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.



Social Media and Intelligent Insight – So What? and Who Cares?

We do a lot of monitoring work in the social media data streams for clients – delivering social business intelligence.

That work entails :

  1. Capturing relevant social data from many sources;
  2. Organizing it into meaningful categories and in ways that the client can easily digest;
  3. Creating views that allow comparisons across terms (such as competitors);
  4. Filtering out some of the content (because with so much big data it’s hard to remove every non relevant item automatically through limited search capability);
  5. Often retagging it because the tools just didn’t quite get it right. (this is particularly true in sentiment analysis where the tools struggle with nuance – especially Australians sense of ironic or sarcastic humour).
  6. 6. Seeking out trends – changes in data over time.

Monitoring the  data streams in social media can provide a wealth of insights to assist in the improvement of your business, but rarely does it yield much without applying the kinds of analysis work above. We have talked before about the high noise to signal ratio in the social media data streams – yes, you get to see the woods AND the trees but ultimately you need to get to the gold and make it easily understandable. You can understand why sentiment analysis is difficult to automate, but the social streams as a whole all require various levels of “deep diving” in order to extract the best business value.

That’s why the free analytics tools rarely provide everything that a business needs to make sense of the countless tweets, comments, posts, likes and discussions in social media.

Turning data into insight

The solutions, such as those from our good friends at Sysomos provide a vastly superior platform for both collecting the data and for then analysing it and are well worth the modest investment for most organisations. And they provide the capability to organise the resultant insights in a way that is highly visual and easily understood which is key for social business intelligence.

But it’s easy to trivialise the effort it takes to sift, sort, filter, categorise and analyse the data into true social business intelligence. It takes time, it takes experience and it takes some knowledge of the clients business, products and services if the social business intelligence services are sourced from organisations such as ours.

We hear much about how social media is free and the basic analytics tools are free but we rarely see discussion on the effort involved in turning data into insight.

So what, who cares?

In my business career I have always been taught the importance of asking two fundamental questions – So What? and Who Cares? And so it is with social media generally and social business intelligence in particular.

I have seen some really bad advice lately suggesting that businesses not put too much weight on social data, such as sentiment analysis, because there is no way to tell if they are a customer or potential customer for your products or services. Far better advice would be to understand how and why they are talking about your brand or terms of interest and how influential they are. They may not be a potential customer, but they may be an industry analyst for example with 100,000 followers!

Just understanding “social influence” itself takes some effort and business understanding. There are tools which measure social influence alone, and plenty of debate about the validity and usefulness of such measures. But the fundamental thing we do know is that influencers pass your messages around in the social networks very effectively. It’s what Laurel Papworth calls the ripple-ability of social networks. So knowing who are your influencers, and why, even if they never buy your products, is vitally important.

In putting together the measures you wish to track you should apply the twins of So What? and Who Cares? And you should apply the same sensibility when responding to the social data streams. It is unfortunately true that there are people who just want to engage your business for the exposure it brings them; some just want to turn conversations into contests and some are just plain miserable people who want to take up your time. But they are easily spotted and typically have little influence and can be dealt with in different ways to those who truly have an issue to be resolved or who want to understand more about what you do.

True social business intelligence is more than monitoring and responding. Applying some analysis with liberal doses of So What? and Who Cares? can and does provide true insights.


Don't Ask!

I often ask my wife her opinion on a work related issue or perhaps how to approach a problem we are wrestling with at iGo2. When I am trying to consider how to approach the solution I often seek another viewpoint because we think very differently.

But when I challenge the opinion or perhaps decide on a different way to approach the solution her response, almost invariably, is “if you don’t care about my opinion then don’t ask for it!”. To which I reply that I am interested in her valuable opinions and insights but that doesn’t always mean I am going to agree with them or adopt them. And so there is gulf between what I am asking for (input to an idea or problem or solution) and what she thinks I am asking for (the solution itself or perhaps an immediate change of direction)

After the latest exchange along those lines earlier this week I got to thinking how often we see this in the social data streams. In our work – social business intelligence, communities and strategy development we see many examples of brands asking for input and never acting on it. Comments lie fallow all over their blog posts or Facebook pages. Polls are run – but how often are the results and the actions then communicated back? We see suggestions in Twitter on how to improve service, response, interaction which are never replied to.

Have a social presence should be an invitation to have a dialogue. Its akin to asking – ‘what do you think?’ when you post a new blog update or status update. When you get a response you must engage your fan or follower or they will feel like “if you don’t care about my opinion then don’t ask”! And likely they will go somewhere that does care. And when you do ask a specific question you should clear on what the outcome of the questioning will be – be clear that you are seeking research data for a project which may or may not be adopted. People understand that not everything they tell you will be accepted or adopted, they just want to know you are listening.

There is nothing worse than commenting on a post, status update, taking a poll and so on only to be completely ignored. What do you think?