The social enterprise is an idea that extends beyond just using social media for marketing.
But are there any benefits to social networking?
Warren Bennis is a leading thinker around leadership in a digital world and see that organisations will increasingly use digital pathways to drive transparency and leadership. You may think that this sounds innocent – but he basically is saying that digital channels will change the structure of power in organisations and that new leaders need to look at how they use social media to lead both internally and externally in their organisation. Large companies have also seen by opening up the communication channels that leaders are being challenged to be consistent in their approach and that behaviour gets discussed in unexpected places.
Interestingly, Bennis also sees the idea of “adaptive capacity” as central to the future. The ability of an organisation to be led by what is happening in the marketplace by responding to the aggregate forces as visible in a social and digital world will increasingly become critical.
A range of leading thinkers are stating that organisations need to think of the value it is creating for its customers and in a digital world, this is becoming increasingly measurable.
So are you ready to open up the conversation and let your sales people engage in social media to source customers? You may be surprised to find that not only your marketing and sales people need access, but also your HR, finance and operations people may be using social media as critical tools in their business process. Employees are increasingly using messaging to reduce complex email communications and have interactive conversations over voice, internet messaging and private (in-house) company social networks. It is becoming very difficult to distinguish between the mobile as a business and a personal tool.
Recent research by Forrester indicates that 80% of customers will consult with and rely on what their colleagues and family are saying about products and services before making a choice. Only 36% of customers rely on sales people. People also take to social media to source products, complain and sometimes to praise for good service. They find their jobs through web-sites and will decide which companies to work for based on what others are saying. They will even Google the next person they are meeting and will look for commonalities and interest points in the conversations that they initiate. In fact, if you do not find someone online it immediately will raise suspicion and reduce the perception of transparency with that person. Customers are also increasingly choosing to interact with products and services in more complex applications that allow them to see inside of the enterprise and at the same time compare themselves with others.
Measurements have changed with likes, referrals and promotions on key sites being the order of the day for daily activities. Some thinkers are moving beyond these basic measures with Zachary Reiss Davis from Forrester hinting that companies need to rethink their digital measures to move beyond acquisition to understanding them through “social selling”.
The first measure he proposes to achieve this is “social reach,” where you’re measure your ability to give information to people who may or may not know about the brand. As a company you increase your social reach by your employees being associated with your brands, publication of relevant information into social networks and well placed advertising. Campaigns and sites on social media attract others to understand you better and regular communication and active growth of the network ensures that you remain relevant. Much like in the real world you use advertising to expand your reach, but more importantly you must enable others to advertise on your behalf to leverage the real power of digital marketing.
The next stage and measures the becomes “social depth.” Sales can have the greatest impact in this stage by communicating crucial messages and forming deeper relationships with those who are not yet customers, but are good targets. The question is to what extent the company understands and acts to the needs and intents of their followership. It is great to have a lot of followers but not understanding what drives them has the potential to backfire quite badly. By analysis of followers and interested parties and responding to their needs the company can maximise both the impact of its messaging and growth of the target base. This can be optimised through analytics on properties that organizations control, e.g. communities and forums on their websites and social networks. Most companies have not in real terms understood who is interested in building a digital relationship with them.
The most crucial aspect, and third stage, is to define the “social relationship” that your organisation wants with the customer. Your customers have purchased from you and are already engaged with your brand, so they are the most inclined to pay attention and interact with what you’re saying on social networks like Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In. By fostering an open relationship with your customers and giving them the tools to advocate you, you can create a powerful exponential followership. By being ignorant of what people are saying it can destroy masses of brand equity in a short space of time.
These three ideas together has come together in a concept called social selling in which social media is used to bring back the personal touch through the mass customised selling process.
Companies are moving beyond email marketing, with blogs, webinars and structured data making the enterprise accessible and visible and allowing customers to compare experiences and form part of the process of delivering goods and services in the organisation. Blog posts drive applications and Youtube videos show you how to use them, while adverts remind you that they are there. This type of integrated messaging is the way that selling will happen in the future and for many is happening today.
Not just selling is affected – supplier relationships, recruitment, sourcing and selling are all deeply impacted by social media and it is only a matter of time until communities are more open and applications more universal and commonly used to conduct business in new ways.
It is already standard practice for firms to review social media profiles of candidates. Increasingly suppliers are looking for referrals and location based searching, mobile advertising and integrated supply chains are ensuring that the product gets to the customer.
Most IT people will almost automatically quote Gartner on the major trends in IT – cloud, mobile, big data, automation. They all seem to miss the obvious and biggest trends since the idea of time was invented, which is – SOCIAL MEDIA. It may be because they have no good way to spend money on it and there is no big thing to buy to make it work. So what happens is that they put in new firewalls to block people from using it. It just re-emphasises that digital strategy and IT strategy seems to have very little to do with each other and potentially puts the business on a path to miss a major part of what is happening with their customer base. Business is becoming social faster than any other trend in business or in IT in recently history.
While all this is going on, there are actually firms that still try to restrict access of their staff to the Internet and sceptics still believe that social media is a hoax by marketing firms.
Reed (www.reed.co.uk) published a study that shows that one third of companies allow access to social networking at work, one third allows limited access and one third does not allow any access at all. In those that do – people typically check social media sites once to three times a day, with only 36% of users doing so on the company computer. In those that do not – people check social networking 5-10 times per day using mobile and other devices.
With an increasingly young workforce in a world in which developing economies rule the markets – social media will increasingly become the differentiator between those that are linked to the new economy and those that are not. While there may be industries in which social media may not be immediately relevant, it is clear that the future for all enterprises must clearly answer how the company will respond to the digital world and what mechanisms and strategies it will put in place to manage its digital presence and integrated digital business processes.