FRI 24TH NOV 2017

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Bringing the family business community together

Social Media And The Family Business

19th March 2017 Paul Andrews

The generational divide & social media for the family business needs managing.

All too often family business representatives of a certain age tend to dismiss social media as something 'to be left to the younger generation' but sadly they may be missing a trick.

Nobody can fail to see the significant impact that social media has and the amount of time being devoted it to using it around the world. More importantly, social media can have a role to play in engaging more broadly with stakeholders, demonstrating corporate social responsibility and building brand awareness and loyalty too.

Obviously there are risks with social media and care needs to be taken to 'get the message right' and ensure that an appropriate level of activity is undertaken. The use of social media should be carefully considered and the right platforms selected for use by each and every family business independently.

It is something that needs to be considered in the context of the broader marketing and communications plan for the business and may be an integral part of the plan. It needs to be thought out and those actually engaging in posting items and commenting on the business need to be trained appropriately - not necessarily in how to use the platforms but what to say, what words to use, the values to convey etc. In essence, the training would be akin to the 'media training' that many professionals undergo prior to being 'allowed to talk to the press.'

What is important is getting the message right and trying to reduce the risk of the wrong posts/items being shared. Planned accordingly and with the right knowledge (history, heritage and values that underpin the family firm and how it has got to where it is today) social media can have an important role to play but there are notes of caution here:

1 - The older generation need to understand the context of social media as one element of their overall marketing and communications platform and the business needs to decide how (if at all) they want to use social media.

2 - The younger generation may have a greater aptitude for the use and implementing the social media plan, but need to ensure that they understand the purpose of any campaigns/posting and the underlying values/objectives to get across.

3 - Social media can be time consuming and therefore requires strategic thought as to how it should be engaged for the purposes of the family firm

4 - Customers love to 'get to know' the people in a family business and the 'story behind the business' and social media is a great way to share these facets of the family firm and help to enhance relationships.

5 - Clearly, the different generations need to communicate to ensure that the needs of the business are met and the right messages are conveyed.

Rather than becoming a 'stigma' or something that is 'left to the younger generation' social media needs to be proactively considered, discussed and understood as the wrong use of any platform could result in damage to the brand, customer loyalty and the business as a whole.

Like most things in business, care needs to be exercised but the power of social media should not be underestimated, and as it is likely to gain in use in years to come, with more platforms being launched almost daily, it is here to stay and as such family firms need to evolve in their acceptance of it and consider it as a strategic business development tool. It is not the sole area for the younger generation either, and with years of experience and knowledge, the older generation that embrace and understand social media may themselves be surprised by the results.

Not all platforms are right for all businesses, but using social media for business is the only way forward and those that engage appropriately for their business will undoubtedly reap the rewards.

About the Author - Paul Andrews is the Founder and Managing Director of Family Business United, the leading magazine and resource centre for family business owners and their professional advisers. 

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