For the past few years, companies have been exploring initiatives internally and externally that dance around the notion of “social” methods for engaging all of the people in an enterprise ecosystem - to bring about better results for these companies. The evolution of these social methods has led now to another term: the Social Business - Part 1 provides more background on the importance of People to the social business and the value of the Social Business-Inside. Part 2 discusses the “Social Business-Outside” and how enterprises must have both social inside and out to derive the most from the human ecosystem that is so essential to successful companies.

Value of Social Business - Outside

Social media and Social CRM solutions and practices are gaining interest and usage as means to work with customers throughout the customer lifecycle with the company. Social media and Social CRM also play important roles for connecting the Social Business-Inside with the Social Business-Outside.

Social media is not just the latest fad in marketing; and to really work, social media is not “one-size-fits-all”. Enterprises must understand how a go-to-market strategy that includes social media will help with objectives and obligations; then enterprises must figure out which social media to use and why. Social media commitments require an authentic personal touch, both for how customers are communicating with the enterprise, and how the enterprise responds and sustains customer conversations.

Maria Ogneva comments on the social customer and Social CRM:

The ability for everyone to engage and be in alignment: Social media is not a silo, and no one department owns it. There must be a process in place by which each message gets automatically routed to the right person, classifying it by type (question, complaint or compliment), content (what it actually said), sentiment, action needed, and influence. This helps automate the triage process, which until now has been mostly manual.

Jeremiah Owyang’s work with brands employing social media to better connect and support customers is extensive and well-known. In his presentation on “Three Trends Companies Must Invest in for Social Business”, Owyang introduces the notion of Rings of Social Influence which include employees as company ambassadors for communicating with customers, as well as these recommended best practices for such employees:

  • Establish guardrails to protect both employees and the company
  • Offer internal training courses, (like Intel’s certification program) and recurring training
  • Offer an internal water cooler where they can talk in a safe place and plan: Yammer, Socialcast, Community Platforms

And of course companies must recognize the power of the customer voice and consider Owyang’s recommended best practices for customers active in social media:

  • For better or worse, customers are already talking about you -- how can you aggregate their voices closer to your brand?
  • Develop an advocacy program to recognize and reward your top customers.
  • Change your mindset to understanding that critical feedback is an opportunity for product and service improvements -- then use to increase loyalty and WOM.

Social Business Equation: Inside + Outside = Eliminate silos

Many enterprises are understanding the value of social media to better engage and retain customers, to attract prospects, make sales, help customers solve problems: Social Business - Outside. But it seems to be much harder for enterprises to understand social on the inside and why that matters. Enterprises must come to understand that social on the outside won’t be substantially achieved -- let alone sustained -- if social on the inside isn’t working.

Social on the inside pertains to all company teams that touch customers, prospects, partners, and suppliers – basically the vast majority of the company. The commitment, usage and value of social on the inside and the outside must be real -- employees, partners, customers will quickly figure out if a company is faking it. With healthy social practices inside a company, the support and growth of social for any interactions involving the enterprise human ecosystem – inside and out – should then be a natural and vital part of overall company strategy.

Here are the big questions:

  1. Can the enterprises that need to, change quickly enough to re-humanize?
  2. More importantly, will enterprises even choose to change?

This change -- understanding and nurturing the value of all the people in the enterprise ecosystem -- impacts how the company operates internally, how it does business externally, how the company effectively engages the human ecosystem that is truly needed for the company to survive as a successful business -- inside and out.

From this change comes these rewards: big impact on continuous innovation / relevant product development, drawing the best out of employees, collaborating with customers and partners on future direction and products, listening to all of the people in the enterprise ecosystem to draw on their experiences and expertise for building and sustaining competitive edge >> all contributing to the success and relevance of company.

The strategic decision to become the social business has to come from upper management and boards of directors -- it has to be a key aspect of the enterprise -- or it won’t happen in any significant or sustained fashion. When an enterprise chooses to become a “social business”, the divide between social-inside and social-outside should blur as more and more as silos within the enterprise hopefully disappear, and as bi-directional connections to customers and prospects, partners and suppliers become more authentic and more immediate.

Editor's Note: Additional Articles on Social Business include: