One chief issue: They aren’t really sure that “social business” is what they’re asking for, or that it’s part of the solution to the challenges and opportunities in front of them.
Part of that is our fault as a nascent industry. To date, we’ve overcomplicated the explanation of social business a thousand times over (here’s our crack at it). It’s not an uncomplicated topic or concept so some of that stands to reason.
But what we must improve is our ability to tie the components and ideas behind it to actual business problems in the words of the people who are experiencing them, and who may not be knowledgable about social business.
Here are a few examples of problems that are frequently articulated by companies trying to adapt to the social web — and that point to social business as all or part of the solution — but where it’s not always the obvious answer.
We need training and education for our employees because they’re not comfortable or knowledgeable about social media or its implications, and we’re not comfortable just letting them loose.
Social business puts education at the core of any initiative, because without it, nothing takes root or scales.
Culturally, people will be fearful to test and try things because they don’t know where the boundaries are or what the intent or goal of the initiative is. Functionally, ramping up new team members and educating existing ones in a coordinated fashion is one of the only ways to ensure large-scale adoption of new programs.
Increasingly remote workforces, businesses that go national or global rapidly, and the greater reliance on web-based communication also means that those education programs can’t just be classroom style; they’ve got to be interactive, available anytime, and built on the expressed needs and interests of employees, not just what management (or outside experts) think they “should” know.
Teams need to feel like they’re armed with the knowledge and tools to do new things. They also need to know that leadership is invested for the long term in new programs. Sound and successful social business programs put education at the heart.
We’re not sure how to unify and coordinate all of our social initiatives. They’re all over the place.
Social business concepts – not just software – are the key to aligning social initiatives within a company. The purpose is to create a central, guiding set of goals and principles around which social can pivot, and a framework of people and process within which it can function smoothly.
That framework gives business units, departments, or even project groups the autonomy to leverage social in whatever way makes the most sense for them, but based on consistent systems and data, and driven by the same business-level goals and objectives as the rest of the organization. Social business is the network of threads that ties seemingly disparate initiatives together. We use that as a core part of our engagements and call it the Center of Gravity Framework.
We started participating in social, but we just can’t figure out the long-term picture of why and how this is beneficial to us.
Understanding the benefits of social means going beyond marketing metrics.
Social business requires looking at both internal and external initiatives, and understanding how they drive results (not just ROI) for top level business goals that are shared by the entire organization, and more granularly, the goals established by the departments or business units in support of those organizational goals.
Many businesses struggle to measure and account for social’s impact because they’re looking at it in a linear fashion: X initiative or campaign should drive Y result in Z timeframe. That’s a legitimate way to set a goal, but it’s limited in scope. Successful social initiatives have impact beyond their origins — say, a marketing campaign can create positive outcomes for product development — and often in a less-than-immediate timeframe.
Looking at initiatives as a network of interrelated social programs instead of isolated campaigns means you can benchmark more effectively, choose better metrics, and ultimately understand the impact on your entire organization, not just a single program.
Our business is under pressure to get faster and to innovate, but with the resources we already have.
You’ve heard it before, but collaboration and more effective knowledge sharing is a key component of social business programs.
There’s no question businesses are under pressure to move faster, respond more readily, be present in more places and meet diverging expectations of everyone from customers to employees to partners. And all of that with the teams and resources they already have, because everyone is trying to do more with less.
A good social business program starts with a comprehensive audit. Many businesses struggle to stretch their resources because they haven’t bothered to retire outdated, bloated or ineffective programs.
A social audit isn’t just an accounting of what social profiles you have, but a thorough analysis of what roles are involved in social initiatives (and which should be but aren’t), what technology and platforms are available and which are cumbersome or obsolete, the profile of your current culture and what attitudes are around the business in general aside from social, and what programs are finding success.
The key to doing more with less is to find out what’s still working and what isn’t, and redirect idle or badly allocated money and people into more productive and innovative programs.
The profile of our workforce is changing, and we’re unsure how to adapt to that shift and compete for (or retain) the best talent.
Today’s workforce is different. They expect clear communication, a significant degree of trust and autonomy, room to contribute to areas outside their functional role or expertise, and the knowledge that they are contributing to something greater than themselves.
Social media marketing isn’t going to provide that. But social business can. Collaborative and self-organized projects to respond to new customer ideas and feedback. Knowledge centers that are populated by the changing wisdom of colleagues and teams, not just the operating manuals from past years. Cultures that learn to reward collective achievement in addition to individual accomplishment.
The tools and the web are only the symptoms of a much larger and more welcome epidemic: relentless curiosity and drive to create something better. Social business helps harness that, even in companies that have never set foot on Twitter.
We’ve got all the technology we’re “supposed” to have, but we’re struggling with adoption and consistency.
One huge mistake lots of companies make as they tackle the social world: throwing technology at what are really human problems.
You can have all of the most powerful platforms – CRM, web analytics, community and collaboration, social media monitoring, campaign management, content creation – and if no one actually uses them, they’re a waste of money and time. Social business transformation is only partially a technological problem.
First and foremost, it’s a cultural issue. Companies have to a) understand why social initiatives matter beyond marketing and publicity and b) believe in the long-term investment enough to devote money and people to its establishment and success. When that happens, you can properly convey a vision to the organization about what you’re hoping social can help you achieve, and communicate to your teams why it will improve their work and roles.
Making a business case for a piece of software helping you be more efficient or cost effective isn’t the answer. That software has to make a discernible difference in the day to day lives of employees, customers, or partners in order to ensure its uptake. And that doesn’t happen until the surrounding strategies, training programs, and standardization plans are in place to reinforce that purpose day in and day out. Otherwise no one understands why they have to learn something new or alter their routines and workflow to adapt to something unfamiliar.
Social business provides the plan and the framework, and the technology fits inside it to support it. Not the other way around.
What challenges are you facing?
Social business adoption is still in it’s early stages; companies are only really starting to understand the potential that social programs have beyond clever marketing.
That means that we have to be really great listeners, hearing organizations express their challenges in familiar terms, but realizing when new concepts and emerging ideas like social business can actually form part of the solution (and helping to bridge the gap between the two).
At its most basic level, social business is about realizing the human capacity and potential in organizations and giving it a foundation upon which to thrive and grow. Really good change management is everything. One social network and a clever contest alone won’t provide that solution, and many platforms will come and go in the months and years to come.
But the concepts of aligning people and ideas, providing flexible but helpful frameworks to solve problems, adapting rapidly to technology and sharing knowledge and information openly are concepts that are as timeless as business itself.
And social business helps fuel them all.