Conference explores social media, business

May 26, 2011, 2:03 a.m.
Conference explores social media, business
Global Media Relations director Matt Ceniceros (far left) and Stanford research scholar Rafiq Dossani (second right) were two among a host of speakers at yesterday's conference on social media and business. (JIN ZHU/The Stanford Daily)

The Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) hosted a conference on social media and the globalization of business on Wednesday. The conference featured two main presentations on social media and the workplace, which focused on trends in using social media platforms (SMPs) for various business functions.

The Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) and the Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE) co-hosted the event.

“Social media is such a new field that companies are really confused about where it’s going…they don’t have a clear idea of return on investment, they don’t understand which SMP to use for which kind of corporate activity,” said Rafiq Dossani, APARC senior research scholar, in an interview with The Daily.

But experts are starting to detangle the complexities of social media.

Philip and Stephen Jordan of Green LMI Consulting, a strategic consulting firm presented their paper on “Social Media Trends with Silicon Valley employers,” studying how social media is used for professional development and recruitment in the Valley.

Their research found that 52 percent of firms “use social media for…finding and recruiting new candidates.” Despite the buzz around social media the writers emphasized that “core skills” are still the most essential element in a resume and social media tools should only be used to augment these skills.
Following brief presentations by Tuomo Nikulainen, a researcher at ETLA, the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, and Rahim Fazal, CEO and co-founder of Involver, an SMP, Dossani presented his paper on “Social Media in the Workplace.”
Dossani’s research examined corporate social media policy and practices. Dossani set two conditions to decide the value of an SMP to a business organization — namely, whether it improves the reliability of existing information or enables the generation of new information. His research found that SMPs were more valuable for interaction between people with weaker ties to each other.

Using a small sample of firms, Dossani found marked differences between corporate use of internal and external SMPs. In fact, 45 percent of all firms use internal SMPs, or social media for recruitment within the firm. Additionally, 90 percent of all firms use external SMPs for recruitment and marketing and business development.

Social media platform LinkedIn, a professional networking website came up as preferred for recruitment, and Wiki “came out as the star across all possible uses,” Dossani said.

In response to Dossani’s presentation, APARC Director-emeritus Henry Rowen noted the study’s lack of citations, which indicates the novelty of the field and the lack of literature available on the subject.

In the last panel of the conference, presenters spoke on the uses of social media in different fields.

“Things are changing and social media has helped ERICSSON change its culture,” said Don McCullough, ERICSSON’s head of marketing and communications for IP and broadband.

“There are certainly costs there, but in a corporate environment, so far, at least in my experience, social media is so easy to use and so easy to set up that it happens fairly quickly and not very expensively,” he added.

Addressing how social media fits within the traditional information and communication technology framework, McCullough identified a trade-off between control and community.

“Different people are rising up and doing something within the social media tools…and you’ve got to be able to give people the freedom to use these tools,” he said.

The conference ended with a focus on the consumer as the cornerstone. Saurabh Mittal, head of customer experience practice Wipro, highlighted social media’s ability to engage consumers as its unique value.

“Every consumer today is a publisher, is a DJ, is an expert, is a broadcaster, is an editor, is a critic and a network,” Mittal said.

He presented the plethora of information customers now share as an opportunity for integrated analytics that personalize services and herald a new type of business-consumer interaction.

“Social media is there and large firms are embracing it more and more,” Dossani said, emphasizing the value of research into social media given the lack of literature on the field. “What we tried to discover is what were the reasons some platforms are more valuable than others.”

Marwa Farag is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. Previously, she was the managing editor of news, managing editor of the former features section, a features desk editor and a news writer.

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