Making social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter more personal

The authors of a new book on social media believe their concept of “mass collaboration” has the power to fundamentally change the way business is done.

Emma Barnett,

At the annual Web 2.0 Summit (Berlin: UVF.BE – news) in San Francisco last week, I attended a couple of sessions on how companies could make the best use of social media.

Lists of major brands, such as Coca-Cola and Starbucks (NasdaqGS: SBUX – news) , were shown on Power Point with the number of “likes” they had “achieved” on Facebook.

Unsurprisingly, these figures ran into the millions. We were then shown how music companies use Facebook and Twitter to “reach out” to fans. This “reaching out” was either via a Twitter feed manned by the artist, or through Facebook fan pages used to promote the musician’s latest material.

It was all pretty elementary stuff, not the high-level insight I was after. However, what became apparent is that companies’ activities on Facebook and Twitter rarely amount to anything other than marketing the brand. By and large, these leading social sites are not really being used to actually help businesses function better, interact on a smarter level with customers and drive new business.

A book out this week The Social Organisation: How to Use Social Media (Frankfurt: 725292 – news) to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees seeks to address these issues.

Authors Anthony Bradley, group vice-president at Gartner (NYSE: IT – news) research, and Mark McDonald, group vice-president and head of research at Gartner Executive Programs, spoke to 400 companies about how they have used social media and social tools to enhance their businesses. Ford (NYSE: F – news) , NASA and Barnes & Noble (Dusseldorf: BAR.DU – news) were a few of the companies they spoke to.

Bradley said businesses using sites such as Facebook and Twitter could only enjoy the limited benefit of marketing themselves rather than transforming their businesses via their platforms.

“Facebook is very limited in what it can offer businesses beyond marketing opportunities,” he said. “It’s a great funnel to a business’s own community and website. It gives companies a target audience but without a purpose around which to galvanise people for instance, Barnes & Noble have around 600,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook, but where’s the engagement?

“Businesses need to figure out how to use the power of social interaction to encourage mass collaboration from both their employees and customers, to get some amazing results that go beyond the marketing benefits social media brings.”

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