic-based” group chat rooms (think Facebook-like simplicity) that employees can join and which are moderated by internal subject-matter-experts (SMEs), can speed reaction time and build up a powerful knowledge base very quickly.

Encourage Content-Centric Collaboration

Knowledge Management was a huge buzzword in the middle of the last decade.  Problem was, nobody was quite sure what it meant.  Now that toolsets like Sharepoint have come of age, that is changing.  Businesses are having their employees provide details about their background and areas of expertise so that their colleagues can find them more easily (going back to the ‘tribal knowledge’ concept). The ability to find the right person to speak with internally about a particular topic can be very powerful.
Additionally, the internal collaboration tools built around a piece of content uploaded to a tool like Sharepoint can 1. Cut down on the amount of time it takes to arrive at a solution, and 2. institutionalize that learning and make it searchable for the next group that is addressing the same (or a similar) challenge.
So yes, social media is about blogging and Twitter and LinkedIn, but social business is about allowing your organization to work more effectively and create happier customers.  There are many ways to enhance communication, collaboration and efficiency in your internal operations that will pay dividends for years to come.  To learn more about how social business and unified communications are connected, contact us today.

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