Managing social media: Why corporations should care

Like it or not, current and potential customers are discussing your company online through various social media channels. Protect your brand by joining the conversation.

Social networking services Facebook and Twitter, networking platforms Linked In and Xing and other social media outlets have become part of how we communicate. Swiss Re has been a keen observer of this shift.

What started as a purely social pastime has now entered the corporate communications environment. But social media is a crowd-controlled phenomenon. The rules of conduct are different within networks and it is important that corporations and their employees learn them.

Companies must remember that they are, in all probability, already a presence in social media. An online discussion may be underway about your company, possibly damaging its reputation – and the law can only go so far: your company’s intellectual property rights may give you the tools to shut down a website or forum thread, but this can backfire.  Taking part in the discussion and seeking to influence it positively is the best defense.

Businesses that embrace social media are better placed to handle this shift. Smart companies monitor the web carefully, learn from it, and are ready to participate in the discussion. They have social media savvy and the ability to establish meaningful, genuine, and personal contacts.

Getting it right on the inside

The first step for a corporation in working with social media is to create a corporate culture that embraces and works with it responsibly, ideally practicing in-house first. To do so, a corporation should establish social media guidelines, keeping in mind the importance of people-to-people contact. This is a major shift, as previously corporations focused solely on their brands or corporate reputations in the public sphere.

Should a company establish a Facebook page? This is an open question, as anyone can do it. But many corporations who embrace social media believe that it is more powerful to build up a network of ambassadors rather than to engage directly in social media as a corporate voice. For them, the preferred goal is to create an all-embracing approach to social business, including encouraging employees to use social media for achieving business goals either in their own name or as authorized users in the name of the company. Employees, however, must always keep in mind the company’s code of conduct and social media guidelines and use good judgement.

Swiss Re enters the social media sphere

Swiss Re’s first step on the social media path was to implement a global employee platform for social collaboration within the organisation, making it a cornerstone of Swiss Re’s collaborative culture, with employees creating community groups to support e-learning, idea generation, and knowledge sharing in a wide variety of ways.  

The best practices and behaviours on the internal platform prepared Swiss Re to extend its social media reach externally, for example, with Twitter: @swissre lists not only the latest content on, but event-specific tweets, such as information for journalists and clients about Les Rendez-vous de Monte Carlo, as well. The @swissre_GP handle is the Twitter account for Swiss Re’s Global Partnerships team, highlighting Swiss Re’s work in the public sector.

Engagement and transparency are well-worn buzzwords in the corporate lexicon. Social media is a tool that not only demands these two qualities, but helps to make them part of a corporation’s DNA.

Published 8 September 2011

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