…and 5 things to overcome.

I was prompted to write this post by a conversation with a potential client recently. One of the more interesting remarks he made was that he felt that only about 10% of organisations really understand the value of the social business – and even less know how to go about achieving it.

So of course that got me thinking. Which in my world pretty soon leads to blogging.

First of all, what does it mean to be a social business, and why is it so important?

Becoming a social business isn’t just about having a presence on social networks. It’s about changing the way your entire business operates – and that includes its processes, its structure, its very culture. Admittedly that’s daunting. And is no doubt the very reason why most organisations shy away from the shift to becoming truly social. But social is where your customers are; its where your employees are. Pretty soon, not taking it seriously will leave you at a big disadvantage.

What are the benefits of being a social business?

Better customer relationships
A social business is open, transparent, accessible and responsive. If a customer can communicate with a company in a medium and at a time that suits them, then they will feel valued and respected. Better still, if that company exceeds their response expectations, then you don’t just have satisfied customers, you have potential brand advocates.

Improved insight
A social business can gain more and better insight into customers’ behaviours, sentiments and actions. That in turn can inform future communications, marketing and product development.

Employee satisfaction
A social business empowers employees by making them part of the conversation, both internal and external. The result is more involved, more collaborative, more motivated teams, who can, and are empowered to, make a difference.

Increased productivity
By encouraging open collaboration and involvement, a social business removes bottlenecks and silos, enabling a better flow of communication internally and a culture of getting things done together – rather than having departments work at cross purposes or duplicating effort.

More innovation
New ideas are more easily shared, built upon, developed, put into action. Internally, employees from all parts of the business, bottom-up or top-down are empowered to innovate; externally, customers can contribute valuable insight and opinion about product or service development.

Enhanced reputation
Your brand’s success depends on its products and services living up to the claims that you make about them. If your service falls below the level your customers expect, they will be quick to react – and today that often means very publicly. If you can respond to problems quickly, effectively and transparently, this can only work in your favour. And if your response and your content is right – i.e. helpful or entertaining, you can quickly become very visible experts and the go-to source for helpful information.

What common hurdles might you need to overcome on your social business journey?

Culture change
This is the bit about changing the way your entire business operates. It’s about giving all employees, regardless of their position in the organisation, the tools, the training, the freedom and the encouragement to engage with social media both internally and externally. It’s about getting past negative preconceptions about social. It’s about becoming more transparent, breaking down silos and engendering a culture of collaboration, not competition

Of course, asking an entire business to change its culture in the name of social media sometimes just isn’t going to fly – especially at board level. But with such huge potential benefits, a culture change is essential. So anyone trying to deliver this should start with the low hanging fruit. Find the influential people in the business who recognise the value of social media, and make them the start of your journey. Once others see its value and you can share the proof, it’s far easier to get buy-in. The result will be a more empowered, motivated and collaborative workforce and an accessible, responsive, transparent organisation with people at its heart.

Understanding your audience
By this, I mean your internal audience. In order to define the scope of your project, you need to discover the social capabilities of employees across the business and how well they already understand and/or have adopted social media both inside and outside the workplace. This will determine the levels of support and types of training programmes you need to put in place to drive the social culture change through the business. Once employees have got past any negative preconceptions, understand what they need to do and are embracing the opportunity, communities can be built, incentives put in place, and you’ll find social adopters can very quickly become social champions and great brand advocates.

Making it relevant
Although linked to the above, this is really about ownership of social – who is driving it and who does the responsibility sit with. It may vary from organisation to organisation, but if there is a particular department driving the social business strategy, every effort must be made to understand the needs of different departments and to deliver against them.

Scalability
This is probably one of the tougher challenges for large organisations. How can you deliver training at scale – even globally – with consistency and ensure that people really do adopt? For me this is about creating a training team internally, and delivering a mix of face to face, online and on demand learning programmes backed up with the technology and support to ensure there are people helping to push it through. The hard truth in this one if you want to successfully scale you will need the 3 ‘M’s: men, money, minutes!

Proving ROI
One of the reasons initiatives and pilot schemes for the social business tend to fail is that someone in the business has decided it would be good to measure leads and sales. The problem with this is that, in a 3-month pilot scheme, when your sales cycle can be anything up to 12 or 18 months, you will never be able to deliver and your road to becoming social will be blocked. Your social business plan needs realistic targets, with baselines set before you start. Measures could include renewal rates, account profiling, business knowledge of product and services (you’ll be surprised how little your frontline know), content produced, engagement with key accounts.

Also, remember to choose your wording wisely when speaking to the executive board. “Awareness and reach” probably won’t be as effective as “renewal rates”, forecasting” and “return on investment”.

Becoming a social business is a journey. Change won’t happen overnight. But with careful planning and the right strategy, it WILL reap rewards.

Anything I’ve missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And if you’re thinking of embarking on your own social business journey, or need help to drive it forward, MOI have an enablement program that can help. If you’d like to talk to us, please get in contact.

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