Teen finds friends for Chch firm

23:27, Jul 07 2011
Jade
Jade Software intern Ryan Gallagher and Jade Software CEO Craig Richardson with their social network web pages which Gallagher has boosted since being at the company.

Giving an 18-year-old intern free rein with Jade Software's social media strategy was a leap of faith for chief executive Craig Richardson, but it paid off.

The average teenager does not get to choose what a $50 million company posts on Facebook but there is not much about Ryan Loeffen- Gallagher that is average. In 2009 he represented New Zealand in alpine skiing at the Winter Games and in January he was accepted to read politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University later this year.

The former Christ's College student began a six- month internship with Jade Software in January.

Loeffen-Gallagher says he's "not really a software person" but he was interested in the social media aspect of the business, being aware of how much time people were spending on Facebook.

"A lot of young people spend two to three hours a day [using social media]."

There were now about 1.2 million active Facebook users in New Zealand, 50 per cent of whom returned to Facebook every day.

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The fastest-growing demographic over the past year is the 35-plus age group - not because that age group is at the cutting edge of social media and technology but because the younger generation cottoned on to it a few years back, Loeffen-Gallagher said.

Richardson said social media was an opportunity to build the company brand, build engagement with customers or partners the company wanted to do business with, and the people it wanted to employ.

"And who knows more about that area than a young, smart kid out of school?" Richardson said. "It is what he's grown up with. To Ryan it's just the way things are."

Infosumers, as opposed to consumers, were on the rise, Richardson said.

"Infosumers are consuming information at a rate never before seen and generating information at a rate never before seen.

"From a company's point of view you can't really avoid it, you can only choose whether you actively participate or not."

Jade Software had relied on the fact that Loeffen- Gallagher was "pretty savvy" and would know what was right for the company and what was not.

Loeffen-Gallagher boosted the company's Twitter following from about 150 to nearly 4000 followers and increased the number of visits to Jade's website from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn nine-fold, Richardson said.

It was a way to attract new customers, retain existing ones and also find new employees, Richardson said.

People who engaged with Jade Software through Facebook were likely to spend longer on the company's own website.

"You figure out quite quickly what people respond well to, what they want to see. You keep reshaping until you know what people want to see," Loeffen-Gallagher said.

Within the company he has driven the implementation of Yammer, a free private social network for an organisation - basically an "internal Twitter" - which Jade's 300-odd employees use to communicate with each other through snap messages.

With Yammer everyone has an equal opportunity to communicate. Staff update colleagues on what they are working on, they ask questions and get feedback.

"It drives high levels of engagement. Ryan has really pushed all of that," Richardson said. "The benefit far exceeds the cost."

That benefit included improved alignment in terms of what the company was doing and where it was headed, Richardson said.

There was also an improvement in staff morale.

With Loeffen-Gallagher heading overseas next month the company is searching for "Ryan Mark II" and would specifically target the same age group to find someone with the same understanding of social media.

The Press