4. Customer service and CRM
Social media has shifted the emphasis away from the traditional call center to tracking customer sentiment online. Indeed, many businesses, as well as companies providing third-party customer service, now refer to what once were known as call centers as contact centers. That's because, thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter (and blogs and forums and message boards), "customer service has to be acutely aware of current [online] conversations and be able to respond in a timely manner," says Jim Harder, principal, Visual Data Group.
"For the everyday consumer, posting on a company's Facebook wall or leaving them a tweet is the most immediate and convenient point of contact, and it's all public," says Molly Glover Gallatin, vice president of marketing, Compass Labs, which specializes in knowledge-based marketing and advertising.
"If the feedback is negative, it can affect customer perception of your brand. If it is positive, it can serve as insight into what's working. Either way, companies now need to monitor and respond to what consumers are saying about them -- in real time -- across social networks and [include them in their] CRM platform. Do this right," she says, "and you will quickly pinpoint brand advocates and rapidly diffuse any fires."
5. Recruiting employees
"A site like LinkedIn provides a more efficient way to screen for possible job applicants, as you can see if people have recommendations, endorsements, etc.," says Tracy Petrucci, a social media and online marketing consultant, who also notes that many recruiters also look at candidates' Twitter feeds and Facebook profiles to assess whether the hire will be a good fit.
However, companies need to tread carefully when using social media sites to vet candidate worthiness, says Philip Voluck, a managing partner at Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo, who specializes in employment practices liability.
"Companies should be aware that by using social media to vet applicants, hiring managers can find information that is protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the latest tool against discrimination, the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act ("GINA"), which prohibits companies from merely acquiring or being in possession of such information," Voluck notes. Moreover, "characteristics protected under Title VII or GINA cannot be the basis of a hiring decision, and hiring managers may need to be able to substantiate the legitimacy of their screening process, particularly when it involves social media."
6. Security and privacy
"With expanded social media usage, companies [have] exposed themselves to new security risks [because] corporate social media accounts, and the data [contained therein], are no longer company-owned," explains Vidya Phalke, chief technology officer, MetricStream, which specializes in risk management and compliance. This introduces new security risks for companies - and new concerns for CIOs. "To combat these risks, companies must put in place strategic policies around social media risk and compliance," and train staff properly, to protect sensitive data.
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.
Read more about Web 2.0 in CIO's Web 2.0 Drilldown.