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Social media in business

SSQ recently published Social media: A guide to enhancing ALM with collaborative tools. The guide shows many examples of the use of social media in the development lifecycle.

Social  media also offers specific advantages to business. I spoke with Steve Nicholls, author of the book, Social Media in Business, who writes about four business opportunities available to organizations with social media: communication, communities, collaboration and collective intelligence.

SSQ: Steve, you talk about different types of social media tools. Would you say there are certain types of social media tools that are most beneficial for software development teams?

Steve Nicholls: Most businesses do not think about business goals  when they think about social media. Any tools considered need to always be in the context of the business goals. The quick way of saying that is it depends on what you want to achieve. For instance, if it is to raise your profile, you would set appropriate social media goals and then select the best social media tools based on your organizational environment.  For example, you’d look at things such as what are you already using, what skills you have, the resources, etc.

SSQ: In what ways are software development teams able to communicate with their customers by using social media?

Nicholls: Again, the thing to consider is the business goal you’re trying to achieve, then what blend of social media would be needed to achieve that. It could be the organizational goal could be related to increasing the repeat customer percentage to increase revenue by X %. One marketing strategy could be to have a more effective customer relationship management strategy. You would then select the social media program that would support those goals. That would be around customer service, the ways you interact with the customer to provide information. It would depend what you already do as to what tools you would use. There are a number of tools that could be used but you would want to look at the way you exchange different types of media, the way you have meetings and the frequency you measure customer satisfaction and surveys, ratings and so on.

SSQ: Are privacy and security concerns when businesses start to use social media? What should organizations watch out for?

Nicholls: Managers and policy makers are right to be worried about privacy and security concerns; these are real. What should you watch out for? Most companies are worried about their reputation in the marketplace; employees wasting time on non-work related social activities, of which there are many; leaking of competitive and confidential information; and stealing intellectual property and legal problems, from what your employees say and do online. Employees also have concerns that employers are spying on them, that social media adds more work to an already full schedule, the organization boundaries blurring as to what is company business and private to the employee. Some employees may need to use social media for their personal life but access is blocked in their work place. Use of mobile devices is also an issue as a number of the organization’s security protocols can be bypassed using a tablet computer or a smart phone. These issues are best dealt with using a well-crafted and enforced social media policy.

 SSQ: What would you say is the biggest takeaway readers will gain from your book?

Nicholls: There are two major takeaways:

1. You need to have a clear model of what social media is and how your company can utilize it, not just in your marketing and IT peopl,e but in your competitive strategy. 

There are risks and obstacles with social media, which cannot be underplayed, and there are risks in every area of business; the key is to quantify that risk and weigh it against the potential gains.

2. To implement social media in a systematic way, you need a comprehensive implementation framework –- like the 3-Core Project success system that is easy to learn and provides a step-by-step low risk way of moving your organization forward.

There are companies in your market, or the more dangerous, in a related market, that are trying to figure out how to gain a competitive advantage using innovative combinations of social media tools to enhance their business strategy. If you are a leader in your market, or aspire to be a leader, then you need to have full comprehension of the advances in technology and software that is fuelling the rise of the Internet revolution. If you are a follower, then you need to have a model for the best of the best and not look at your nearest competitor and feel comfortable because they are not doing much either!

Currently the book is available from and and from

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