10 Strategies For Building A Successful Social Business

November 11, 2011 by Mark Fidelman

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Mark Fidelman is general manager and vice president of sales for the Americas for harmon.ie, which provides email collaboration software.

It becomes clearer every day that corporations are facing some major decisions. They can either choose to be social or stick with the status quo.

They can either throw out the stuffy, traditional business playbook and adapt to the needs of today’s socially connected consumers, or risk extinction.

Faced with adapt-or-die decisions, shareholders are counting on executives to integrate social technologies with corporate culture in order to meet the expectations of their customers. An integration plan that includes technology, people and strategy. Unfortunately, the social enterprise is but a fantasy for most CEO’s, which is why there will be considerable executive turnover in the next few years.

Whatever the reason, CEOs appear not to notice how their current and future customers are trampling over the old playbook, and rewriting it with their own rules – rules that shift power to the consumer. The few that are paying attention, the visionaries, recognize that in order to adapt to their customers’ needs, they must restructure their organization to anticipate and deliver value on their customers’ terms.

They are, in effect, preparing for the future social workplace. But why are the visionaries preparing for tomorrow’s workplace while the rest are left confused about whether the social enterprise is the right model? Well, for one, the playbook hasn’t been written. Second, most of the old guard do not have the will to restructure their companies (heck yes, change is difficult). Third, the ROI models are just starting to show results – which the late adopters need to fuel their investment in change.

Still, the visionaries are playing offense, snapping up social playmakers and training others. They recognize where the proverbial puck is headed, and they’ve made plans. Here are 10 strategic plays based on interviews we’ve conducted with over 20 social business visionaries:

#1: Replace Traditional Marketing with Content Marketing

As we well know, traditional marketing via TV, radio and print is slowly disappearing. It’s failing because consumers are tired of the one-way broadcast. Instead, people want interaction and the chance to develop a relationship with the brand. Enter Content Marketing. Content created on SlideShare, YouTube, Flickr and corporate blogs is all easily shareable and interactive. Your TV is not. Online content is portable, traceable, findable and can be more effective in the long tail of context. Print media is not. Smart visionaries are publishing high value content directly to its database of customers and in turn their social networks.

#2: Recruit a Chief Social Evangelist

Earlier in the year I wrote about why every company needs a Robert Scoble. That Scoble personifies the type of individual every company should have onstaff. His formula is simple. Produce or share quality content with his legions of followers in order to create what psychologists call the herd effect.

Admittedly, the visionaries are having trouble finding the right mix of social evangelist and industry expert. Some are training their current staff to be more social, while others are bringing in outsiders and training them on the industry.

Interestingly, once the evangelist is on board, the visionaries realized they needed to strip their public relations department of their censorship duties. Social evangelists can’t be effective when every time they speak into the virtual microphone they’re met with PR interference and a diluted message. “It’s all about speed and getting content out there and not, we got to get PR or legal to review this and wait 24 hours to move forward,” emphasizes, Dell’s Chief Blogger, Lionel Menchaca.

#3: Become Your Own Media Publisher

If the old traditional marketing playbook consists of X’s, O’s, and dotted lines, the new one resembles a rich tapestry of company-generated content, designed to engage their customers.

The visionaries are creating and self-publishing the tapestry of content, because now it’s viewed as a strategic asset. They now put as much thought and design into content as they do their products and services. And the visionaries are assigning the Chief Social Evangelist to anchor the program, backed by a team of social reporters and a camera person.

That is why the visionaries are scaling back their PR efforts. Ostensibly it’s to save money, but some whisper it’s because they can’t connect the dots to revenue like they can withsocialized content. Instead, visionaries are enlisting industry thought leaders to tell their brand’s story.

#4: Use Social Analytics to Drive Key Strategic Decisions

The visionaries are not measuring success by the number of press articles and earned media; they are measuring the impact and reach of each link, image, video and web page of every piece of content. And that’s just the beginning.

Most of the visionaries are also setting up social listening and response war rooms to monitor conversations about their brand. They measure their product and brand sentiment, answer customer support questions, and listen to who is saying what about how their products and services are being used to detect patterns.

Paul Cole, Vice President of Customer Operations Management at Cap Gemini used this approach to detect a new purchasing pattern for a global furniture retailer. “It was a completely unknown, unrecognized pattern that allowed our client to then shape communications to target and appeal to people who are looking to buy birthday presents, boosting revenue as a result.”

Unlike the traditional means of measuring advertising or PR, social analytics will also make tomorrow easier to predict. Symantec’s Senior Manager of Digital Strategy, Tristan Bishop explains, “At the end of every day, we use a summary dashboard to report out social metrics and share these reports based on sentiment trends by product, influencers and engagement.” They use that data to make predictions about their customers, competitors and product offerings.

#5: Chief Marketing and Sales Officers will be Social or Become Obsolete

Earlier in the year I surveyed the Fortune 100 and found only 15 of the CMOs/CCOs had twitter accounts. Unfortunate, since the primary owners of Social lay with the marketing team. Social absence also appears to be the case for VPs of Sales and Chief Revenue/Sales Officers.

The reason CMO’s need to be social is because traditional marketing has become less effective as people search for dialogue, and it will eventually be replaced with content marketing, brand communities, social campaigns and thought leadership. They’ll need to adapt quickly.

For sales leaders, all business interest generated by marketing will need direct follow up and engagement. Sales will be more collaborative and do less traditional selling with prospects in order to solve their problems and drive revenue. A sales leader that doesn’t understand the new social model will be unemployable.

#6. Engage External Communities Formed Around Your Brand’s Value Proposition

The most significant opportunities for converting prospective customers into sales opportunities lie in solving the business problems of an industry. Now, and more so in the future, industry- specific communities are forming in part to help other members solve these same problems.

Failing to participate and help to healthy communities will be detrimental to a company’s long-term business success. In the future, the health of a community will be prerequisite for a successful and growing business. Ignoring these communities and looking the other way will be reckless. A healthy business and a sick community are not compatible.

#7. Invest in Social Media Training and Certification

“We got 10,000 people trained and certified in Social Media that can engage Dell customers,” explains Susan Beebe, Dell’s Chief Listener, “but that’s not enough. We want to arm all of our employees with the information they need to have relevant conversations with customers.”

The days where PR and Legal control external conversations with customers is coming to an end. The visionaries recognize that in order to stay engaged and be responsive with customers, the old rules need to be thrown out.

Social Media policies supplemented with training and certification programs will replace today’s antiquated, corporate communication rules where PR dictates who and when employees can engage with people outside the organization.

#8. Deploy Social Platforms to Support Your Social Business Strategy

According to the visionaries, the primary social business platforms companies are most using to support their social strategy are Microsoft’s SharePoint, Jive Software, Yammer, IBM’s Connections, Salesforce.com with Chatter and Drupal.

It’s important to note that while these platforms can help enable organizations to be social, they do will not replace the need for a coherent social strategy and seamless integration ofthese tools into current processes. As these solutions evolve, the visionaries expect these platforms to better connect people with information in new andcontextual ways.

Jeff Schick, VP of Social Software at IBM, expanded on this point: “I see information being embedded or being leveraged within the context of the ways people work to socially augment messaging and real-time communication. Organizations that aggregate and create experiences for their employees in context, will be far effective in multiple dimensions of their business.”

#9. Leverage Employees, Suppliers and Partners as Sources of Innovation

It is the responsibility of business to convert information into new ideas, that is, into new solutions. And it is the irresponsible executive who doesn’t provide a frictionless platform for aggregating, discussing then bringing these ideas to market.

Excuses don’t cut it anymore, as there are social business solutions like those from Spigit and BrightIdea that facilitate the ideation process. From idea generation to idea refinement and implementation, the visionaries repeatedly stress that the key to remaining competitive in a social business world is to nurture the innovation process.

For example, the major innovations of the last 20 years were, to a large extent, the result of converting the new social environment – the Internet – into myriad business opportunities. This resulted from a new platform that enabled the sharing of ideas (forums, blogs, wikis), greater transparency of the success (or lack thereof) of these ideas (after all, most everything on the web is visible to everyone else on the Web), which gave rise to even better business ideas (after studying the mistakes of the previous generation).

A similar system can be cultivated and made more efficient within a business. To do that, companies need to focus on the right formula for success: Software infrastructure, idea transparency, the right incentives, and internal funding to bring ideas to market.

#10. Re-focus Human Resources on Human Experience

Employee problems are dysfunctions of the corporation, and if left without correction, become degenerative diseases. But for the social organization, and, above all, forhuman resources, they represent a major source of opportunity.

Here’s how. In the future workplace, human resources will focus more on developing internal communities that are supported by a social business platform. HR’s role will be to ensure the platform’s user experience, aesthetics, and collaborative elements support the HR mission of employee recruiting, satisfaction and retainment. So if analytics and sentiment about employee discontent is trending, HR can take meaningful steps to stop or learn from it.

As Rachel Happe, Co-Founder & Principal, The Community Roundtable put it to me: “Internal community management will become the human experience within an organization that parallels the digital user experience. With more interactions happening online, this is a critical competency for companies to establish.”

So Let’s Review…

The top 10 strategies for building a social business represent the most frequently cited transformations occurring within the world’s most visionary organizations. Of course, mobile will be important; so will cloud computing. Interestingly, policies around the ownership of social information created on internal social business platforms is something the visionaries are just starting to think about.

Yet, much of the business community, including most mid-sized organizations, is not acting on these trends. Most businesses are proceeding on the belief that, at least as far as the future workplace goes, that it doesn’t matter – that they can count on business as usual simply because they are still profitable. But that’s not a safe assumption.

Sometimes, the naysayers claim, new trends end up as fads, like Total Quality Management or Management by Consensus. But sometimes new business trends are disruptive. So disruptive that entire industries are wiped out or forced into bankruptcy. Just think about how fast the retail software, music, video and book chains have vanished.

Can a similar phenomenon happen to businesses that are not listening, engaging and nurturing their employees and customers? Perhaps, but it’s less likely to occur as quickly. In reality, the visionaries are still experimenting with social business principles. But their playbooks are rapidly coming together, and they are better than yours.

Original Article