These are the rough notes I used and links to the websites I mentioned for the panel on Social Media at the Investor Relations Conference at the London Stock Exchange, 23 September 2009:

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The internet is inherently social.
Social media has been with us for some time – email (late 1960s), message boards (1979), first blogs (mid 1990s), first online social networks (late 1990s).
It’s about conversation and two way communication – many to one, one to one, one to many, many to many.
It can be used in many business contexts: communicating, networking, marketing, PR, HR, R&D, customer service, customer relations, internal communications (collaboration, knowledge management, project management, information sharing, networking) reputation management.

Some examples
HR – A large percentage of companies are now using the business social network LinkedIn for recruitment purposes.
Dell have been very active in using social media for a number of purposes including sales, customer service, community building, CSR and R&D. They have numerous Twitter channels for their activities that can be found here, run several blogs and have a presence on Facebook and Flickr.
The BBC’s editors blog, where BBC editors share their issues and dilemmas, is just one example of how corporations are using blogs to make their organisations more transparent.
Reuters is using blogs, and experimenting with other forms of social media reporting, to stay in touch with their audience.

Note: Fellow panellist Giuliano Gasparini also explained some of the social media work that he has been heading up at the engineering consultancy WSP Group, where about a year ago they started using blogs on their intranet, and encouraged their CEO to blog once a month.

How to start?
Identify your objectives and what you want to achieve, aim to align them with the company’s overall business objectives.
Identify who and which departments these objectives might affect – HR, IT, marketing, new business, corporate comms. Aim to get senior management on board.
Start small and be willing to experiment to find out what works best for your organisation
Consider creating a social media policy for staff so that they understand their responsibilities and boundaries when talking about the company (or not) on the web. For example policies see: http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php

How to start measuring what’s being said about you?
The simplest thing is to set up a Google Alert or two, which will notify you via email of keywords or website URLs you’ve entered get mentioned on the web.
For a more comprehensive view there are a number of free tools that are worth experimenting with, social mention, addictomatic or Nielsen’s Blog Pulse for instance.
There are also a number of paid for monitoring tools available and a number of agencies offer a social media monitoring service.

Also see: Social media and the law.