Social media: Biggest risk is ignoring it

By Vikram Barhat | April 20, 2012 | Last updated on April 20, 2012
3 min read

Over 70 million business professionals are on LinkedIn, 80% of consumers say they want to use social media to engage companies, and 20% of all Twitter communication contains a reference to a product or service.

The argument for social media, however, goes beyond its strength in numbers. Its growing incursion into the world of business, and indeed into everyday life of consumers, predicates urgency with which organizations must consider making social media part of their overall business strategy.

A discussion around the benefits of social media, therefore, assumes even greater relevance and significance for the insurance industry that is facing unprecedented set of challenges.

Social media is a great way to add value to customer relationship, said Wendy Arnott, vice-president social media and digital communications, TD Bank Group, speaking at the CRC, in Toronto.

“Social media provides new and better ways to connect with customers [and] collaborate with employees,” said Arnott.

The introduction of social media capabilities within an organization creates an opportunity to increase awareness of an organization and improve brand awareness, she added.

Engagement of this nature has other potential benefits: it affords businesses the ability to gain insights about customers and develop targeted marketing activities. Further, the ability to monitor both positive and negative feedback from customers can lead to enhanced customer loyalty and new business.

To that effect, said Arnott, the bank has started its social media initiative, named Social Business, with the expressed purpose of listening to their customers’ views and experiences.

“Today we have 20 people who operate seven days a week, from 6 am to 11 pm, they are always listening to any references to TD in any social media. A lot of it comes from Twitter but it may also show up on Facebook [and other sites].”

The underlying policy is to reach out almost always; a business philosophy that can easily be replicated by others.

While it is a good policy to respond to positive comments, it is more meaningful to reach out to those who are dissatisfied.

“Social [media] has to be integrated into everything you do. We always talk about weaving it into the fabric of [the organization]. There’s real value in this,” she says.

However, social media programs can and often do introduce risks that an organization needs to be aware of. But instead of sidestepping social media, companies should try to mitigate that risk through their corporate policy, governance programs and management practices.

“I’ll be the first to say there’s risk, but I’ll also say there’s a big risk in not getting started,” said Arnott. “We have consistently focused on our values and worked very hard to mitigate the risk. There are risks in everything you do but the risks we are seeing are not very different from other businesses.”

Arnott says organizations need a dedicated team committed to capturing knowledge and insight from many sources, giving a quick sense of changes in customer mood and employee sentiment.

“Somebody has to wake up everyday and think social business and [find ways] to take it to the next level.”

Vikram Barhat