Social networking

A friend or foe for Cayman’s businesses?

Part I:
Friend or foe for Cayman’s businesses?

According to a popular video on YouTube (where else?), social media has caused the biggest shift in communications since the Industrial Revolution, with IPod application downloads reaching the one billion mark in nine months and Facebook reaching 100 million users in the same timeframe (compare that to the humble radio taking 38 years to reach 50 million users). 
But can social media really revolutionise business practices? Or do the tried and tested means of communication still hold true for businesses in Cayman? Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports. Second in a series of articles.

Real estate
Savvy leaders within the real estate industry are getting to grips with the new technology to make it work for their particular business.
Sheena Conolly, who owns Sotheby’s International Realty in the Cayman Islands, says her company is in the process of upgrading its website, which will then feature social media to reach out to customers.
“I think we have to take the effort to listen, learn and embrace new technology such as social networking. We have to look to the future and understand how business has changed. The phones don’t ring as much anymore – people are doing their own research. It’s a whole new dynamic and it is one which we have to be a part of if we are to communicate properly with our clients and therefore if we want to continue to be successful.”
Re/Max owner/broker Kim Lund says his company uses Facebook, but will be expanding to Twitter and Linked-In, as these sites continue to grow more critical mass.
He agrees with Conolly that In order to be successful in business, you need to grasp technology and stay ahead of the curve “on any new platforms that can generate business, especially in these difficult times.” 
Lund says that while the business results from these social networking sites are not overly impressive, at this stage, they have the potential to grow into business networking platforms, as well as continuing to advance in their social networking areas.
As far as the real estate industry is concerned, Lund feels that there are some drawbacks to using social networking as a business tool.
“This tends to be a younger market with less disposable income, which is likely due to the technology appealing more to a younger market with more free time to dedicate to this communication. 
“Because of this, they are less interested in real estate, mostly do not have the wherewithal to purchase at this time, and are more focused on the social side of the communication.  However, many of these young people will be the buyers of real estate in the future,” he says.
As with others, Lund also sees the amount of time needed to keep in control of social networking a hindrance to its success in the workplace.
”While we currently have email as our most used form of business and personal communication, these new social networking tools sap any free time you might have had when all your emails were answered.  It is very demanding, which is why they appeal to a younger audience with potentially more free time than a business person who may be busy in business and just not have the time to dedicate to responding to countless other forms of communication, especially if they are more social thank business oriented.”
Lund thinks it is likely that social networking will become much more all encompassing communication and evolve into both social and business networking, as this younger generation has grasped this as their means of communicating, “just as my generation grasped email as our form of communication”. 
He also makes the point that as time goes by, the technology will evolve and as this social networking generation ages and gets more involved in business, it seems only natural that their network will evolve to meet their business needs, as well.  Otherwise, there will be other new technology to support the need for business communication.

“As long as regular communication and media continue to evolve and incorporate these new social networking platforms into their business models, they should continue to evolve and prosper,” he says.
He does worry however that social networking and the constant thirst for immediate knowledge could take its toll on personal relationships, as personal time will be compromised to communicate immediately. 
“It is both good and bad, depending on how you control it, but no question, it is becoming a monster that does need to be planned and controlled,” he adds.

Karie Bergstrom is the Director of Consulting Services & Human Resources Deloitte and she outlines the way in which her company has already reaped benefits from including social networking into its business methods.
“Deloitte has embraced social networking as a tool and mechanism to enhance our business practices.  Deloitte member firms globally have been using social media for several years, which has helped to innovate the way we connect with our clients, potential clients, business leaders and potential candidates for our recruitment efforts. 
Recently, Deloitte New Zealand received an international award for their Facebook page and social recruiting initiatives. The 2010 SOCRA award honors excellence in social media and recruiting.  At Deloitte, we are currently working hard within our member firms to tap into social networking tools and best practices we’ve seen from some of our other offices.” 
Bergstrom says that the Deloitte Cayman Islands office recently launched a Facebook page and is also using Twitter and LinkedIn.  
“Deloitte also has a strong presence on YouTube.  Already, our office has been able to drive more traffic to our website and has used these tools to enhance our recruitment process and ability to connect with potential recruits and alumni,” she says. 
The main drawback with social networking tools that Deloitte have found is, according to Bergstrom, trying to keep a consistent image and brand amongst the Deloitte member firms.
“However this is something that member firms using social networking are currently working on through best practices, guidelines and policies created to increase a cohesive brand,” she adds.
“We believe social networking tools are a great way to enhance our business practices in a way that blends with our more traditional communication methods.”

Next month hear from the unconvinced as well as how to get the most out of social networking.