Panelists on the social media panel at ITEX kicked off the session by giving the IT managers in the crowd a few simple words of advice to help their marketing and social media teams: give them the tools they need, and get rid of IE 6. The panel talked about their experiences using social media to market their companies, and the challenges they face online and with their IT teams.
"I think the hardest thing for us in marketing is that our job is to open things up, whereas with our ICT manager he's wanting to control things," says Alexis Lam, marketing manager at Burgerfuel.
"So you get this natural juxtaposition, and we're always bashing heads."
Lam says that at Burgerfuel there is an organisational emphasis on social media, which has determined a lot of the company's IT decisions. Each of its main social media users have been provided with internet connected smartphones.
“Social media isn’t a nine to five thing, it’s a 24 hour job and we need to be able to respond to people where ever we are.”
Cate Owen, social media strategist at Mediaworks NZ, cited Adobe Air as an example of software which is blocked in a lot of companies. Air is the platform used by several popular client management programs like TweetDeck and Seesmic.
"I think we need to change the mindsets of people to allow their teams onto Facebook and Twitter while on company time," says Owen.
Last week Qantas started a promotion on Twitter for people to share what they thought made Qantas a luxury experience, using the hashtag #qantasluxury. This hashtag was hijacked by users on Twitter, posting negative comments about the company's recent groundings and its CEO, causing massive embarassment for the airline.
Asked how a company can control negative comments, Lam said negativity is always a risk with social media.
"You can't really control it, it's a part of being on social media and a lot of the problems come from when you try to control it. You should always try to take part in the conversation, even if it's negative," says Lam.
"But at the end of the day your product or service needs to be good. If your core offering isn't good, you're going to have a lot of problems on social media."
The panel maintained the importance of New Zealand businesses being on social media, though they admitted that there were conflicting studies about the effectiveness of social media spend.
"There's a lot of debate on whether activity on social media actually affects ratings," says Owen, talking about Mediaworks' TV and radio audiences.
"You've got to weigh up what you're spending with what you're actually trying to get out of it. For us that's getting bums on seats."
Owen says that Mediaworks reaches around 1.5 million people through social media.
Justin Flitter, founder of the Flitter digital media agency and moderator of the panel, says there are 2.1 million New Zealanders on Facebook, 70,000 active monthly Twitter users, and 450,000 registered kiwis on LinkedIn.
He says that New Zealand businesses could be doing more on social media, pointing to a recent Grant Thornton study showing that local businesses are lagging behind in the uptake of social media when compared with the global statistics.