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Social media is providing a new platform for business networking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa State faculty has conducted a study regarding business and their use of social networks to maintain relations.

Raj Agnihotri, dean’s fellow in marketing in the Ivy College of Business, and Patricia Daugherty, Debbie and Jerry Ivy Chair in Business, worked together to conduct this study, which focuses on social media benefits for business.

Agnihotri explained the main purpose of this study and the social media platforms they chose to look to.

“We were trying to explore how this digital push that was coming towards us in the last couple of years, how it was going to change the way businesses operate, how supply chains work, how sales people work, how organizational front lines are ready to adopt and use this whole social media as well as other digital setting platforms,” Agnihotri said. “For this particular study we picked up three specific social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.”

Agnihotri also explained why he chose to conduct this particular study.

“I think one of the things we wanna learn is how social media yields benefits,” Agnihotri said. “Not many studies are out there that establish that social media has a use or doesn’t have any use. So, when you take on research, any finding is a good finding."

Daugherty then explained the importance of the buyer-seller relationship in business.

“The buyer-seller relationship, that’s everything,” Daugherty said. "Can you trust them, will they give you information when you need it?”

She also discussed a class she taught where immediate information was expected by students and how this translates to the use of social networks.

“They've grown up with this instant information availability,” Daugherty said. “They expect that immediate information and they want lots of attention, and this is a really good way to give them that information and attention they need.”

Agnihotri later explained some outcomes of the study.

“They were some interesting findings,” Agnihotri said. “Social media use, even though it is happening at an individual level, we found that what organizations can do is create a climate of innovation. These things don’t yield results immediately. When it comes to relationships with customers, it takes time to build that trust. Organizations have to have an innovation climate to see that connection working.”

He explained how time management skills are key for organizations to see positive results in regards to social media.

“Very easily, you can lose track,” Agnihotri said. “Go into your Facebook to write a few things about your brand and then you just scroll and there you go, two hours gone. So having those time management skills was very critical.”

Agnihotri talked about whether he thinks businesses should turn to social media to build and maintain relationships.

“Going forward, I think this is the way," Agnihotri said. "Even if the pandemic goes away, I think a lot of things will stay. The use of social media, building social capital, I think these are the things that will stay.”

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