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What Does Social Business Have To Do With Brand Strategy?

This post was originally published on Michael Brito’s blog Britopian.

There is a content surplus in the market today. There is an attention deficit among consumers. Consumers are influential and their lives are unpredictable. This is making it extremely difficult for brands to reach them with the right messages.

From a content perspective, brands need to think like media companies, because media companies are content engines. The produce relevant and recent content day in and day out. The content is omnipresent (meaning it’s everywhere) and internally, media companies are agile – they can get things done quickly and efficiently.

Brands can’t just turn the “media company” button on an expect operations to change overnight. They must deploy a social business strategy to make this change successful – people, process and technology. The rest of the slides focus on the content operations of becoming a media company.

Image credit: JasonBrown2013

The Technology of Becoming a Social Business

When the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said that the Internet is a series of tubes, those in the Internet intelligentsia gave a self-satisfying chortle at his naïveté. Now in the age of mobile, it turns out he was more right than we were.

Stevens saw it as tubes, but the early days of the Internet might more accurately be thought of in the same manner as the early days of the universe, with all manner of matter floating around, not yet having coalesced into definable entities. As such it used to look pretty much like this:



To bring something comprehensible to the screen, a disorganized mess such as that needed to be pared back and organized into a technology stack that serves the client’s needs. A really well-organized web project might then look like this:

This example shows an involved but not ridiculously complex web site technology stack. We can see the relationships between the applications, the flow of data and the variety of platforms needed to accomplish specific goals.

Presenting this diagram to a potential client is a home run. To the potential client’s marketing team this diagram makes the tech consultant look organized, experienced and conversant in all the stuff needed to bring the interactive world to the potential client’s feet. This diagram also makes the potential client’s IT leadership feel pretty good because it explains either how their work will integrate with the tech team’s work, or how their work needs not touch that project. This diagram plays the Jedi mind trick of making both the marketer and the technologist comfortable by communicating the right combination of clarity and complexity to justify the budget.

This ladders up to an approach that has been covered endlessly in today’s business writings: Becoming a social business. But what are the challenges for the technology-industrial complex in becoming a Social Business?

At no time more than now, the Internet is a network of conduits more than a jumble of technology platforms. In the earlier days of the Internet – before users had started settling into predictable usage habits in numbers that approached any sort of critical mass – technology was deployed to try to make companies and brands as available as possible. However, those technologies were organized and deployed to have the effect of a silo, or even as a fortress, to maintain company data security and integrity.

Becoming a social business challenges this approach on several different levels:

  • User authentication today is more about identification and less about access restriction.
  • Data needs to be organized into smaller chunks to be more quickly deployable and to deliver a greater ability to be mashed-up with other data to deliver new user experiences.

Example: tell me where the restaurant is, show me on the map, give me walking directions, give me their phone number, tell me what other people think of this restaurant, and tell me if they have any special offers on; that is up to 5 different data providers, with only one of them being the restaurant itself.

  • Content used to be words and pictures. Now it’s video, sound, pictures, words, multi-threaded exchanges, metadata (like tagging for instance) and more. Keep in mind that only some or (more likely) none of the above are resident inside the brand’s own data storage facility.
  • There is no meaningful moderation or expiration date to content beyond what the web writ large applies to itself: The brand can filter out items it doesn’t want to show but those items remain elsewhere, unfiltered and searchable, for an undetermined amount of time.

To a technologist this is a problem: Software is meant to operate along a fixed set of rules and within a well-defined user context. To respond properly to this disruption the technologist needs to embrace the thrill of a new challenge: Architecting data flow to ensure that the user’s experience is as seamless and fluid as life itself. This means:

  • Mastering lightweight data structures becomes a must.
  • Maintaining the separation of interests between the presentation, the business, and the data layers in a multiplatform environment. This is the key to being nimble.
  • Grasping a new notion of what user authentication means in a non-gated environment: If Twitter says you’re ok, what extra level of access should I give you?
  • Developing a new strategy for running complex transactional promotions on external platforms when those platforms regularly change their rules relating to interacting with their users.

For web developers it means thinking less like Dungeons & Dragons, and more like Ultimate Frisbee.

How has your company begun to manage this transformation?

Image credit: Adam Crowe

The Emergence of the Social Business Command Center

This post was originally published on Michael Brito’s blog Britopian.

I had the pleasure of facilitating a webinar earlier this week with Hootsuite’s Enterprise Marketing team*. The topic was the emergence of Social Business Command Centers. You can listen to the entire webinar below or read the summary by scrolling down a tad.

I start off talking about the emergence of command centers in the marketplace, mentioning the early adopters like Dell and Gatorade, who were some of the first brands to launch and publicize their command centers.

I then discuss how companies are beginning to realize the importance of deploying command centers, given much of the hype at the CES show.

I use the formal definition by Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter Group and then add that command centers don’t necessarily have to be in one physical space, but that they can also live and operate within a virtual environment.

I then discuss why a command center is important for business today. Much of us already know this but it’s worth repeating anyway:

  • Listening, obviously
  • Engagement, obviously
  • Building community – here I discussed Facebook’s Graph Search and the need for brands to continue to grow their communities. The more fans you have, the wider your audience. The wider your audience, the more likely your brand will come up as a connected page in Graph Search
  • Advocacy – basically turning friends, fans and followers into lovers of the brand
  • Content – using real time listening to create real time content based on the day’s new cycle and “what’s trending” right now
  • Product Innovation – I mention Dell and Starbucks
  • Document psychographics and demographics of the community, reporting, etc.
  • Customer support

The next part of the webinar, I give several industry examples of command centers in action:

  • Oregon Ducks
  • Cisco Systems
  • The 2012 Republican National Committee in Tampa Bay
  • The American Red Cross
  • Clemson University
  • Hootsuite’s 2012 Presidential Election Tracker

I point out that several verticals are beginning to adopt command centers, notably the tech, education, and government sectors.

I then get into the Command Center Framework and discuss the importance of having a set strategy taking into consideration the goals & objectives and dashboard and technology requirements. I used the Social Business Framework to illustrate the need to consider People, Process and Platforms for command center deployment. This included building the right team, creating a social business center of excellence, create processes for crisis management and customer support workflows.

I close off this section talking about real time content creation and give a few examples of a few stellar brands who are killing it with their content – notably the Oreo and AMC Theaters exchange last year.

I conclude the webinar giving very tactical advice on how to build a command center using a 5 step process for deployment – discovery, planning, measurement, implementation and kaizen (or constant improvement).

Here are the Social Business Command Center Slides on Slideshare if you are interested.

*Hootsuite is an Edelman client.

Beyond a Buzzword: Social Business Delivers Value

This post was originally published on Michael Brito’s blog Britopian.

I had the pleasure of speaking at Explore Orange County. Below are my slides but here is a quick narrative of what I talked about. Slides 1 – 7 really just highlight a few observations in today’s landscape with one of the most important being that “Brands Need To Start Thinking Like Media Companies.” Despite these changes externally  business objectives still remain unchanged i.e. market share, revenue, stock price, customer retention, etc. Slide 8 was all about the social media “bright and shiny” object and I explained that companies (and their agency counterparts) jumped right into social media without thinking strategically about it. This has caused several business challenges (slide 9) i.e. employees inappropriate use of social media, disjointed content and community practices, global scalability of social media programs, etc. Slides 10 – 13 discuss and define social business. I was quick to explain that it really doesn’t matter what we call it (social business) but one couldn’t deny the challenges in business today. Slide 15 – 22 are tangible examples of social business planning and how it can be deployed today:

  • Slide 15 – The Establishment of the Center Of Excellence
  • Slide 16 – How the Center of Excellence Integrates With Other Job Functions Within The Organization
  • Slide 17 - Creating Approval Workflows For New Account Creation
  • Slide 18 – A Process For Expanding Social Programs Globally
  • Slide 19 - Social Customer Support Decision Trees And Process Workflows
  • Slide 20 - Building A Real Time Listening Center
  • Slide 21 - Content Creation, Approval And Distribution Workflows
  • Slide 22 – Operationalizing The Content Marketing Process

A big thank you to Jason Falls, the conference organizer, who is a really smart dude and a really a good friend. If you haven’t signed up for Explore Portland, I highly recommend you do so. It’s a great conference with great content.

Photo credit: pvsbond.

Technology Will Only Solve 1/3 of Your Social Business Problem

This post was originally published on David Armano’s blog Logic + Emotion.

I’m behind on writing a bit as I’ve just returned from Norway and before that, Dreamforce in San Francisco. It was my first time attending and speaking at Dreamforce and to be honest, I was completely taken back by the extravagance of it all. With Keynotes from heavy hitters such as Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Imelt and even Colin Powell, not to mention entertainment provided by the Red Hot Chili Peppers—I can only estimate that the event cost tens of millions to produce.

Salesforce also made good on what many observers were already suspecting—it has begun to package and consolidate acquisitions of social platforms Radian 6 and Buddy Media into what’s now known as “Marketing Cloud” moving forward. Shel Israel shrewdly views this as a pivot to catering to CMOs as part of the strategy to convert an enterprise to “social enterprise” and in short follow the money trail as companies grapple with how to integrate social at scale.

But amid enjoying some of my favorite tunes belted out by the Peppers in an outdoor venue filled with well over thirty thousand people complete with free beer and wine I couldn’t help but think this:

“all this money—and companies will only be solving one third of their social business problem”

The problem with social technology solutions—even really great technology—is that it’s incomplete. It’s no wonder why Salesforce is making a killing, because I’ve seen first hand how a business will freely invest in a technology platform thinking that they have purchased a turnkey solution only to realize shortly after that they’ve possibly invested in the wrong solution and most definitely underestimated the other two areas which require investment (people and process).

The Three P’s of Social Business

People, Process, and Tech Platforms. Each is equally important and yet so many businesses are putting all their eggs in the platform basket because it seems like the most obvious solution. But it’s short sighted and even emphasizes the need for the other two. The most common issue I see from working with large organizations is that once an enterprise social technology solution has been implemented it immediately raises questions about who will operate it, integrate it, adopt it and derive value from the investment. The dirty little secret in the technology world is that technology, even really good technology looks automated but in reality requires people to make it work.

Life After The Big Buy

Assuming that you’ve been part of the professional population who have invested in the most obvious “P” helping to fuel the enterprise tech economy, you should be asking yourself what comes next. A social CMS (Content Management System) is nothing without content and teams/partners to manage it. The best listening platform is nothing without the ability to filter signal from noise and make sense of it. And even internally, a social collaboration system falls flat without the right culture to sustain it.

Right now is a great time to pause and think about the other two “P”s of social business—your people and processes. It’s not nearly as sexy as technology, but you need all three to complete the math. Technology alone will only solve one third of your social business problem and while critical, it’s only part of the equation.

Three Ps of Social Business

System connection image courtesy of BigStock.

9 Indicators of Social Business Transformation: Process & Governance

This post was originally published on Michael Brito’s blog Britopian.

Back in May, I wrote about the 8 Cultural Indicators of Social Business Transformation; and while I believe that culture is what drives this evolution, process also plays a critical role. Here are 9 process and governance indicators that will help you understand if your organization is on the right track:

  • The establishment of a Social Business Center of Excellence responsible for social media operations and governance
  • Social behaviors become a part of employees everyday workflow and job function
  • Social media policies and guidelines (or Rules of Engagement) co-created and shared with the employees
  • Social Media Training Curriculum created and made available for employees, partners
  • Governance models created, published and shared across the organization i.e. process for new employees to be trained to be social media practitioners; process for new social media channel creation (internal and external)
  • Consolidation of social media channels, both internal and external
  • Tighter integration between social media, paid and owned media
  • Workflows created that collect external customer feedback and filtered back to the product organizations
  • Consistent social media measurement framework agreed upon and used to measure both internal and external social initiatives

What have you seen within your company that indicates true social business transformation?

Gears image courtesy of BigStock.

Using Feng Shui to Become A Social Business

At the foundation of marketing and advertising are the arts of persuasion and inference: Try to persuade an audience to take a specific action through some sort of communications program, and then infer the relative success of the program through a series of metrics that were designed to draw correlations between the communications and the audience’s ultimate behavior.

And thus we have a multi-billion-dollar industry.

All parties involved – advertisers, media experts and statisticians alike – acknowledge that drawing anything more than a dotted line between an advertisement, promotion or other brand communication and a consumer’s action is much easier said than done. Nevertheless these analytics and metrics are the best we have had for generations for gauging the relative effectiveness – the ROI – of these programs. Indeed, for over 2 generations all manner of major business decisions have been made based on them.

Then social media crashed the marketing party, bringing along its own vocabulary comprised of reformulated Sesame Street-level concepts: friend, share, like, tweet, conversation, and others. Brands that ignored social media did so at their peril, because today places like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Pinterest are where many customers choose to spend their increasingly precious free time, exchanging experiences with others both known and unknown. Social media has bypassed being a passing fad and has instead grown into a bona fide behavioral pattern. Businesses as a result now need to predicate their broader marketing decisions at least in part on what happens in online exchanges they neither create nor control. By welcoming social media into their operations and decision-making, any sort of organization can move toward becoming a social business.

We here have covered what it means to be a social business on almost every different level. Nevertheless many marketers remain somewhat confounded by the relative lack of hard analytics to help define success in the social realm. How, when stood up next to the analytics-fuelled, metrics-driven conventional marketing program can one plausibly make room for – much less take seriously – social media as a driver of business?

It might help at this point to get to know a little Feng Shui.

A Balance Of Energies

With a rich history that reaches back to 4000 BC, Feng Shui defies definition in a pithy sentence. About.com comes closest, describing it as “a complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure the health and good fortune of people inhabiting it.” As much as it can be boiled down, Feng Shui is an approach to life that encourages us to take steps to facilitate “positivity” instead of trying to force a desired outcome.

A little wispy, perhaps. But for those who straddle the worlds of marketing and technology this notion of balancing energies resonates strongly, particularly in the age of mobility and social media. Being a social business may mean adjusting focus and adapting methodologies, but above all it means balancing the need for the brand to control its message with allowing the brand’s constituents the freedom to define the brand for themselves. It means using social media – whichever platform or combination of platforms makes the most sense – to allow people into the brand instead of dictating the terms of their engagement from a distance.

With this in mind, here are 4 tips for integrating social into your business as a complement to and partner of your traditional marketing program:

  1. Maintain a healthy presence in the social space by listening, not just monitoring. Use your social media presence to complement your regular media messaging as well as to inform yourself on how your audience might respond to different avenues for advertising and promotion.
  2. Start the process of social integration throughout your online presence. Some companies simply put up an AddThis or ShareThis widget and call it a day. More complete audience engagement comes from adding features and opportunities for users to participate with the brand and with each other through the brand. Possible solutions could be user-generated content (whether user reviews, ratings, or some other commenting feature), media sharing (relevant photos or video are highly effective), or location-based features.
  3. Be selective about what you ask and how. Find balance between asking and asking too much. This means taking the long view of your social media relationships, because you will need time to amass a truly valuable store of user insights and behavioral patterns. And this is OK, because over time you will want to adjust what you ask and how.
  4. Make it mobile friendly. Probably the single best way to raise user engagement levels is to make every interaction on your web site mobile friendly. Look for ways to enable responses without requiring the user to type. Envision the places where your user is using. Or, better yet, use your social media presence to ask them!

Achieving the balance required to be a social business is not mutually exclusive from the statistical rigor required to be an analytical marketer. In the truest sense of Feng Shui, becoming a proper social business can amplify the impacts of analytical marketing; Feng Shui doesn’t make your success, but it paves the way for success to find you. Being a Social Business, with all the customer-friendly practices it engenders, is very much the same.

Image credit: utnapistim

Social Business for Complex Organizations

Several years ago, your CMO or maybe the corporate head of communications shot you an e-mail with a call to action around doing something with “social”. Since then, you’ve launched numerous Facebook, Twitter, YouTube initiatives and yes, you even have a company Pinterest page. Now comes the hard part. As an organization with a national if not global footprint, you find yourself in a chaotic situation as regions scramble to “do their own thing” at the local level. You find this out only after you’ve seen yet another unsanctioned social property launch. Integration becomes a massive headache. You have several websites and mobile apps with poor or misguided attempts at social integration. Employee social usage becomes a black hole–your employees are all over social media, but mainly you just don’t want them saying the wrong thing. Vendor management has become a nightmare–your organization is using every new technology vendor under the Sun and losing efficiency and dollars in the process. In short, you operate in a complex organization and there is nothing simple about integrating social, mobile, and the latest iteration of digital into your legacy systems.

These are the types of challenges we’ve been tackling over the past few years with clients–many who are large, complex organizations. If you can relate to these pain points you are not alone. The good news is that you can address them if you shift your mindset from social media (tactical) to social business (strategic) and look at problems and opportunities more holistically.

Here are a few considerations for those of us tasked with integrating social into a complex and sometimes complicated business environment:

Perform Stakeholder Interviews

Partner up with an objective third party and interview the critical stakeholders across your organization who will feel the impact of social integration. The interview guide should be designed to extract nuggets of insights which can prove to be immensely helpful if articulated correctly in a summary. Often themes tend to emerge when you talk to a variety of individuals.

Establish a Center of Excellence

Companies like Adobe* and Intel are well known for their social centers of excellence , but this construct is not limited to tech companies. When an emerging business trend hits the mainstream, a center of excellence becomes mandatory, not optional. When set up correctly, they can help guide a complex organization as it grows and scale efforts around the emerging opportunity.

Organize for Integration

You may not like it, but there is no way a complex organization can deal with change without changing itself. Organization design around social business challenges is becoming more commonplace amongst companies who are doing more than lip service when it comes to social integration. We’re not talking about “social media gurus,” we’re talking about roles, responsibilities and formal job descriptions with social woven into them.

Design New Processes

Does your organization have a process for launching a new social property? Maybe it should. No initiative can scale or be repeated without some degree of process. A true social business will always be flexible enough to launch pilots, but it also has to have enough process in place to ensure that programs can be executed with a certain degree of rigor.

Formalize Governance

Who approves what and what groups need to be in the know? Governance is painful, messy, difficult to construct and see through to fruition, but it also sets a foundation that will deter chaos from taking hold of your initiatives.

Expand Globally

Whether your organization is national or global, if it’s big then you need to able to scale efforts around a methodology. Figure out what methodology works for your organization and roll it out globally.

Define a Role for Employees

Social media guidelines for employees are really a fancy way for a complex organization to “C-Y-A”. A social business understands that not all employees are created equally, and yet some of them are not only connected to multiple social networks, but they are actually great representatives of the organization itself. These companies match up employees with opportunities in social both internally and externally.

Establish a Communications Protocol

There are literally millions of conversations in play thanks to social technologies and the desire of individuals to share and connect. These conversations happen inside your organization and of course out in the open. Having an established communications protocol provides helpful guidelines for how social interactions for business should go down.

Collaborate In Real Time

For the social business, e-mail has its limits. Working groups form “clusters” around project initiatives and often need more connected ways of sharing files, knowledge and project updates. And it’s not just about Chatter, Yammer, Jive or a host of other enterprise collaboration platforms, for example at Edelman multiple Facebook Groups started by employees have been popping up around topics such as trends, community management and even Pinterest. Instead of an e-mail alias, these groups allow employees from around the globe to gather around a more connected virtual water cooler to share tips, links and exchange knowledge.

Launch a Command Center

A “command center” does not have to be a physical space but should be the system a complex organization has in place to monitor and potentially respond to a host of scenarios generated by social media. A social command center is also a great way to make sense out of social data. Edelman’s SICC is designed not only to monitor and analyze social data but to craft content informed by social signals, not unlike how a newsroom operates.

Establish a Measurement Framework

How does a complex organization measure what it does in social, digital and even mobile? The starting point is to combine data points from across multiple digital properties and initiatives and align what gets measured to business KPI’s. A measurement framework can also integrate traditional Web metrics with emerging social metrics and set the foundation for creating standards across multiple brands and business units.

With business trends moving toward connectivity and adaptability, complex organizations may find dealing with change more challenging than ever–but it needs to be done. The above initiatives represent a sample of the types of programs organizations will need to undertake as they make the journey from operating as a business built on the legacy models of yesterday toward becoming the fully integrated social business of tomorrow.

*Adobe is an Edelman client

This post was compiled in conjunction with Edelman Consulting.

Social Business Means Thinking Internally First

This post was originally posted on Michael Brito’s blog Britopian.

Too many think that social media is all about friends, fans and followers.  There is certainly some validity to this thinking because our minds have been trained to focus on outcomes. If done right, the output of smart social media initiatives like general community engagement, advocacy/influencer management, a Facebook sponsored story or a Promoted Tweet will be an increase in community growth. Yes, that’s a good thing, but there is so much more to it.

The problem arises when those who are in charge of social media don’t think about the possible implications that the bright and shiny object called social media can cause. Issues usually include disjointed content, scaling programs globally and confusion of roles & responsibilities, to name a few. This is no hype and not a scare tactic. These are real issues that plague business today.

Social business can be compared to building a house. Start with the infrastructure or the blueprint and get that in order first.  The last thing you want to do is hang dry wall AFTER it is painted, right?

When preparing for external social media marketing initiatives, it’s important to first think internally and focus on three areas – Scale, Silos and Structure.

Scale

Scaling social media (whether globally or just a new network) is usually an afterthought. Too many marketers see that “bright and shiny object” of that new network, overly anxious to create a new regional Facebook page, Twitter account or they simply just want to jump on the bandwagon and create a Google+ page because everyone else has one. What they usually forget about are the fundamentals:

Content – I see this all the time, brands re-purposing Google+ content from Facebook or Twitter or re-posting US content into other regional social channels. This isn’t smart. Every community needs a unique story. One that is relevant and culturally applicable which has to be driven by a local resource that understands the nuances of that region. If content is a challenge for the US market, then it’s probably a challenge across the board. So until that problem is solved, don’t scale.

Community Management – Before expanding into ANY social network, there needs to be a community manager responsible for that community. Again, a local resource that understands the community culture.

Governance – This piece is easier said than done. However, it’s imperative to ensure there are social media polices, guidelines, crisis communication and customer support escalation models in place prior to launching.

Silos

A buzzword we have been hearing all over the intrawebs a lot lately, but yes, organizational silos exist and still plague business today. Truth is, they will always exist, since new management and leadership will cycle in and out of the organization. However, it’s important that social media leaders attempt to build bridges with IT, customer support; and other marketing and regional teams. This means that marketing people should NOT be making IT decisions without consulting with IT.  Ensuring proper alignment internally will result in better marketing and more meaningful customer relationships. It’s true. And getting everyone involved is good business practice. It improves morale.

Structure

Establishing roles & responsibilities early on will save a lot of heartache in the future. There is a land grab for social media. Everyone wants to own it. It’s sexy and all over the news. Employees are mad, quitting because they are unsure of what they are responsible for or what they are being measured by. It’s imperative to structure your team so everyone knows exactly what they will be doing. Some roles may include:

  • Content & community management
  • Integration w/paid media, PR, campaigns
  • Liaison w/customer support
  • Collaboration with global teams
  • Measurement, training, governance

So there it is – Scale, Silos and Structure. Not very sexy but definitely more important than an ad buy on Facebook or a promoted Tweet.  This is certainly not easy and many companies are forming teams to start thinking about these issues. It’s good practice to formalize this team and establish a social business center of excellence to tackle this head on.  It’s an investment with huge dividends.

Image credit: PMillera4

The Importance of Social Business

This post was originally published on Business 2 Community.

Last month, MIT Sloan in collaboration with Deloitte released a study, “Social Business: What Are Companies Really Doing?” that highlights the growing importance of social business initiatives, among other things.

The majority of respondents (52%) believe that social business is important or somewhat important to their business operations. Roughly 86% of managers believe social business will be important or somewhat important in the next three years. Additionally, social business is viewed most often as a tool for external-facing activities. Here are further insights:

  • Respondents say that marketing, sales and customer services are most responsible for driving social business adoption
  • On average, respondents say that the most important use of social business software is for managing customer relationships
  • The second most important use of social software is to innovate for competitive differentiation

Also from reading the full report (link here, requires registration), it’s clear that social business enables much more than just marketing. The study concludes with several case studies from McDonald’s, Lego, Nationwide and Luminoso where the outcome of social business affected innovation, operations and leadership.  Below illustrates how social business can enable much more than how a brand communicates on the social web.

I think we can all agree that social business isn’t just a buzzword any longer, despite what the critics say. It’s real life and it can help solve real life business problems.

Image credit: Ryan Wick

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