This paper explains the importance of social networks and their impact on business organisations in efficiency, productivity, and profitability. The paper includes a section called ‘business collaboration is changing’ which explains changes made by social networks in business activities; overview of social networks segment includes an explanation and use of different social network sites. Business value of social networks part explains the value of social networks in the business-related bustle. The case study part of this paper explains how IBM integrated social networks into their business information system and their use in the organisation and the last section describes future trends of social networking.
There are various social networks like Orkut, Facebook, Twitter etc on the internet, which are used by people for various purposes. To be a member of a social network, the user can join a particular social network of his or her interest and can have a connection with that site. “Web technology and the mass appeal of making connections online make social networking an attractive channel for businesses that want to extend their word-of-mouth reach, credibility and influence.” (Reader poll: influence marketing with social networks 2008).
Now the social network has a great influence in the business field. A social network is a great benefit for the business because it helps in increasing productivity, demand for a product, and profitability. It also helps in hiring the correct people and finding the right market for the product. “William Baker, a professor of marketing at San Diego State University, surveyed 1,600 executives and found that firms that rely heavily on external social networks scored 24 per cent higher on a measure of radical innovation than companies that don’t.” (Swearingen 2009).
Businesses that depended on a social network for their function had a vast development than the business which did not rely on a social network. The social network has bought a huge change in the business environment. One of the main benefits is that as this technology is very fast it can inform the present changes in the business environment to both the customer and businessman. It provides daily information and knowledge about the product to the customer in any part of the world. The interaction with the customer helps the businessmen know the needs and wants of the customers and can provide their needs according to their wishes.
Thus, this aids in increasing the demand for the product and the increased demand leads to an increase in productivity. A business can exist without any risk only if there is customer’s cooperation and satisfaction.
Business collaboration is changing
“Collaboration is expanding, unified communications (UC) are enabling speedier decisions and improving processes internally, and enterprise social networking is opening up new avenues for success externally.” (Goozee 2009).
A competitive business needs rapid availability of information for the success of the business. So, for fast availability of information and decision-making, there should always be a deep connection among the business partners, employees, collaborators, customers etc. The connection among these people helps to get relevant information from everywhere at every time and this communication and collaboration are important for the smooth running of every business. All these services can be achieved through a social network. Today, business collaboration is changing mainly due to these reasons:
- The workforce is changing.
- The workplace is changing.
- The nature of the work is changing. (Zonneveld 2007, p.8).
The social network is becoming very important than the traditional way of doing activities because technology has been changing every day. So, in order to cope up the business with the latest technology, it is necessary to eradicate the traditional method of business activities.
The workforce is changing because the employees are not ready to waste their time and energy by working in the traditional techniques or with standalone tools and now the workers prefer complementary tools and modern techniques to do their work fast. If it is a big business organization, it will have different branches in different parts of the world and a business owner has to deal with all his business.
In such cases, the business owner can manage his business from any part of the world. The nature of the work has totally changed; business meetings, confidential conferences, communication with the customer and even selling and purchasing are being done online. Today most people are doing online purchasing because they are not ready to waste their time shopping. The customers get detailed information about the product. They can clear any doubt they have and they need to purchase only if they are fully satisfied. There are many benefits for the business by using this social network and some of the benefits are:
- Gain trust from professionals in different businesses.
- Encourage others and share important information.
- Look for potential job clients and job openings.
- Participate in events focused on Social Networking.
- Communicate and interact with people from around the globe. (Jordan, Kristy, Sanjida & Sabbab 2009).
Business owners can interact and communicate with people in any part of the world, which helps in saving their time and travelling costs, as they do not need a direct meeting with the customers and other business dealers. They can also provide detailed information about their product to the customers and also get the customers’ response at that time itself.
The social network benefits both the job seekers and companies requiring employees. The company will provide all information about it and the job seeker can select the job matching within his interest and qualification. Through online interviews, the company gets more candidates and they can select the best among them. In turn, the job seekers get more job opportunities. There will be information about every topic in this type of network which helps the business owners learn and get new ideas about business to improve their business. There are various methods like chatting, browsing, mailing etc in the social network, which boosts the collaboration and communication among the people for the accomplishment of the business very efficiently and effectively.
Overview of social networks
“A social networking site is an online place where a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to other users.” (Lenhart & Madden 2007). The use of such sites has increased the number of internet users over the last few years. Social networking sites have added millions of online users. Such online social networking sites help people find new friends and also share their interests with others.
People can communicate with each other through a variety of ways like emails, instant messages etc. It also has developed new methods of communication. “A few years ago, social networking was limited to teenagers at sites like Myspace and Friendster. Today, adults have joined the social networking bandwagon with more useful sites like LinkedIn (social networking for professionals) and Facebook (social networking for everyone, it seems).” (Gregory 2009).
The users have to create a profile for themselves on the social networking site. Mostly the teenagers are interested in these sites because it helps them to be in contact with their friends and also to find new friends. Social networks also help in the building of online communities including internet users who share similar interests. Any person can become a member of a social networking site. Social networks are gaining popularity because there are a large number of people who are interested in making new friends, sharing information with others and acquiring information from others.
“What makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks.” (Boyd & Ellison 2007). The social networks will have a broad range of technical characteristics. After joining the social networking sites the users are encouraged to find new friends. Even though there is no consistent information about the number of people using these social networks, it is assumed to be billions. Due to this increasing amount of people many organizations are spending their money to construct, buy, endorse and advertise these social networks.
Many social networks also provide features like sharing videos, blogs, online discussions etc. Building a social network in a firm will provide better knowledge about how information is shared with its members. Social networking services are also available through mobiles now. This helps the users of mobiles in the sharing of images, videos and blogs, making of new friends etc. Social networking sites also help professionals in various fields in sharing information, which helps them to update their knowledge. LinkedIn is such a site, which helps professionals. Thus, social networks help people in various regions of the world to stay connected with each other.
The business value of social networks
Today, the value of social networks in business is increasing at a faster rate. Many organizations now consider social networks as something, which will improve their brand name. Some social networking sites provide advertisements on their websites. Advertisements are a source of income for the companies, which developed these social networking sites. A business organization mainly uses social networks for advertising. Social networks help global businesses stay in touch with customers throughout the world. “Companies realize that social networking applications can support broader business initiatives by building communities of employees, partners, and customers.” (IDC vendor spotlight 2007, p.1)
Some companies use social networks for the hiring of employees and filling their job vacancies and also to find out people who are interested in business. “Social networking companies include Friendster, Tribe, Spoke, ZeroDegrees, Ryze, Orkut, and LinkedIn.” (Bardon 2009)
Since business professionals are using social networking largely, there is an increase in the number of social networking sites aimed at fulfilling the requirements of business users. Social networks are a good method to get more customers. It is found that most of the people using the web visit a social networking site. The sales in business are more through professional social networking sites. Social networks help in the effective running of the business disregarding distance and time. It also helps in connecting the employees better because the exchanging of information makes the relationship between employees stronger. Social networks also enable the business organization to get updated information from the customers.
Issues and consequences of integrating new systems (WWW.2.0) into existing and legacy systems
WWW 2.0 or web 2.0 deals with the applications in the web, which enables sharing of information and association among people etc just like the social networking sites. It permits the users to communicate with each other and also the users can modify the contents in the site. The new systems are being tried to integrate into the existing or legacy systems. There are some issues and consequences in the integration of new systems i.e. WWW 2.0 into the existing systems. “One of the most significant differences between Web 2.0 and the traditional World Wide Web (retroactively referred to as Web 1.0) is greater collaboration among Internet users and other users, content providers, and enterprises.” (Web 2.0 2008).
Organizations are using web2.0 technology to develop the association between various people in the business. This technology has made the users recognize and modify the materials needed for their work to be done. “With the ease of use, connectivity and sharing treated as priorities, Web 2.0 tools remove barriers that can make it difficult for people, especially when separated by an organizational boundary, to work together toward a common objective, which may include developing a better product or strengthening the relationship between a customer and a supplier.” (Goozee 2009).
Web 2.0 deals with data sharing and creation. The main issues of web 2.0 are in the case of security and privacy. Web 2.0 has little facility for examining the traffic to make sure that the data transmitted is secure. This problem will be an obstacle for data security.
The case study section of this paper includes how IBM integrated social networks into their business information system and its use of networks in the business. Social networks provided lots and lots of advantages in business communication, which mainly concentrates on groups of people to share the information within the group. Integrating social networking in the business “enables businesses to build communities and relationships around contacts helping increase sales, improve response rates and offer better customer service.”(Armonk & Murray Hill 2008). The social network in IBM helps to synchronize the communication between the parties. The social networking system is very useful in improving customer relationships, which helps in improving the value and performance of the organization.
This integration has helped IBM to a very large extent in bringing everyone together. It has opened the door to sharing ideas with many people who are working in various departments of the company. The various departments can be the marketing department, sales, finance and call centres. With the help of social networking, these people can swap their communication with customers and build an effective relationship with the customer.
“IBM Lotus Connections is social software for business.” (Lotus connection: features and benefits n.d.). The aim of this is to empower business professionals to develop their contacts with other colleagues. This social network delivers its capability to the professionals with the help of the following components. Each of the components, which are used to integrate their business, is explained below.
Communities are used to create, find and work with different communities of the people. This can be used to collaborate with community members for doing various activities. Through this, one can view the forums in which users are used for discussing the topic. “A community typically includes a related blog, discussion forum, member list, activities, the home page, wiki, files, and bookmarks.” (Lotus connections: communities n.d.).
This is a file-sharing service through which one can share files with others. “Files provide a convenient way to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other types of files with people without the need to send large files through e-mail.” (Lotus connections: files n.d.). Also, one can use a feature like a tag to identify the files easily. Also, there is an option to add recommendations and comments about the files. This will help in reducing “inbox “bloat”.” (Lotus connections: files n.d.).
“Wikis help teams to collaboratively enter, edit, and publish Web page content.” (Lotus connections: wikis n.d.). These are mainly used for discussing topics with others. One can create new wiki pages on their own and add content to them. While adding the new pages in the wiki, one can organise them hierarchically. Also one can edit the existing contents on the wiki. It can be done with the help of a rich text editor. By subscribing to wiki pages, one can easily get notifications about changes.
Profiles “helps you quickly find the people you need by searching across your organization using tags to identify expertise, current projects, and responsibilities.”
(Lotus connections: profiles n.d.). This can be used to submit the status message informing others about what one is doing. Using features like tag cloud one can locate the person for getting the expertise. Features like posting messages are also integrated into this.
This can be used to present one’s idea. Not only posting, but one can receive feedback also. “Blogs help you connect with people.” (Lotus connections: blogs n.d.). This helps one share his ideas. Features like embedding video are also used in this.
This is the shared bookmark service, which can be used to “save, organize, share, tag, and discover bookmarks to web content.” (Lotus connections: bookmarks n.d.).
Also, one can import and export the bookmarks from the browser.
“Activities help you and your team organize your work, plan next steps, and execute, faster.” (Lotus connections: activities n.d.). This includes gathering emails, instant messaging, documents and other information and fulfilling the needs of the objective of the business. Activities can be organised into different sections so that it will be very easy for one to keep track of the events. Data entered into the activity are customisable, which helps one to change the name of the field and also one can add new fields that are matching to business needs.
An enhanced version of social networking developed by Lotus is very helpful for professionals who are frequently travelling. Lotus connection now supports mobile browser which helps the professional people access profiles, activities and other features from the mobile device.
A future trend of a social network will be very popular. The current trend shows that users of social networks will be more in the coming years. A survey conducted by marketers reporters mentions, “By 2013, an estimated 52% of Internet users will be regular social network visitors.” (Social networks: five consumer trends for 2009 2009). The majority of business organizations will depend on social networks to deal with day-to-day work.
“Now it is the turn for social networking to go mobile.” (Social networking trends of 2009 2009). Most of the social networks present today are getting ready to use mobile phones. Social networking in mobile will be a future trend. Mobile social networking, personal social networking for business and social networking software are the upcoming trends in social networking.
Presently, everything related to work in an organization is accomplished mainly through social networks. Consequently, using these social networks bring extensive performance gain. It provides scalability and security. In addition to this, the use of this networking has bought ease for employees in doing the job. Many pieces of research conducted regarding this in business organisations and among employees show that these social networks have got an important position in providing job pleasure and performance. A social network is one of the successful tools in an organisation for promoting alliance and sharing of knowledge within a group of employees, which is an inevitable feature in an organisation.
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