Social Business – 10 Commandments Before You Start

iGo2 is two years young and we have learnt a lot about social business in that time. Some of it from working with customers, some of it through study and learning and some of it from our failures – where we couldn’t convince an organisation to follow a recommended path.

Before leaping into the journey of becoming a social business there are 10 ‘commandments’ that we believe an organisation must embrace or they should not start the journey at all – it will be a total waste of time, effort and money.

We don’t profess that these commandments are original – we have been highly influenced by some of the better practitioners in the field and have often used their advice before proceeding. But here is what I tell anyone today who says they wish to become a social business:

1. Social is about engagement and relationships – it is not about transactions. If you don’t understand this then don’t start. You have to focus and care as much about the 10th customer interaction as the first. This is not to say that results and ROI aren’t important – they are, but they take a while in coming. But you will never be a social business if you don’t understand relationships – a two way concept – is at the heart of everything you need to do.

2. Fit social into your business – not the other way around. The focus is to use social constructs and methods into your business processes where it makes sense. The focus is NOT to have Facebook in the enterprise. But it also means that you have to think about social beyond marketing – the entire customer journey experience is affected when you become a social business.

3. Fish where the fish are – don’t try to have a presence in every social network on the planet and don’t agree to a page or account for every product / department / business unit / branch / state / country / language in your business. Consider only those networks where you KNOW for a fact your customers already exist and are ACTIVE. And think carefully today about your presence needs – every page, every account has to be managed, moderated, filled with content and provide an engaging experience. If it doesn’t – get rid of it. This is a key part of what we call Social Architecture.

4. Social is not a Silo : if you do not connect your social efforts into your entire business it will fail to deliver the desired results. It’s part of a marketing mix – therefore social campaigns must include and link to websites, email, eDMs and newsletters. Your Twitter account for service must be part of a fully fledged service experience that includes any other service response mechanism. If your PR crises management plan doesn’t include social then it will likely fail you in an emergency. The customer experience is not linear and traverses many channels – they don’t work in silos and if you do you will fail. ‘Social everywhere it makes sense’ should be your mantra.

5. Engagement cannot be Outsourced : A pet peeve of mine! You can use your agency for monitoring, for creative, for campaign creation but if you use your agency to create your regular posts and to respond to engagement then you have two problems. The wrong agency (for accepting this practice) and the wrong attitude towards your customers. See point one above. I don’t care about your content calendars – if you don’t talk to your customers how can you hope to understand and serve them.

6. Social involves your entire Organisation : this is the biggest realisation for most companies and is mandatory to becoming a social business. You must focus even more internally than externally. You can’t exhibit the traits of transparency, engagement and collaboration which are central to success in social if your organisation is based on a command and control culture and set of processes. There is no Faking IT in social. And it is not only about marketing – it impacts HR, sales, marketing, service, product management, engineering and more.

7. Success requires Engagement without Fear : once you realise it’s more than marketing you must be prepared to put some basic rules and processes in place and then get out of the way and let your people at it. Everyone must have the choice to participate and its amazing what they can do for your brand, reach and revenue when they are let loose. Not to mention how your employee satisfaction, productivity and talent acquisition improves. Yes, the social channels are full of trolls, sideline commentators and idiots. So is the ‘real world’. Get over it and get involved.

8. Social is based on Sharing : this means not just sharing your product brochures endlessly or repeating your marketing messages over and over and over again. This is probably the biggest mistake that many organisations make. Social does provide an opportunity to tell the human stories behind your brand. After all, your customers want to deal with people. The obsession with being ‘on message’ is one that hurts many brands. And the social economy is based on reciprocity – you must share content of value from sources other than yourself if you are truly going to be perceived as a source of value in the social economy. I know it’s shocking but you are not the only one in the world with value to add.

9. Social is Not Ad Hoc : whilst the social networks may seem chaotic at first and it’s difficult to relate to your current processes you should approach it as you would any other other business initiative. You need to go through the process of creating your overall social business strategy based on a thorough process of research, evaluation  and review. You then need to associate goals, initiatives, priorities, programs, measurements, resources and activities. Social business is not an accident waiting to happen but well thought out piece of your corporate strategy. Plan it that way. A strategy for social media is not a social business strategy.

10. Social is Measurable : Anyone who tells you that you can’t measure your social initiatives and that ROI and social don’t go together needs to be escorted off your premises as soon as possible. Measurements should be at 3 levels – reach metrics such as friends, fans and followers. Engagement metrics such as comments, re-tweets, social shares, user generated posts and so on. And ROI on your social campaigns and activities. All levels of measurement are both important and possible.

And here is a bonus commandment that is perhaps the most important of all:


Nothing stays constant very long in a social business and to be successful you must be lean, agile and willing to change. You can’t have lengthy approval processes for responses to posts for example or your relevance to the story will evaporate entirely. The half life of a Facebook post is measured in minutes and a that of a Tweet is measured in seconds. Pinterest didn’t exist a year ago. Get rid of unnecessary overhead and go listen to your customers and engage .

Will B

5 MORE Signs You Are NOT a Social Business

Last week I was inspired by a meeting to write a post on 5 Sure Signs You are NOT a Social Business. That post received quite a lot of review and off line discussion. Since then, I have met with a number of potential customers or been working on existing engagements with partners and this question of the difference between a social brand and a social business keeps arising.

And for me, the issue has also been kept top of mind in a round about way as posts abound on the predicted top trends in social for 2012 as well as a couple of posts on whether digital agencies are properly equipped to consult on social business or not. See the original post here and the response of Edelman here.

In their own way, both point to the differences or provide signs by which to judge whether you are a social business or not.

I don’t want to buy into the argument as to whether PR firms should be a social business advisor or not except to say most we have met should not be considered for that role though doubtless some have the capability in spades. It’s a bit like the ROI of social media question – it’s the wrong one. Trying to classify all digital agencies as capable or not in social business consulting is meaningless. Some will, some won’t. Look at their work and ask their customers.

But the robust discussions have led me to continue thinking about several more sure signs you are not a social business.

Here are 5 more signs to consider:

  1. Your Social Data Streams are Full……of YOU
  2. Social Media is Owned by Marketing, PR or Communications
  3. The focus is on Customer Engagement rather than the Customer Experience
  4. You are not thinking ‘Community’
  5. Social Technology takes precedence over People

1. Your Social Media Data Streams are Full of You

We see this so often. The social media world is full of “how to”s” – make your tweets, posts, updates, comments more effective. All full of great advice which works to a degree. And so you look at your twitter streams and LinkedIn updates and Facebook or blog posts and it’s all about you.

On the other hand Social businesses share content of value to their community. Not just content they create, but content they curate as well. As someone said to us earlier this week – caring is sharing. They don’t just use it as another form of outbound marketing.

Taking your marketing and churning it out via social channels as well as via email and so on is not being a social business. There is interesting content for your community that was not developed by you. Share it. Give others credit. Learn from it. You will be a better organisation. Of course, if your community is totally outsourced it’s unlikely an agency can do this for you. (Ask us why not?)

2. Social Media is Owned by Marketing, PR or Communications

Perhaps the number one realisation of becoming a social business is that it needs to be a cross-organisational initiative.

In almost every large organisation we have met with in the last year, anything ‘social’ is the responsibility of either Marketing, PR or Communications – and if these are separate groups they will often be vying for ‘control’. We are not here to criticise these organisations or departments; we are simply saying that it’s a sign you are not yet a social business.

Social businesses understand the importance of social in service, in innovation, in recruitment, in retention; indeed – across the entire business and as a result either have a cross-LOB team in charge of it or a separate group reporting to the executive. Another way to describe this is “service design” which Wim Rampen defines as:

Service is the personal sum of a Customer’s experiences in all their interactions, through touch-points, with the products and/or services of the company
in all their interactions with the relevant experiences of others, through or in the Customer’s (on-line) social networks – all making up the Customer’s perception of the value received and/or to be received from the company at any point in time.

Dare we say it; social business is a transformational process across the entire company and virtually every business process within it. It’s not a ‘marketing thing’.

3. The focus is on Customer Engagement rather than the Customer Experience

This may seem like a pointless distinction – yet we feel it’s a key one. In social media, there is a lot written about ‘engagement’ – you must focus on ‘engaging’ in conversations with customers or potential customers. We find this kind of focus tends to be prominent in organisations which are still social brands and not yet social businesses.

Social brand objectives also usually incorporate various forms of “relationship marketing” which aim to get closer to a customer’s lifestyle and to increase their Customer Lifetime Value to the business. This seems, at face value, to be “social”, yet in fact it is the opposite and if you look carefully you see that social business exposes relationship marketing to be simply gilding the old lily of transactional-based marketing.

Social brands tend to get very excited about the prospect of engaging customers because they have not really entered into a dialogue before – they have been talking at their customers and prospects for a long time and to them, this seems like a huge leap. Yet social businesses tend not to talk about ‘engagement’ very much but rather they take it for granted.

Social businesses focus on using social to improve the customer experience – the focus is on how to serve the customer better rather than how to engage them. Customer engagement is important; improving the customer experience is critical and social businesses understand the difference.

4. You are not thinking ‘Community’

Social brands tend to talk a lot about social media and the networks and how they are using them; primarily in their marketing efforts. And they tend to consider community management as a process of making or keeping those networks alive and active. Which again is important, but is really a stepping stone on the way to becoming a social business.

A social business is concerned with creating communities around common business objectives or goals and understands that in fact a social business is a collection of communities, internally and externally; which collaborate to create value for all within the community.

Social businesses encourage employees to collaborate with partners and customers alike to create value for all parties in a shared process. And this is not for some esoteric reason of being more ‘social’ or more ‘engaging’ but to improve business results such as revenue, product innovation, reducing time to market or time to benefit, decreasing costs and so on. Not a fan, follower or friend in sight – people collaborating in communities on common business goals.

That’s the promise of a social business.

5. Social Technology takes precedence over People

Social enterprises understand that people and process take precedence over technology acquisition every time.

Organisations that do not understand what it takes to be a social business tend to focus primarily on the acquisition of technology or alternatively, how to keep consumer-led technology out of companies. These are the people who either spend all their time and resources on searching for a perfect Social CRM system or a perfect Social Business Intelligence tool or spend all their time arguing that allowing people access to Facebook on company time is the biggest threat to productivity known to the civilised world.

Both are dead wrong.

For example, the consumerization of IT has far-reaching consequences for both IT and the business and the transformation to a social enterprise – it’s a significant transformational area that requires progressive and careful consideration, and of course it also links and interplays with the impact of cloud computing and mobile.

The best social businesses help people form into communities and help direct the collective power of those communities towards figuring out how to improve the customer experience and how to become part of the recommendation chain in the world of social. The foundation for social business transformation is culture and leadership, and all the social technology in the world is useless if organizational behaviors aren’t changed.

Providing technology in the form of a social platform can be useful to assist with collaboration but it doesn’t come before people.

Do you agree with these sign, and the previous ones, that indicate you are not a social business?

What would you add?

Will B.