What Is A Social Business?
I produced this quick illustration to highlight the different elements of a social business. With so much noise in the market there is a need to emphasise good business practice rather than the hype that surrounds many platforms. The major benefit of social business is open relationships between customers, employees and partners that create new value through solving problems and modelling new and profitable solutions:
- Building integrated customer relationships
- Fostering horizontal collaboration
- Identifying clear opportunities to innovation
- Providing an adaptive and agile framework
- Producing an endless flow of data that can be used to develop customer and operational insights
- Platforms allow for more than one person to manage social media – (social media management systems – see our we share section here). Opening up the business so more people blog is not platform related but does demonstrate a broader set of expertise within the business.
- Project management and collaborative tools for knowledge workers and field/sales teams.
- Holding offline and online webinars with customers/partners (low cost and easy to do)
- Using social listening platforms to understand brand mentions, industry news, competitor intelligence
- Analytics - most platforms and particularly those with integrated functionality often have good analytics that enable small businesses to track and evaluate marketing performance easily
- First of all a little self promotion, check out of We Share section
- Rawn Shah (Forbes) on the question of why large organisations need social business
- Social Media Integration Survey by Insites Consulting
- McKinsey article on How Social Technologies are extending he organisation
- Harvard Business Review Video on how social business are helping organisation manage knowledge and information
A Start Point – The Five Point Check List
1. Audit and benchmark
Do you understand what your business is currently doing with social media? e.g. using Linkedin and Twitter for recruitment, engaging with customers through a Facebook page. Do you know what your customers are saying about your brand (is your brand sentiment improving?), how effective are your social media efforts?
- People – what skills and capabilities exist within the business (skills and competencies are important not only in the short term, HR need to map the talent and skills as you develop and use more technology).
- What social media is already being used within the buiness
- What technologies exist that can be leveraged for social e.g. if you use Salesforce.com, IBM, Cisco, Sharepoint… what integration points and what are the gaps
- Understand the online audience, identify the drivers of conversation within a market segment, how much a brand impacts conversation and sentiment, and who is influencing the conversation.
- Understand your competitors – review online properties, such as a your website or blog, and how they fit together with social media and messaging is a valuable exercise in understanding the brand’s approach to the digital landscape.
This will provide you with a map to plan your strategy and path forward.
2. Scope Out Tangible Opportunities
Learn what and how technologies can do; but don’t get caught up in the tools, remember it is the business benefits they bring that come first. It is important to adopt a process to update the business on technology developments. Technology is causing shifts in business models and it is important to keep up-to-date with developments and the opportunities.
Understand what is possible and using technologies (social, web, mobile and cloud) in your organisation could lead to business improvements:
- improve service levels
- reduce duplication of projects and documents
- increase the team productivity
- lower customer churn
3. Resources – People, Money, Training and Support
When planning a social business initiative it is important to identify what investment the executive team will make. Money alone or a few heads is not enough, change needs time and support from the management team. What we often see is an executive team that has allocated a budgets for technology but often not for training. People need to gain confidence and be your advocates at every step of the way, succeed with this and you will build a winning social business team.
4. Make It Real – Add Value to People First
A new process or tool needs to add value to your workforce or customers. If it is an internal project ensure that you understand from the ground up the existing processes, roles and responsibilities between departments and how they will be affected by any new process.
Inevitably many business build processes that are convenient for themselves rather than optimised for the customer. In planning change, put the customer first and map out how you and the internal teams can change a process to improve the customer experience. If you are developing a marketing strategy identify how you can add value to customers and what problems you can solve for them.
5. Beyond Structure
Rather than go for something big, test and build a pilot project. Even if this is related to a particular department involve other departments, give them a voice and ensure it is not just top down management control. Start to think about how the culture of the organisation can be involved in bringing about broader change. A marketing project could also involve HR so that they learn about how social tools could benefit them for recruitment; begin to sow the seeds of collaborative thinking and doing. You can still plan and explore other opportunities whilst doing this – develop a road map to broaden and scale capabilities.
A clear focus on a particular business problem and a project that delivers successfully against that is more likely to accelerate confidence in the benefits of becoming a social business.
Some final thoughts from Sandy Carter at IBM: