Social computing: Get it right, or get offline


Pick up any newspaper, look for the technology stories and you’re likely to find one thing: stories about social networking.

 Forget case studies of companies spending big on business IT. From scare stories about the risks associated to Facebook to celebrities choosing to Tweet about their personal lives, the popular media chooses to concentrate on the collaborative side of information technology.

 It’s not just the media, either. Take time to browse Twitter and you’ll quickly discover that most posts on the social networking platform are about, well, Twitter.

 This inherently self-referential style consists of a series of so-called ‘gurus’ and ‘evangelists’ telling the world that a failure to get social and manage your social presence is a business risk.

 But here’s the rub: such a failure to deal with Twitter isn’t necessarily a business risk. In fact, the opposite might well be true – sometimes it makes sense not to communicate online.

 For a start, how many channels can your business realistically manage? They might be seen as legacy technologies, but I can guarantee your business – like most others – is swamped on a daily basis by customer service calls and emails.

 When you choose to complain about service, do you hunt for a company’s email address or look for the Twitter address? If you can’t find the latter, do you choose not to complain or do you use the email address?

 I can guarantee – like most other consumers – that you will choose to email. If the individual can’t find your brand, they might choose to Tweet about your failure to have a Twitter presence.

 But does that really matter? If they can’t moan to you directly through a Twitter presence, then they will be shouting in the dark. So, does every organisation really need a social networking presence?

 Being communicative is not just about setting up a Twitter account; instead, it’s about what you do with the chosen platform. Pushing out links to new services and offers via social software can help your customers make the right decisions at the right time.

 Yet a failure to provide interesting information – or simply a failure to monitor the social channel – and your clients will quickly become disinterested.

 In short, if you’re going online – do something useful. Don’t just create another platform to annoy users and allow disappointed customers to moan about your service.

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