This post originally appeared on Our Social Times. I will be discussing subject in their free webinar ‘How to Create an Integrated Social Business,’ on 7th May at 2pm BST (9am EDT) with Jon Bird of American Airlines and Philip Sheldrake of Euler Partners. Register for free here.
Somewhere between 87% and 98% of companies now have a presence on social media sites, depending on whose statistics you choose to believe. Whichever figure is more accurate, it’s fairly clear that if your company doesn’t use at least one of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc., it is in an ever-decreasing minority. But just because you’re using social media for business, that doesn’t make you a “social business”.
Far fewer companies have applied the principles of social networking throughout their business; in many cases the Facebook and Twitter presence is just a Social Façade, a marketing layer that aims to disguise that in the rest of the company it’s the same old anti-social business as usual.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using social media as a marketing channel. But to see social solely for this purpose means missing out on much wider potential benefits. A report by McKinsey Global Institute in July 2012 claims that “while 72% of companies use social technologies in some way, very few are anywhere near to achieving the full potential benefit.”
To begin to take full advantage of social technologies, it’s important to recognise the three main types of social network, and understand how to engage with the right audience in the right place. Used together, social media, company-managed customer communities, and internal-facing employee social networks can form an integrated social business strategy that turns your company into a true “social business”. That sometimes sounds like rather vague and unattainable goal, so here are five pragmatic reasons why you need an integrated social business strategy.
1. Create more meaningful customer relationships
Public social networks are a great place for making contact with customers. With 200 million users on Twitter and a billion on Facebook, the reach of these services is immense so you would be crazy not to have a presence here. But they’re not great places to have more productive conversations with customers – there’s only some much depth you can go into in 140 characters.
A good example of this is Best Buy’s use of Twitter for pre-sales support. It provides fast, short answers, but needs to redirect more complex discussions to other channels. If you read through the stream of replies sent from @Twelpforce, typically every 4th or 5th response directs a customer towards a traditional email or phone CRM channel. Twelpforce is an effective, but very thin social layer. Integrating it into a Best Buy-managed customer community would enable deeper engagement, and more meaningful customer relationships.
2. Integrate Social and CRM for more consistent response
Customers of many companies have realised that if they complain loudly and publicly on social media they get a faster response. Indeed, some companies seem to be proud of their responsiveness on social media compared with traditional CRM, without thinking this through to the logical conclusion. Setting up a social media team as a rapid-response CRM team is clearly not sustainable – instead social and CRM need to coherently integrated, giving the same speed and quality of service whichever channel the customers uses.
For most companies, the level of integration between their Facebook page and their CRM system is very poor, so is it any wonder that irritated customers hijack the comments threads of the latest faux-cheerful marketing posts to complain? It’s perhaps a little unfair to single out any particular example of this when so many companies are guilty of it, but Three UK’s Facebook page provides as good an illustration as any you are likely to find.
3. Make your employees more efficient
While you’re establishing a more open, collaborative relationship with your customers, it seems rather unfair if your employees are still stuck with email and old-fashioned intranets as their main communication mechanisms. Unfair, and inefficient; the McKinsey report mentioned earlier estimates that use of social technologies inside the company can increase productivity of knowledge workers by 20-25% by reducing the time spent handling emails and searching for information. Indeed, McKinsey estimate that potential value of social inside the company is double that of the external value.
4. Learn how to be social
Employee social networks not only make the workforce more productive, they teach employees how to work in an online social environment. The list of social media disasters caused by inappropriate messages from employees grows ever-longer by the day, and while it’s easy to blame employee incompetence for this, the truth is that if you don’t regularly work in a online social environment, it can be easy to misjudge the tone or content of messages you send. Using a social network for communication with your colleagues gives invaluable experience that makes you a better communicator with customers.
5. Connect your supply chain
Perhaps the least explored area of social business is in connecting the company’s network of supplier and partner organizations. Very few businesses are entirely self-sufficient, so communication with other companies is essential. Yet business-to-business social networking is still in its infancy, with email still used as the lowest common denominator for communication. Establishing cross-company, private social networks can apply the productivity benefits noted by McKinsey to the wider supply chain.
Image credit: Networked Insights