5 Ways to Kick Start Your Social Business

5 Ways to Kick Start Your Social Business

The Human Business

The line between marketing and HR appears to being redefined as we enter the era of the social business. Whilst a CEO will clearly be able to point to a set of strategic responsibilities for HR, the role of HR is evolving as employee engagement, branding and business strategies blend to create a broader social ecosystem. Businesses are becoming more open and transparent as the line between customers and employees becomes blurred, communications open and people can clearly identify the match of an organisational culture to the brand promise. Do people act pro-actively in customer service, are they really focused on employee development, corporate sustainability….does this organizational still make sense?

I am not advocating that marketing drafts HR policies or deals with management consultations; likewise that HR doesn’t conjure up the next iconic campaign. However, people can and are vital to developing your social business capabilities. HR has a clear role in developing and nurturing the culture of the business; the brand in the raw form of how customers interact with the people in the business. Employee engagement can change as initiatives develop and cultivate involvement; it is not just about the money (McKinsey).

An article in Mashabale highlights some of the growing ways social media is being used to recruit top talent. HR and marketing overlap and the strategic importance of developing a social business focus demands that HR is involved in the development of the social brand:

  • harnessing internal capabilities for collaboration
  • using social tools to develop position in industry or sector
  • advocating the organization as a place for others to work
These are just a few of the areas where the human aspect of marketing. The potential is to unleash the positive energy, innovation and experiences that companies like Zappos enjoy as a result of focusing on creating a social business. Developing open communication channels leads to trust between customers & people in organisations who are the heart of the brand.

Ways to KickStart Your Social Business

The transition to a more social business provides opportunities for creativity, collaboration and exploration; a way to redefine the organization. Harnessing the energies of your people internally can facilitate change. Many business though struggle with where to start. So I have put together some key points and a few frameworks that can help:

1. Work to a Framework/Process

Altimeter and in particular Jeremiah Owyang  has put together a simple to understand framework for developing a social business. Another good starting point is to read the Social Business Readiness report from Altimeter.

Jed Singer has developed a five step framework for social business development:

  • Define your business objective(s)
  • Translate those objective(s) to social
  • Collate & categorise past social programs
  • Analyse past social programs for success and failure against KPIs
  • Use analysis & objectives to create a concept calendar (using the program identity design framework)

2. Learn

This is so critical. Many organizations have preconceived ideas about what social business tools and technologies are, how they can be used and what they are likely to deliver or not. The social business market is changing and evolving continually, there are over 100 established vendors and even more popping up. Enterprise tools are about integration fit to purpose and enabling capabilities. Much will and does depend on current systems. However, there is massive potential to effectively develop capabilities and performance through the right strategy. Often the danger is silod activity and projects.
  • Identify any current uses of social media within the organization
  • Review current vendors and suppliers e.g. CRM systems to understand their level of social integration and tool sets. Produce a clear table identifying capabilities e.g. functionality, process, user experience, cost).
  • Audit organization to understand level of skills in business e.g. who are your champions at social media and get it, how can you harness their skills, who are your technical experts…

3. Research and Case Studies

Review case studies of how social business initiatives have transformed organizations capabilities. Here are some to get you going:

  • BEST BUY (Twelp Force): Employees use Twitter to help customers. They respond to over 13,000 customers on Twitter answering questions, concerns, and opinions.
  • COMCAST: @ComcastCares is part of the strategy to manage customer service. The company listens to over 6000 blog posts and about 2000 Tweets each day to service more customers in a better and faster way than traditional inbound service.
  • H&R BLOCK: H&R uses Facebook and Twitter to provide immediate access to tax professionals for Questions and Answers in the “Get It Right” social media campaign. The effort secures 1,500,000 unique visitors and answers 1,000,000 questions for a 15% lift in business. For more information see video here.
  • StarBucks uses social media for recruitment – Slides on Slideshare
  • IBM started its social business journey in 2007. IBM implemented a social media strategy that created a cultural affinity for social media within the company and enabled staff to make use social media as business tools. Results – savings of over £2.5M.

Case studies are useful, but ultimately you need to take into account your own market sector, position, environment and culture.

  • Review case studies by your industry or professional area of expertise e.g. search on HR 2.0, social recruitment…
  • Check industry bodies for any information e.g. for HR review CIPD
  • Search on Scribd or Slideshare – these often have good resources that are sector specific

4. Involve Your People

  • Look at developing creative ideas sessions across the organization on how they can use them
  • The initial process in itself provides a platform for involving people in the journey, signalling your intention to take your people with you on this journey
  • Plan it well, listen to peoples ideas and deliver feedback. Recognize people that go that extra-mile

4. Develop a Strategy

In our experience the extent to which a strategy is developed is dependent on the stakeholders in the business. The CEO and board ideally need to be aligned and have produced identifiable opportunities where social technologies, processes and integration can benefit the business. In our experience this is where a consultancy can help. Organizations need to effectively scope opportunities, understanding timescales and complexity and then prioritize them according to resources, capabilities and budgets.



5. Partners 

Most organizations are part of a bigger eco-system in delivering services to their clients. Your partnerships are built on trusted relationships and experiences in developing business capabilities. Many business partners may already be exploring social business initiatives, have them underway or be reviewing how they can take advantage of them. Start the conversation and explore if you can learn from their experiences or simply share learning and progress together.