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It may be a scary prospect, but every business must go social - Ryan Hogarth

At ITWeb's Social Media Summit, writer and social business strategist Ryan Hogarth will discuss how businesses can take the first difficult steps towards becoming social.

Companies that are still debating adopting social media are akin to those of a decade ago, which were tentative about using the Internet.

This is according to Hogarth, who will deliver a keynote themed: "The Social Business Imperative", at ITWeb's Social Media Summit, in August.

"Now there's no business in the world without [the Internet], and so will it be with social. It's a reality they'll all have to face," he says.

There is a misconception that social media is simply an advertising platform - but according to Hogarth, it's much more than that. In this day and age, he explains, every touch-point of an organisation is marketing. He uses the example of a delivery van that drops off a broken package. "Before he's even driven away, a photo of that package is on Twitter."

Removing the friction

Social media accounts (Twitter feeds, Facebook Pages, etc) form a very small part of the social business, which Hogarth believes will be the business of the future.

Being a social business is all about removing the friction, or anything that gets in the way of interaction between those in the organisation, and between the organisation and its customers. It is important for feedback from customers to be fed back into the business, Hogarth notes.

Social can also play into many different areas of the business, besides customer relationship management, he says, mentioning how executives can use it to keep a finger on the pulse of people's feelings towards the business, and to gain ideas for new products. Internally, it can be used to share knowledge and expertise among staff.

Scary prospect

Despite the multitude of benefits, Hogarth believes going social is still a scary prospect for many businesses, describing it as a mindset rather than a medium. Changing that mindset is a challenge for those who are used to processes that allow for testing, measuring and watching competitors try and fail first.

It's still coming into its own, and is therefore a constantly changing beast that Hogarth refers to as a "series of perpetual memes". There isn't time for companies to play it safe, because standards and strategies are in a constant state of flux, he adds.

Despite the challenges associated with becoming a social business, Hogarth believes there is little choice for companies that want to stay ahead of the competition.

"Businesses have to acknowledge that there is no such thing as control anymore," he concludes. "The only thing businesses can do is build trust. Because when your customers and clients trust you, that's a kind of control," he says.

ITWeb's Social Media Summit

The ITWeb Social Media Summit - 14-15 August, at The Forum, in Bryanston - brings a mix of presentations, panel discussions and workshop discussions that speak to both the social media business decisions and business intelligence requirements of companies large and small.

For more information, click here.