social media viewpointsAll businesses are being forced to go social. Are you facing internal conflict behind the firewall?

This is not a post about social media marketing. I’m not here to give you hints on how to increase your friends, fans and followers.

Nor will I say that it’s time for your business to “join the conversation” and I promise not to overuse the word transparency either.

I believe that most brands (large and small) get it.

Friends, fans and followers are important, yes. And brands increase their social equity by engaging in two-way dialogue with their constituency, yes. And transparency is key to these external engagements, yes.

But there’s an underlying challenge that’s not being addressed as it should be.

You see, years ago when Facebook and Twitter exploded and there was an expectation from the “social” community that brands should create blogs and communities; the brands listened.

And what you’ll find today is that most brands are doing a really good job on these channels engaging with their customers.

They’re listening to the conversation using social media monitoring tools such as Radian6 and Meltwater Buzz. They’re hiring community managers to empower and interact with the communities. And, while many still make minor mistakes here and there, they’re becoming more intelligent at adapting to this changing landscape. Most organizations are well on their way to becoming a social brand if they aren’t one already.

Social business is not a trend; it’s a forced evolution.

A social business deals with the internal transformation of an organization and addresses key factors such as organizational dynamics, culture, internal communications, governance, training, employee activation and much more.

Organizations need to get smarter, acquire new technologies, intelligence, talent and motivation to become more open and transparent. They need to create processes and establish governance models that protect the organization, yet empower their employees.

I’ve been fortunate to witness firsthand how organizations are evolving from businesses that merely engage in social behavior into social businesses. There’s a huge difference.

Social business is built on three pillars – people, governance and technology.

social business

The first pillar deals with the people of the organization. It addresses the need to drive organizational change in an effort to break down organizational silos and get internal teams to communicate. It’s also about activating the organization’s most import assets, its employees.

The second pillar deals with governance. This simply means that organizations need to put processes in place to manage the chaos that exists from behind the firewall. Training, social media guidelines and policies are imperative for organizations to monitor and roll out across the organization within different teams and geographies. It ensures consistency; it protects the organization and at the same time, empowers its employees.

The third and last pillar deals with technology. Organizations have to invest in platforms that facilitate internal collaboration. This is essential to ensure proper communication. External campaign management tools like Sprinklr are also essential to scale, especially if an organization has multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Social CRM plays a significant role within this pillar. My definition of social CRM is that it’s just one component that helps organizations fully evolve into a social business. It’s a strategic business initiative that considers technology, intelligence and process; so when organizations communicate with their customers they know what to say, how to say it and when to say it in order to provide a more relevant customer interaction.

What’s not visible to most, unless you’ve worked in the enterprise, is the anarchy, conflict, confusion, lack of communication and organizational silos that exist behind the firewall. This makes the process of becoming a social brand much more difficult and less effective. So this quest to become a social brand and a social business is one of simultaneous effort.

The conversation is happening.

A study back in 2008 showed that 55% of consumers want ongoing conversations with companies and brands. The study investigated how brands and consumers interact and how consumers want brands to engage with them. And the results were awesome.

In addition to the 55% of people wanting an ongoing interaction, 89% of respondents said they would feel more loyal to a brand if they were invited to take part in a feedback group.

A more recent study in 2009 (you can download here) found that 85% of Americans using social media think companies should have an active presence in the social media universe.

What’s even more interesting is that those users actually want interaction with these brands. Here are some other data points you might find useful:

Out of the 85% of people who want companies to be present in social media:

  • 34% want companies to actively interact with them
  • 51% want companies to interact with them as needed or by request
  • 8% think companies should only be passively involved on social media
  • 7% think companies should not be involved at all

This is all really good data. However, I believe that businesses cannot and will not have effective external conversations with consumers unless they can have effective internal conversations first. And when I refer to internal conversations, I mean much more than a few monthly conference calls and a collaboration forum.

Has your organization evolved into a social business? Please give us some examples in the comments box below.

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  • Micheal the truth of the facts is that social media is the Nascar of the online world and smart people are just looking to catch a glimpse of this fast ride.

    More and more companies are realizing its power and are jumping on board also.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • You’ve made some great points, Michael.

  • Great article Michael! Thank you.
    Wouldn’t you agree that being a business owner and not being a part of social media these days is almost like slowly cutting off the airways to your business? In order to really connect with your clients, potential listeners you must be in the social stream. But what about those companies that don’t quite understand what or how to make social media work for them and their business in order to achieve the status that the 3 pillars talks about in this article? I think that many of those who are in the social media support and training arena that having a social media strategy before you start is imperative. Don’t just hop on, start an account and begin talking. Without a strategy you will be leading the cart before the horse. To really have a strong and positive start in social media – have a strategy.

    Jennifer Rundall
    Social Media Strategist & Virtual Assistant
    My VA Diva

  • I love the direction social media is “forcing” business to evolve in. Consumers have more input now than ever before, and businesses will need to be more empathic and more “bottom-up” oriented if they want to continue effectively innovating in the future. This is great news for both consumers and entrepreneurs. In my opinion, it is the start of a better world.

  • Thanks for the feedback Cindy! : )

  • Jennifer — to answer your question about “companies that don’t quite understand what or how to make social media work for them” … well I would say that they should first spend some time listening and understanding the community/conversation. If they can’t add any value, they probably shouldn’t engage anyway.

  • Not necessarily, Michael. You should know nothing is black and white with the web. If the company isn’t listening — but is merely hearing — that’s problem #1 and something that will never be solved without asking people with ears to listen.

  • Victoria Ipri

    Michael, I believe Seth Godin quipped, “Social media is an event, not a process…” Companies who have grasped the fact that social media is about listening, not talking, are that much further ahead in the game. I notice many companies who willingly might have once plunked down thousands for a big yellow pages ad (for example) seem to balk at the idea of spending money on social media marketing. There is a misconception that it should all be free…but savvy companies recognize when paid tools, etc. are required to take the next step. Despite the platforms themselves offering free membership (in most cases), top technology is the developmental stepping stone for a top program. Now if we could just help some of the big brands see the big picture, and stop whining about how to measure ROI right out of the gate, then we’d be getting somewhere!

  • Brent MacKinnon

    Very nicely and plainly stated post Michael. I like your 3 pillar model for understanding the internal transition process.

  • I do not think very much of these percentages. Of what companies are becoming, have done or will do in the future. We are talking about Marketing. Social Media is conversation and engagement Marketing. And sad to say that many of the big name marketing companies out there are still low man on the totem pole when it comes to Social Media influence. What standard should an online Marketing company hold itself to in order to gauge whether it is still viable to conduct business in the social age? And when companies like Coca Cola are engaging in social media campaigns why do we still hire marketing companies that have less than 100 followers on Twitter? How many SEO companies can’t contend with the engagement ratio of up and coming rap stars? How many of them see a Facebook page as something to pawn on someone who already has another job in their company? We are still years away from seeing effective social businesses as the norm and not just news.

  • Michael, this is a very insightful post.You make a very important differentiation between businesses doing social media marketing and becoming a social business. There is a very distinct difference. I think this gets to the heart of what Jay Baer said at the Facebook Success Summit 2010, “The goal is not to be good at Facebook. The goal is to be good at business because of Facebook.”

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  • Anything that “forces” small business to look at itself will be met with a big fat SPLAT…for a while any way. Those internal conversations you talked about are gonna be few and far between for a while I’m afraid. I guess the best thing to do for these “late adapters” is to keep giving them good stats, good examples and LOTS of care and attention.

    Dennis Lively

  • I think you nailed it: Being “good” at social media forces an organizational shift within companies but also needs to leverage technologies to both manage and enable that internal change (social CRM, internal sharing services like SharePoint and others, and so on) and to manage the efforts across social media services. Kudos!

  • Some interesting points made already. For me, use of social media, especially for brands and businesses, should be about raising profile, brand awareness and developing a connection. Think of it as PR. Sure some brands use social media tools to deliver customer service, but its difficult, expensive and rare. I’m a social media advocate but I do think brands ultimately need to use tools that help them attract and engage audiences. As has been mentioned above, there is then a push required to convert them, like any other marketing effort. Targeting audiences with the right message, at the right time through the right channel remains the challenge.

  • Thank you for this excellent post. Important to reflect on impact of social media on behavior / culture / policies in companies. Social Media “help” and “force” companies to take into account the context of their target audience. This requires a different attitude of employees. Internal branding that is “customer focused” and translated into all touchpoints with customers. This requires employees who are able to serve the customers. Everything focused on making the company look good and the customer satisfied. That’s the challenge. To be engaged. What do you think?

  • Great post, but I’m having a hard time convincing a couple of my clients that they need to be fully on board with all aspects of social media. For those particular client, I’ve started blogs, done a bit of Facebook, and they seem to feel that dabbling is good enough. They also feel that frequent postings (in both forums) is just “pesky.” It’s an uphill battle, but hopefully the more they listen (and the more I forward the types of articles to them), the more we’ll be able to do.
    Maybe if they see how well it’s working for my other clients. . .

  • This is a key distinction you make and fantastic post. So many companies are in a hurried frenzy to hire specialists and get on board with social media networking, but there is a marked difference in the companies who choose to thoughtfully execute versus the one’s who decide to start a Facebook fan page because. There’s a lot of confusion in the market, but I think these pillars are a great starting block to help companies make sense of where their resources should be spent in pursuit of a social media engagement strategy.

  • Michael, great post. It really is the organizational silos, internal resistance, and even resentment in some cases that prevents companies from evolving into social businesses. I hope it’s not to late for me to add more emphasis on “resentment” towards community/social directors 🙂

  • Thanks for the post, Michael.

    The 3 Pillar-model works quite well in describing the inner workings of social media readiness, and immediately raises questions on vital checkpoints as well as eventual obstacles.

    Also, I think that the model is able to explain what is needed and what is ‘the point’ of engaging in the multiple social media outlets outlined in your graph.

    This sort of work is valuable for anyone trying to make their clients understand the field of social media better, so thanks again for doing this and keep it up!

  • Peter

    Another great article. Keep them coming.

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  • Taylor Vogt

    Very insightful! It is important to recognize that being social isn’t a “marketing department” kind of thing. Many companies went bankrupt in the past few years because they were not evolving. Evolution is within, it is not external. However, what is external can destroy a company if the company isn’t strong enough.

    I’m a fan of 37Signals. They are small and agile, and that’s how they prefer to be. It’s hard to make sweeping changes for large companies, but small ones can completely redefine themselves relatively painlessly.

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