Tamara Littleton, CEO of social media management consultancy Emoderation, provides a social media perspective on our theme ‘how tech schooled the world’.

Social media, like the technology sector, is an ever-changing landscape, and as a business that has social media as its foundation, Emoderation needs to keep up with the latest developments. We need the best minds in the business, but they aren’t all in the same location.

Related: “I was that girl who sat in the computer lab at lunchtime” / Alicia Navarro

There is nothing more annoying for a customer wanting to talk to a brand on Twitter only to see it is only open 9am to 5pm in another time zone. Global brands are just that, global, and need support at whatever time the customer decides to talk to them and in a language of their choosing. Technology means we can rethink the way we do business – introducing new ways of working such as remote working and using a distributed workforce, to provide 24/7 services in multiple languages across time zones.

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As a result of what technology allows our industry to deliver there has been a massive blurring of the lines between customer service, marketing and reputation management. Customers want a direct relationship with brands which has fundamentally changed the way businesses engage with them. This is why technology is so important as a customer is leading the conversation and won’t be constrained by the 9-5 ‘open hours’ of the past.

From Geek to Peak - How tech schooled the world

Technology is fostering a work/life balance

Using technology to drive a global social media business has other benefits beyond having the best talent, no matter where they reside. Businesses face the challenge of that talent walking out the door, sometimes for a more flexible role or to take time out to spend with their family. The fact that technology can deliver new structures and ways of working not only benefits the business in terms of service, but also meets changing working needs of employees.

Related: “The geeks are now the masters of the universe” / Piers Linney

People entering the workforce now want to feel empowered in how and when they choose to work, so businesses need to offer this flexibility if they want to attract and retain the best talent. For example, one of our team in the London office wanted to make the most of the summer and live in Barcelona for four months. As we have built the business with this flexibility we didn’t face the prospect of replacing a valued employee and he could enjoy a more reliable summer than Britain has to offer.

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Social media and big data are old friends

The technology industry knows the benefits of big data, even if other industries have been slow on the uptake. One of the trends that venture capitalists saw coming to the fore in 2015 was using the data collected by the internet of things to shape personal profiles of people. Social media sites already work with these systems – such as linking with fitness trackers and social check-ins.

When applied to social media, big data principles can benefit businesses in many ways. For example, social listening means you can learn in real-time what people think about your business and can even help you gain insight when launching new services. Collating and analysing social listening data in real-time is especially useful when the business is facing a crisis breaking on social media, which is something that Emoderation’s sister company, Polpeo, specialises in training brands in managing.

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The principle of failing fast

“Failing fast” isn’t about shutting the business down at the first sign of trouble, it usually takes years to build a successful business – Facebook didn’t get a billion users in a month. Fail fast means trying ideas that may, or may not, work out and being prepared to change these ideas quickly. This is why social listening is so important. One recent example, (that didn’t really happen very fast and had an impact on two products as a result) is the YouTube real names policy.

In an attempt to bolster the popularity of Google+, Google forced new YouTube commenters and users to post under their Google+ login, which was often their real name. This never sat well with the YouTube community, and it recently unlinked Google+ from YouTube.

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Social listening reduces the risk of failure and speeds up chance of recovery. Businesses need to be agile to thrive in a world dominated by 24-hour news and live reactions constantly streaming over social media channels, and it’s much easier to foster this agility when you have the right technology in place. It gives businesses the freedom to take the risks that they wouldn’t usually consider, those that technology start-ups take every day.

Breaking with tradition

Many traditional offices have systems and processes that continue to be adhered to out of habit more than anything else. They rent expensive office space because people should work in the same room, they refuse people requests to work from home because managers like to see people at their desks, they promote a culture of presentism because if someone is in the office until 8pm every night they must be working hard, right?

Technology has changed all this; it is people that need to catch up. Running a business offering social media services to big global brands isn’t possible or profitable without embracing technology to move away from these traditional models. Clients want their social media accounts serviced 24-7, and often in multiple languages and by teams around the world. This level of service can only be accommodated if the provider is as flexible, and forward-thinking as the sector that it came from.

What’s your experience of everyone learning from and mimicking the tech sector? Share on #geektopeak