(By Scott Hebner)
“It’s not simply that everything we touch, whether our cars, smartphones, or supply chains, is now interconnected. Or that these networked things are becoming smarter all the time as they’re packed with GPS, tiny cameras, or sensors. It’s that the social services we use on these devices — community sites, our collaboration networks at work, or the social apps that help us find a new house or shop for things based on a friend’s advice — have reset our expectations as consumers, employees, and partners.“
Collecting Facebook likes and Twitter followers used to be the name of the game, but the stakes these days are much higher. The race is on to go far beyond marketing and truly become a social business — and it is about a lot more than just using social networking sites.
About 62% of businesses are expanding their investments in social business, according to an IBM Institute for Business Value report. And, for the first time ever, business leaders say technology is the No. 1 market force affecting their companies’ success. At the same time, businesses are hiring at a rapid pace. Job postings related to social in the United States have increased from nearly 3,000 at the end of 2012 to nearly 43,000 in 2013, according to analysis conducted by the National Institute of Social Media.
Companies know they should either get smart about weaving social throughout their operations — from marketing, sales, customer service and R&D — or get left behind. After all, social is not only driving a new way of life, it’s driving a new way to work.
Why? It’s not simply that everything we touch, whether our cars, smartphones, or supply chains, is now interconnected. Or that these networked things are becoming smarter all the time as they’re packed with GPS, tiny cameras, or sensors. It’s that the social services we use on these devices — community sites, our collaboration networks at work, or the social apps that help us find a new house or shop for things based on a friend’s advice — have reset our expectations as consumers, employees, and partners.
Which means that businesses have to make decisions, create value, and inspire loyalty differently than in the past. They need to become experts at listening to and making sense of massive amounts of disparate kinds of data, by targeting individuals, not segments, and by helping people connect, locate expertise, make faster decisions, and build enduring relationships in new ways.
That’s a tall order. How, practically, do you go about becoming a social business?
1. Listen first and often: Companies used to rely on gut instinct, focus groups, and top-down brainstorming meetings to figure out what to make, how to market, where to sell. No more. In the era of big data, the cloud, social media, and mobile technology, we can now know what every customer, partner, and employee is telling us — as individuals. All we have to do is learn how to listen.
2. Empower your clients, employees and partners: In a connected world, organizations need to think of themselves as intermediaries, not end points. The goal isn’t just to the grab the attention of customers or even partners or employees anymore, it’s to connect them with the opportunities and actionable information they need to be more effective. That can include creating an internal network that helps employees tap each other’s expertise. Think of it as your new production line, the place where the company’s top thought leaders gather to share their ideas and opinions that start a conversation, which can then point your organization in directions it may never have considered.
3. Create enthusiastic communities to spur innovation: Social media is based on the connections that bind people together, the information they share, the ways they come together to solve problems. Weaving communities throughout a company’s organization is different than the typical top down structure, but it produces results.
4. Treat people as individuals with changing needs: Communication today is intimate, broad, and fast. Big Data and analytics give us the tools we need to sift through usage trends and behavioral patterns quickly and keep up in real-time with how people’s taste, interests and needs are morphing. That way, we can tweak apps to adapt to changing habits, use new insights to dish up services that we hadn’t thought of before, or simply discover the best ways and times to reach out to people.
For instance, imagine you’re sitting in a coffee shop or paying for a latte. Based on your past purchases and the fact that you recently starting buying at a nearby retail chain store, your credit card company could alert you to a sale at the store 20 yards away or offer you a 20% discount coupon.
5. Value every new advocate, not just new clients or partners:Relationships aren’t based just on commercial transactions anymore. Social media turns everyone into a critic with a megaphone ready to share their opinion, regardless of whether they do business with you or not. Companies need to use what customers and partners are communicating about themselves to provide helpful information and entertaining interactions, as well as products and services.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”