Friday, August 03, 2012

Social Media Improving Small Business Collaboration

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By now, most businesses have recognized the value of social media and how it can be used to improve a business's visibility while expanding its reach to a global consumer base. What’s less embraced is how social media can have positive effects within a business's operations and employees by improving workplace morale and team communications.

But there are added risks with using social media. Because each employee has a public line of communication accessible by the rest of the world, social media can be a liability with certain employees -- particularly those disgruntled with their role in the business.

Social Media Improving Business Collaboration

Even so, many small businesses are finding that social media can be an excellent tool supporting collaboration. The key is to understand how to use—and not use—those virtual tools to create positive results for your company.

Strengthen team cohesiveness and communication

Not every employee is always on location at the company's office. In fact, some workers spend most (if not all) of their time outside the office working from home or another remote location. Creating a team mentality is critical to encouraging productivity and collaboration, but this has traditionally been a difficult goal to accomplish with workers in different locations.

Social media has eliminated that challenge for businesses, making it easier to develop relationships between workers even when they’re not in the same location. Those team-building communications can be conducted efficiently and inexpensively over free social networks.

Improve brand visibility and transparency among its consumer base

Consumers like to know all they can about the companies that receive their business. Social media provides a window into operations. Not only are marketing materials, company news and other information easily conveyed to an audience through social media, consumers are able to follow the activity of individual employees within the business to learn more about how they work and interact with one another.

Employees with social media profiles can also serve as mini-marketing machines of their own, engaging with consumers and with other employees on a platform that's visible to anyone.

Drawback: social networks lack security

As a communication tool, social media is excellent. But when it comes to collaboration, its functionality can be limited because of the minimal security featured on those sites. Social networks are designed to publish news, commentary and information to the masses, and while some collaborative projects can benefit from this, such as consumer feedback, projects requiring a little discretion aren't as easily carried out via these public forums.

Social networks don't offer file-sharing or other features typically needed for collaborations between employees working in remote locations -- those solutions are more easily found with file-sharing programs that utilize cloud computing. But even more importantly, many collaborations are better conducted away from the public eye, where even direct competition can observe everything being published by your employees. While transparency has its obvious benefits, there’s a point where it can be detrimental to the business, and employees need to know where that line is.

When it comes to using social media as a collaborating tool, the risks and drawbacks are easily outweighed by the benefits. And most of the negative implications are easily avoided through proper training and education of employees. By understanding the effects of social media activity and regulating its use, businesses should be able to harness these online platforms to become more efficient and productive. And by encouraging employee interaction, they'll be creating a more hospitable and rewarding work environment.


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