Social Media as a Means of Communication

Written by Stephanie Lawless, Communications Consultant at Sopra Steria

November’s Digital Leaders Salon took place on Thursday 12th in Belfast.

The topic for this month’s Salon was “Social media as a means of communication”.

Given that the topic was so broad, we expected that the discussion would naturally lead us in the direction of the attendee’s interests.

Lucky for us then, that our numbers (20) represented a mix of attendees from public organisations, private businesses and educational backgrounds.

Keen to get started, we kicked off with our first speaker, Tim McKane from Novajo Digital.

Tim spoke on how social media has evolved from being ‘a’ social media channel into the beast that it is today. He argued that it is now, ‘the’ channel of communication.

He noted that interaction between young people today is largely through digital channels. They don’t talk to each other in person as most of their conversations happen digitally.

This is in stark contrast to the older generation who are being pushed away from social, deeming it too confusing, not for them.

Speaker number II, was Michael King from Cleaver Fulton Ranklin Solictiors. He spoke about how social media is now just another medium for disputes.

He spoke about how Social media can be a positive thing but the law doesn’t seem able to keep up with the rapid advances that it makes. This is in no small part as a result of its global nature.

The sources of information are sometimes unknown and harder to police, this means that people are more likely to put pen to paper (keyboard really) over the internet as opposed to traditional forms of communication.

This has been in a factor the increasing the number of cases of harassment and bullying which are always a major concern for companies. Reputations are at stake and negative publicity can have a colossal impact.

In all, Michael advised that everyone should exercise caution in using social media, thinking of the end audience and how they would want to be contacted. He also deemed that it was necessary for companies to have policies in place to deal with issues that might arise.

With the two speakers finished, the main discussion started.

We noted that one of the main challenges for companies is appreciating that when you put yourselves into the social domain, you need to be prepared to engage in communication. This is not one way, it’s a conversation.

Do you have the manpower to deal with this? And policies in place to guide your response?

A lot of government companies have cultural issues that need to be overcome. For example SLA’s for government response time can be built specifically for postal communication as opposed to the quick, almost instant response times needed by social media.

There is no one for all approach, each company is different and so should be their approach to dealing with social communication.

Someone mentioned that over 20% of people don’t use online services to for pay their bills for example. For companies not offering these online services, that means they are failing 80% of their customers-pretty shocking if true.

The Salon ended with everyone in agreement that with social communication, there is a great deal of inertia and it needs to be tackled.

I look forward to our next Northern Ireland Salon which is due to take place in January.

The author is Stephanie Lawless is the Communications Consultant at Sopra Steria.

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