This is part 3 of 6 from the 2013 Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project.
As Dell has proven, some companies are successfully shifting out of first gear. The evolution of social business has moved well beyond the early Facebook marketing forays seeking “Likes.” Our study found that companies with more advanced social capabilities are turning to them to:
- Understand market shifts (65% of respondents are planning to focus there to a great or large extent versus 14% for less socially mature companies),
- Improve visibility into operations (45% versus 5%),
- Identify internal talent or key contributors (45% versus 4%) and
- Improve strategy development processes (60% versus 9%). (See Figure 7.)
More mature social businesses use their social capabilities to address important business objectives.
Businesses are following their own paths by using social business solutions to address problems that matter and by measuring the results. In this section, we move from the state of play to state of the art — current examples of social business applications.
Marketing and Sales — A Sharper Edge
In our survey, respondents ranked sales second only to marketing as the functional area where social tools are used to a large or great extent. Social selling is becoming increasingly popular, and new tools are being developed to assist sales staff to use it in their work. However, social selling is about much more than using social media sites to generate leads.
We asked LinkedIn’s head of marketing for sales solutions, Ralf VonSosen, to elaborate on his company’s approach: “Social selling utilizes relationships and connections as well as insights that are available via social channels to facilitate a better selling and buying experience,” he says. “It’s really utilizing this fantastic social data to help us gain visibility and combine that with meaningful content we can share.”
The benefits of social selling are visible today. Consider the example of one global technology company we spoke with, which like many companies needs to sell more with less. Large enterprise sales are a complex matter in which sales people must make the case to decision makers and the myriad of influencers at the table. Traditionally, the process has been both costly and time consuming. To speed up the process and invigorate the quality of leads, this technology company developed a pilot program using LinkedIn’s social sales tool, Sales Navigator. With the tool, its sales professionals have access to all second- and third-degree connections of their fellow employees. Through that view into other companies and potential connections, the sales staff gains a deep understanding of potential clients and can reach out to decision makers and influencers through introductions and build credibility with meaningful content. By the same token, prospects can view the LinkedIn profiles of the company’s sales representatives to gauge the value of a potential business relationship, including seeing all of that company’s connections to their own organization.
In addition to measuring the number and rate of connections to assess its progress, the company has been using LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index,10 which ranks a company’s utilization of LinkedIn as a social selling tool. A three-month pilot of the new tool was completed in the spring of 2013, and the program’s numbers look promising. According to the data collected by the organization, the growth rate in unique connections with potential customers via LinkedIn grew by more than 200%, and the pilot team’s Social Selling Index increased more than 100%. Anecdotally, more than 75% of the 90 employees in the pilot have credited the tool with helping to achieve sales goals, and three sales professionals immediately purchased LinkedIn’s premium service out of their own pockets, rather than wait a matter of weeks for the company to purchase a long-term license for the broader team.
Morgan Stanley is using LinkedIn and Twitter to change the way its financial advisors acquire new clients and build their books of business. “We want to help financial advisors source new business in an easier way,” says Lauren Boyman, director of digital strategy at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. “People reveal life-event information like promotions on social media that can be a gateway to a financially oriented conversation. Social also allows financial advisors to distribute content that enables them to build up credibility and eventually develop a trusted reputation based on their expertise.” Like many companies in highly regulated industries, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management had to work closely with its compliance organization. The wealth management organization also needed to provide financial advisors with a program that was easy to use. To meet both objectives, Morgan Stanley provides its tweeters and LinkedIn posters with pre-approved materials that are vetted to meet regulatory requirements.
The program was started as a pilot and moved out of pilot stage in June 2012. To measure the value, Morgan Stanley uses a monthly engagement scorecard. The scorecard tracks how many financial advisors sign up, as well as their behavior on the sites (i.e., how often they post or send invitations). The team also surveys the users to understand business impact. Of the financial advisors using LinkedIn and/or Twitter daily during the pilot, 40% had brought in new business from their social media usage. Perhaps the most compelling example: One advisor used LinkedIn to land a $70 million account.
Customer Service — A Step Change
Social offers new horizons for service effectiveness. For instance, companies are connecting with dissatisfied customers before their complaints spread and providing support wherever customers gather online. Businesses are also able to forge new connections between customers and use social analytics to understand needs and even moods.
One consumer product company is embarking on a step change in social’s application to service. The company has turned its staff and in-store representatives into social brand ambassadors to address everything from consumer complaints to questions about sunscreen.
For Facebook inquiries, for example, the company has set up chain of command including internal experts and store-based sales representatives. Each inquiry is assigned as it comes in. If no response has been given after several hours, the inquiry goes to the next person in the chain. Answers to common questions are archived for all employees to use.
“We leverage the knowledge of our internal experts to give customers informed advice,” says a company social media executive. “The customer is connecting with the expertise they need. If they want further information, we drive them to stores.”
Although the company measures consumer engagement in terms of clicks and online buzz, store traffic is an important metric. To capture it, the business offers coupons through social, blogs and partners. The coupons have unique codes so the company can measure the sales that come through its various online initiatives.
Operations — Precision and Visibility
The risk of supply-chain interruptions and delays is a common challenge in global business. For a pharmaceutical company, those risks involve more than dollars. They can put lives in danger if a product doesn’t ship on time. For the pharmaceutical company Teva, speed is of the essence, and rapid solutions to supply-chain issues are paramount.
Before Teva began to experiment with social platforms to solve supply-chain issues, resolving a problem could take weeks. And not solely because of the issue’s complexity. It could take a week or two just to schedule a meeting with all concerned.
“Microsoft Outlook is a good tool,” says Nadine Jean-Francois, director of supply chain management. “But because people can book meetings so easily, they’re often double- or even triple-booked.”
To reduce the time drag, Teva created a social networking environment called Radar, using a Facebook-like tool where employees and partners can communicate in real time to address immediate challenges and build knowledge over the long haul. Users can collaborate, share data, comment on posts and blog about the issues at hand.
Measuring the direct impact of the social tool can be difficult, according to Jean-Francois.
Although the cycle time for resolving supply-chain issues is getting shorter, process improvements are also part of the equation. But that also underscores a distinctive value of social business in more socially networked organizations — visibility into the specific operational issues the company faces.
Recruitment — Advantage in the Talent War
As the war for talent heats up, companies are ramping up efforts to beat competitors to the leading candidates. Covance, which manages clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies, is turning to social to fortify relationships with prospective candidates. “We have learned through years of traditional recruiting that people like to talk to others who do what they do,” says Lisa Calicchio, vice president of employee relations, global recruiting & diversity at the company. “They aren’t necessarily interested in speaking with a recruiter. They want to understand what their experience would be working here. The best people to answer those questions are the leaders in those roles.”
To build relationships between prospects and company leaders, Covance tweets. The recruiting organization works closely with marketing and communications to develop relevant content and draw potential recruits to its career website. For example, a Covance scientist might share research he or she is presenting at a conference. The tweet often generates new interest, and recruiters can reach out to new followers.
Once a potential candidate is in the fold, Covance sends text notifications when a position opens that matches the profile. The text includes a link for easy follow-up. “Mobile texting provides convenience that people really value,” says Calicchio. “It often works much better than cold calls or junk emails.” In terms of measurement, the company is still developing and relies on a combination of metrics and anecdotes. However, a telltale sign is resource efficiency and source of hires.
Innovation — Accelerating Top Management Buy-in
Concerns about innovation are constantly on the list of executives’ top concerns. The innovation process is often slow, and novel ideas are often watered down by the time they reach senior ranks. Electrolux tackled this challenge with an internal crowdsourcing event that filled a database with 3,500 new ideas and 10,000 comments on them — in three days. “The entire company was invited to join the innovation jam, and we had knowledgeable and skilled people to moderate and facilitate the event,” says Ralf Larsson, director of online engagement. “The leadership team was a big support and was out there building interest and asking people to join.”
To drive momentum during the three-day event, Electrolux created a scoreboard where participants earned rewards based on their activity. In addition, employees voted to select the top ideas, and three went immediately into the product development pipeline. “We may have come up with some of these ideas anyway,” comments Larsson. “But never with such speed, visibility and management buy-in.”
Plugging Into Other Technologies
The growth of social business innovation is forging new paths with media and other technologies. American Express, Nielsen, ConnecTV and Enterasys are cases in point.
American Express is leveraging Twitter with mobile phones and computers. In 2012, the company began offering statement credits to cardholders when they shopped at specific merchants including Whole Foods, Best Buy and McDonald’s. Either online or in-store with their mobile phone, the cardholder simply tweets a specific hashtag to activate the offer on the purchases they are making. “No one has ever offered anything like this before,” says Leslie Berland, senior vice president of digital partnership and development. “We have extended thousands of special offers, and cardholders have saved millions of dollars.”
The television ratings company Nielsen is leveraging Twitter to develop a more robust rating of television audiences. With its 140 million members, Twitter conversations add a deep dimension to any metric assessing audience size and engagement. The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating complements its existing ratings through real-time metrics about a program’s social activity, including the number of unique tweets associated with it.11
ConnecTV is capitalizing on the evolution of television from broadcast to social TV. A growing number of viewers are multitasking with phones and computers, giving rise to the second screen experience. Through an app, the ConnecTV AdSynch Network synchronizes a second screen through keywords on television as well as audio recognition technology that matches show, day, date, time and other television program attributes. The app provides viewers with the ability to get more product information or make a purchase in real time — all while the TV ad is running on the primary screen. According to a 2012 Nielsen report, 45%12 of U.S. viewers use a tablet daily while watching television, and 88% do so at least once a month. In addition, 27%13 are researching products related to commercials. Stacy Jolna, co-founder and CMO of ConnecTV, says that “amplifying and monetizing this new social TV behavior is the challenge.” ConnecTV provides both sides of the equation: companion content that syncs with the show to let viewers chat and share in real time on any second screen device, as well as a unique synchronization of TV ads that trigger a direct marketing experience, for the first time enabling viewers to see a product on TV and buy it easily and immediately. “That’s the future of television,” says Jolna.
Enterasys has embarked on machine-to-machine applications to provide better service to its business-to-business customers. In 2011, the company commissioned a team to develop Isaac, a social media translator that takes complex machine language and converts it into tweets, Facebook messages and chats. Isaac connects IT personnel to their networks for 24/7 monitoring with consumer devices and social media. “We have automated the entire front-end life cycle of the services interaction, machine to machine,” says Vala Afshar, chief marketing and customer officer at Enterasys. “For me, that has been the biggest ancillary benefit of becoming a social business — we started developing social machines.”