If you are reading this, then you have probably been thinking about and working toward incorporating social technologies and philosophies into your business (or other people’s) for a couple of years. There is endless material on the topic available for your reading and viewing pleasure.
It can be complicated. It can be overwhelming. But it can also be fairly straightforward if you think about it from the right perspective. This is a list designed to help get that straightforward perspective -- to take stock before diving deep into the details.
Here I present to you, in its entirety, the list of entities and issues you need to consider in order to be a social business, from the most tactical to the most strategic. I’ve chosen nine for this list. Please do share your candidate for #10.
1. External Social Networks
What? You know -- Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, among others.
Why? That’s where the people are, that’s where the conversation is taking place, that’s where it is easy to get left behind. That’s where you generate enough trust, interest, relevance, credibility to get people to engage with you.
In this way you also get to know the needs of your markets more intimately, stay abreast of industry trends and understand your partners and competitors, if you’re into that kind of thing. You also, if you are the right kind of person in the right kind of organization, can keep the edge perspective that might just give you the next breakthrough idea.
Who should be involved? Anyone in your organization that has anything to do with customers, PR or marketing. So traditionally, that’s marketing, some of R&D, customer service and the PR team.
What do I need to do about it? First, you should be there. You should get out there and listen, and then participate. You should have (at least one, but not too many) corporate presence in each of the relevant networks, and you should have appropriate strategies -- including social media catastrophe plans.
Next, you should consider social marketing/consolidation automation and crm tools, like Wildfire or the newly acquired Vitrue. Listening is crucial with something like Radian6.
Ensure your customer service department is out there, listening and armed with something better than "thanks, please open a ticket on that.” I’ll say that Verizon twitter customer service is knock-your-socks-off good.
Last, you should consider some killer content that is exciting, meaningful and multi-media. If you can write the paper, do a slide deck. If you can do a slide deck to a video, do an infographic. Make meaning all the time.
2. Your Website
What? You know, www.whatever.com. It’s that digital place you may, or may not, have been neglecting recently. Does it have a place for people (rather than GranitecorpMan) to express opinions, thought leadership, news or other stuff?
Why? All roads lead to Rome (where “Rome” is your website). Your social activity is wasted if there isn’t a destination that can aggregate all the information and activity, and provide deeper information and involvement -- even the chance to “buy now.” Can Facebook be that destination? Not really. At least not yet (are we doing geocities backwards now? Jeesh).
Who should be involved? Mostly the marketing team. You’ll also need an excellent design and human factors crew. And if you really want to do well here, you need to be doing this with at least one eye glued to your customer experience map.
Also the sales team. Your sales team is busting your chops for more collateral, right? Kill all those birds dead with this stone. Your website IS your collateral. Maybe some of it is behind a login, if absolutely necessary.
What do I need to do about it? Don’t boil the ocean. Start small, do well and grow. Plan for constant change. Design for constant change, implement for constant change and then change.
What? Your phone. Or your tablet. What would your customers like to have when they are where they are? Is that an app, a mobile site or just a mobile optimized email?
Why? Where do you get most of your mail first?
Who should be involved? This is usually some hybrid or variation of what you already offer online. But you’ll need to decide -- is this a value prop on its own? Is it marketing? Is it customer support? Know what you need, then pull the team in.
What do I need to do about it? At a minimum, recognize that email goes to phones first a lot of the time. Then you need to start thinking differently. In what way does the sensing capability of people in the field important to your value proposition? In what way can you offer important information to a person in a certain time, place and context?
4. Private Social Networks
What? You know, communities. Communities of customers, communities of partners, other groups you want to be tightly synched with.
Why? You probably have one or more of these private communities already. Are they active? Are they any good? Are you paying attention? Because these will be your best chance to nurture your best customers and partners on an ongoing basis so that everyone stays happy (and revenue positive).
Who should be involved? R&D, Customer Service, Sales, Others as appropriate.
What do I need to do about it? There are plenty of technologies for this. You should get one, and begin encouraging your customers and employees to engage and chat there. You should have a community manager (we can show radical differences in effectiveness when these communities are actively cared for).
What? That (probably) crappy internal website you have that’s always out of date, has terrible navigation as well as the expense report forms and the employee handbook.
Why? Because the more your organization can act like an organism, the more fluid, innovative, coordinated, cohesive and effective it will be. Your organization needs reliable, universal access to 1) shared resources, 2) processes and 3) one another. Your team needs to stay on top of what’s going on in the rest of the organization and have an obvious and convenient place to go with questions.
While most businesses these days start with number one on this list, it's the continual awareness of corporate activity and place to ask questions that are the most important items on this list. You must not skip or ignore it because it might be hard or cost money.
It is not OK to have the worst possible tools for your team. It's a waste of money, and worse, your employees can tell that you don’t care about them if you are skimping on their core tools. Can you imagine an organization that failed to provide email or internet addresses for its knowledge workers? Failing to provide an excellent intranet is in the same league.
Who should be involved? HR, Employee communications, Department heads, the CEO, R&D and IT. If you are a large organization with people in more than one location, your intranet IS your organization. If you don’t agree, just go sit in a corner somewhere while the rest of us build a business without you.
What do I need to do about it? Understand the basic requirements:
- A place to share information -- i.e. next generation shared file systems, often known as Enterprise Content Management.
- A place to share news, events and calendars.
- Some kind of blog and wiki capability.
- Some kind of microblogging (this creates ambient awareness and a fast response mechanism).
- Content management and sharing on a global level as well as a departmental level.
6. Team Collaboration
What? While some people believe that intranets are collaboration spaces, they are misinformed, or perhaps have never actually worked on a project with a team. Intranets are a way to connect and circulate with a broad community of the organization. Real work needs a more focused approach. You may find my discussion of the three types of collaboration helpful if this runs counter to your intuition.
Why? Teams need dedicated shared workspaces. They need a way to organize, communicate, aggregate and iterate on work without wasting valuable time and energy focused on the logistics of it. With those tools they can actually spend the majority of their time understanding the problem, generating answers and delivering solutions. Critically importantly, these shared workspaces also capture work as it's being done, so that the know-how and resources are collected in such a way that they are findable and reusable.
Who should be involved? Anyone in your organization that might have to work as part of a team of any kind.
What do I need to do about it? Ensure that you have really good, usable collaboration software. Ensure that teams can form seamlessly, that it is connected with your intranet so that work and expertise are discoverable in context throughout your organization.
7. Your Purpose and Narrative
What? You must answer the question, “Why do you matter?” You must answer it at the emotional, intellectual and rational levels. You must answer it for your team and for your market and for your customers, community, ecosystem and society. And it must be the same answer for all parties.
Why? Yes, that’s right. Why. Because without this you will never be more than mediocre. Without this your team won’t care, your market won’t care, and you’ll need to rely on financial manipulations for success. Be important. Be the best at something. Be relevant. That is the key to getting people to work for you, give you money, sing your praises.
Who should be involved? Those who wish to be involved. This should be lead by your very best thinkers, who should plan to invest several months in the process. These thinkers can be in your marketing, your tech or other departments. If you’re lucky, they are your founders, or perhaps your “re-founders.”
What do I need to do about it? You need a narrative hierarchy that acts as the basis for your thinking, decision-making and communications of all types. (Want one? Ping me.).
8. Your Organizational Design
What? How you decide things, take action, interact with the world, develop and deliver value, allot responsibility, compensation and lots of other stuff.
Why? Command and Control is withering in the face of self-actualized employees, improved communications tools and complex, even wicked environments and problems. Evolve or die.
Who should be involved? Every last soul, but a superb leadership team. When control wanes, leadership, purpose, collaboration, integrity and commitment (the big brother of accountability) reign.
What do I need to do about it? First you need to hire people whom you trust. Then you need to trust them. You need to think about what the best way is to create a shared purpose, and enable those people to do what it takes to realize that purpose. You need to coordinate, communicate, make decisions and act. This is not an event or a decision; it’s a process of discovery.
9. Curiosity (Sometimes Known as Big Data)
What? Big data is not actually the fact that we have a ton of stuff. Big data is the recognition that nearly every action now leaves a digital footprint -- via web, mobile or other transaction, and that an infinity of wisdom is waiting for people who are able to enquire against it.
Who should be involved? IT, along with every curious and questioning, learning mind in your organization.
What do I need to do about it? Understand what data is available to you internally and externally. Get to know the tools of inquiry. Analytics tools, mapping tools, database tools. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Expand your access, your tools and your inquiries.
So -- How Does This List Help?
Social Business is an important term, and a critical goal, but it remains poorly and inconsistently defined. There are philosophical definitions (organizations that focus on empowering people to do great work) and practical ones (organizations that use Facebook). In the end, however, you need to look at how you are connecting with the stakeholders in your ecosystem, how you are making use of those connections and to what end. A truly social business will have well considered answers to all of them. We’re all somewhere on that journey, and learning fast.
The best is yet to come.
Editor's Note: To read more by Deb Lavoy: