Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Social Business - is your company ready with a supporting culture?

To continue the theme of talking about readiness to adopt Social Business, let's take a deeper dive into the culture element that was highlighted in the HBR article "Taking Social Media from Talk to Action".     "Many organizations seem to operate under old paradigms, viewing social media as one-way flow marketing messages, instead of capitalizing on the opportunity to monitor, analyze, and participate in the millions of conversations between consumers"    In my opinion, there are two main drivers to this:
  1. Companies are not listening to what is being said about them
  2. Employees are not given 'permission' to engage in a dialog with customers because the perceived risk is too high
In terms of listening, the HBR article points out that "...while more than half are using social media, only about one-quarter of users said they could identify where their most valuable customers are “talking” about them. And, less than one-quarter (23%) are using any form of social media analytic tools, with only 5% using some form of customer sentiment analysis."    Why is this?  You would think that companies could just buy an off the shelf listening capability.  However, it's not that simple.  This is an example of culture change that needs to start with long term commitment.  This commitment needs to include transformational changes including training, resource allocation, funding prioritization and on-going management focus.  While there is significant benefit to listening and engaging with your customers, it could be a bigger risk if you start down that path and then are not prepared to support your end of the conversation.  Listening is the first step to engagement.  Is your company ready to fully support all aspects of the response you will be sure to get?

To the second point above, let's say that companies have established a listening capability.  Typically, Social Media managers will monitor the conversations and route them to the appropriate employee for engagement.  Are your employees ready to engage (beyond the small number of external communications professionals)?  Have they been given 'permission' to speak on behalf of their company by their management?  Are they adequately trained?  Do they know where to go for help and support if required?  On the surface, this also looks easy ... but in reality it takes culture change. It requires trust and a willingness to accept risk (with appropriate mitigation in place like training).

It easy to leverage social within the boundaries of the old paradigm, but that's not Social Business.  It's a journey, but the rewards can be significant.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Social Business - is your company ready with a strategy?

In my last blog post, I highlighted some interesting topic areas that companies should consider as they get ready for the new Social Business era.  

Here, I'd like to take a deeper look at Social Business Strategy.  The "Taking Social Media from Talk to Action" HBR article provides a statistic that is concerning:  "Two-thirds of users have no formalized social media strategy in place.... many organizations’ activities seem more focused on “making noise” about their company and products, and less on understanding and participating in the conversations already going on about them on the Web."  Why is that?  Perhaps their competitors are 'doing something' in this space which compels them to 'do something' quickly?  Maybe they decide just to start a pilot in this space to better understand it.   Some may realize that it could be very difficult to stop a pilot in this space once companies open the 'social doors' to their customers.  Fast is good.  Collaboration is good.   But ... it will just be about 'making noise' until companies understand how to channel this goodness into Social Business value.  It all starts with strategy, followed closely by an understanding of the long term investment and business value it will drive. 

OK - now your company understands need to create a Social Business Strategy.  What are some key elements that should be considered?  Here are some areas to think about: 

  • Have you listened to what your customers are saying about your company?  How about what they are saying about your competitors?  Do you see opportunities and/or gaps?
  • How does your company collaborate with customers today?  If you gave them more of a 'voice', where could that drive benefit for your company?  Sales?  Development?  Service?
  • If you had a community that supported your company, how could they help drive more sales?  How could you reward this type of behavior?
  • In addition to thinking about collaboration externally, are there efficiencies and benefits that could be gained through employee usage of social media internally?
These are just some questions that companies should ask themselves as they develop strategies to leverage social for business purposes.  Of course, you need to develop and measure success criteria to understand what is working, and what needs to change.  I'll pass along some good advice that I received .... this is a marathon, not a sprint.  If you demonstrate continued passion and focus on the customer in support of business goals, the benefits will follow.