As new forms of social media proliferate and enterprises scramble to keep pace with their customers, social business is a force that cannot be ignored.

This year I expect we’ll see many more stories about how organizations are using social software to evolve how they run their businesses, communicate with customers and uncover incredible value.

As an industry recognized leader and innovator, we’ve seen some great success stories:

  • Projected savings of over US$ 30 million for a large telecommunications company as it changes how it supports its customers.
  • Identification of over US$ 100 million of new sales pipeline that was previously unidentified.

While impressive, these kinds of stories aren’t new. However, they are precisely the type of stories that get the c-suite even more excited about social business in 2012.

So if you are new to social and want to apply it to your business, where do you start? As a helpful aid, I’ve compiled a list of ten recommendations for what the c-suite should focus on in 2012.

#1: Social is the New Normal

Your customers and employees use social software on a daily basis. From making simple decisions about which e-book or new app to purchase to more complex choices about which school your child should attend, it is evident that social is engrained in our decision making process.

From our mobile devices to the workplace, information is so easily accessible today that we no longer simply seek content, instead we seek validation of a nearly limitless set of choices.

As an example, here is something I did recently when looking for a new triathlon watch. There are numerous choices on the market from Timex, Garmin, Polar and countless others. To help me make my decision, I went through the following process:

  • First, I researched the different watches on their respective websites to get a sense of their features and capabilities. How did I get to these websites? By using a search engine. I never started at the "root" or brand website.
  • Second, after researching the watches, I searched on various sites such as, and began reading reviews -- listening to what other people had to say.
  • In the final step in my research process, I used online communities offered by a few of the brands to read about real customer experiences. Unfortunately, not all of the brands offered communities, so I also used communities not affiliated with the watches.

Interestingly enough, what motivated me to eventually choose a Garmin was not the watch itself, but the feedback from a triathlete regarding Garmin’s web tools for tracking all of the watch data and their active community.

Key takeaways:

  • People don’t start at your website. The search engine is the new home page.
  • Your brand is being discussed everywhere. It is best if you provide a place for these discussions to take place, because if you don’t provide a venue for discussions, it will happen elsewhere.
  • Recommendations, likes, blogs, forums, reviews and other forms of "socialized" feedback are critical in the decision making process -- more so than traditional product copy.
  • You lose the opportunity to engage your customer or gain valuable product feedback if you don’t offer a community for them to participate in.

#2: Target the Social Ecosystem

In the recent Altimeter report, “A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation,” it identified that a typical company manages an average of 178 social media accounts. The problem is that different groups within the organization usually manage each of these channels. One department may track Facebook, another focuses on Twitter, while yet another manages and follows the brand’s own online community.

From a consumer’s point of view, this makes for a very chaotic, disjointed experience that doesn’t mesh well with how brands want their products to be perceived. What brand owners want is an integrated brand experience that flows from Facebook all the way back to their online community.

Organizations that have a comprehensive perspective of social view all of these channels as an ecosystem where they can participate in the various ways that people experience their brand. You can read more about the social ecosystem in the article on CMSWire.

Key takeaways:

  • Organizations are managing many different social channels. Unless these are integrated, they can cause a disjointed experience.
  • There is no silver bullet solution. Don’t invest in a single channel; instead look to manage the social ecosystem.

#3: Social isn’t a Destination

True for both employee social networks and customer communities, social is not a destination, but a set of experiences dictated by the type of interaction the consumer wants.