This is part 8 of 12 from “Social Business: What Are Companies Really Doing?” a report on the findings of the 2012 Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project.
We have discussed some of the many opportunities and challenges associated with social business activity. In this final section, we offer some practical and prescriptive guidance on how to begin (or accelerate) your social journey. It’s essential to develop a long-term vision about how your social business activities will connect with the realities of your organization. Beyond just buying social tools, the organization must commit resources (people and funding) to support their adoption. Integrating external data sources into enterprise systems and tackling the challenge of measuring results will also be critical to the long-term results of many social business strategies.
Start with a Long-Term Vision
A “clear vision of how social media supports business strategy” was the top facilitator of adoption in our survey. Therefore, we believe the first step in your social business journey is to create and communicate the broader social strategy for your organization. What business problems are to be solved with social business activities? What is the strategy for making this happen? What technology best supports these objectives? What kinds of social networks will support this strategy? Recognize that your social business journey will take time and that it will require and drive changes to your business processes, your organizational structure and how you interact with customers and employees.
Assess Where You Are Today
Identify problems that are currently being addressed with social tools. Explore whether the right social business resources are being directed toward the right business problems. If your organization is in a heavily regulated industry, are your regulatory affairs personnel talking about social business? What coordination exists between those who are most invested in social business activities and those who know how regulations address social business issues? Make sure you have a governance process in place to address these and similar questions as part of your initial social strategy.
Identify the people or roles that will focus on social business and how these individuals are to coordinate with one another. What, if any, relationship exists between your CMO and CIO around social business? Individuals in both roles should have a shared understanding of the risks and opportunities of social business.
Use listening tools to collect information on what is being said about your organization, your brands, your customer service and your competition. Our research indicates that only a small percentage of organizations have begun to connect external social data into existing enterprise systems and data. We see this as an area that holds tremendous potential value for organizations.
Ensure that social business initiatives have enough resources. It is not uncommon for organizations to allocate funds for social software tools and then neglect or underfund the adoption components. Is an individual assigned responsibility for this effort, or is this an additional duty on top of someone’s current job? Are the right incentives targeting the right people? Are resources allocated for activities such as user training, communications, content building and community management? Is training available to distinguish personal and professional uses of social networks? Are sufficient resources in place to respond to brand issues that might develop in social channels?
Measure Results, Not Adoption
It is clear from our survey (and many other research efforts) that enterprises are having difficulties measuring the relationship between investments in social business and returns from these investments. Capital One’s Tom Poole echoes what we’ve heard from a number of executives: “We try not to hold ourselves to a pure constraint of measurable gains. I think we still believe we’re in an experimentation phase and trying to learn.”
Measurement may become increasingly important, especially if these activities require rethinking and redesigning practices, processes, measurement systems and information systems in significant ways. Although a consensus has yet to emerge on measuring social business activities, managers have several options. One is to conduct experiments that compare the performance of groups that are heavy and light users of social software and social networking.
Measuring adoption can be a misleading indicator of value. In fact, focusing on adoption as a success metric may lead to failure, according to the Deloitte study “Social Software for Business Performance,” since adoption metrics do not address what matters most to employees, managers and executives.20 For managers, what matters most is often whether the tool helps them do their jobs more effectively.