Traditional businesses looking for a way to reinvent themselves might find inspiration in social media if they got it right. Businesses can manage better sales, achieve more worker productivity, and provide better customer services by putting mobile apps, Facebook, Twitter, and various social media tools to good use, said Varadarajan Krishnamurthy, marketing and social media strategist, here on Thursday.

Addressing a mixed audience of senior professionals and college students at a meeting of the Tiruchi chapter of Madras Management Association (MMA), Mr. Krishnamurthy demystified social media basics for businesses. Shooting off the session from the fundamental question, ‘What is social media?’, he said people were quick to conclude the term meant Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. “Social media is not just Facebook or Twitter but the generic term for these tools designed to aid online social interactions or conversations. Social media is simply people talking to people.” How can social media help businesses? “Social media allows a brand to talk and people to talk back to the brand, unlike a conventional print or television ad,” he said. Social media tools such as Facebook or LinkedIn are outposts for business organisations.

Soon, all businesses are likely to go the mobile way, leveraging features of mobile phone technology, particularly apps, Mr. Krishnamurthy predicted. Businesses that connect to customers using mobile technology have an edge by reducing customer anxieties instantly. Businesses can use information-only apps to provide basic troubleshooting, schedules, or checklists. For instance, a department store can create an app which can make grocery shopping an easy exercise for customers.

Damage control

Business organisations are often skeptical as to whether social media would make them vulnerable to negative publicity. As interactions and feedback are visible to all social media tool users, competitors or customers may post negative comments publicly, they fear. Admitting this is likely to happen, Mr. Krishnamurthy pointed out the positive side of negative criticism – the opportunity for damage control. “Negative comments can lead to conversation as the brand gets to talk back and clarify,” he insisted. “What you don’t know is a big loss . If you are not using social, you will never know what they are talking about you.”

Defining policies, strategies and roles before using social media are prerequisite as businesses must learn what to share, how much to talk, and how to handle mudslinging. Cautioning against double standards for online and offline communication, he suggested, “What you don’t advertise on the road, don’t do it on social media.”