As social business vendors grow, especially those who provide solution suites, there is a greater need for professional service consultants/analysts to undergo rigid vetting appraisals and skill certification testing similar to military training courses. It’s one thing to be dedicated to social engagement and quite another to be both committed to improving the business bottom line and the overall experience for the customers and having the skill to do so.

Social Business Boot Camp

How important is "in the trenches" professional service enterprise experience for social business to reach a new level of maturity and more customer successes?

If many of the new breed of social media gurus are to be believed, then probably not much. I disagree. I think it is time to move beyond defining and marketing social this and that, and get down to offering basic training on the delivery best practices. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks this is necessary -- respected strategist/analyst Esteban Kolsky recently added this comment to a previous post on the Missing Link between the Preachers and Practitioners:

If you provide the profile, the practitioner ranks will swell with people who understand what they need to do. This is, in my opinion, the missing link -- no one is taking the time to explain and mentor the up-and-coming practitioners, then expecting sergeants to become colonels in the battle-field. Ain’t happening just by wishing, know what I mean?"

Despite all of the discussion about social business, social CRM and social strategies, vendors need to expend the effort towards building a strong cadre of practitioners capable of training staff of all ranks on the basic tenets of enterprise consultancy and how to incorporate social engagement in context with business transactions. Much can indeed be learned from the methods used by the Armed Forces to train and certify expertise in their own ranks.

The "Who's Who in the Social Biz Zoo" hierarchy is similar to the military: there are Foot Soldiers, Platoon Leaders, Sergeants, Majors and Colonels and then there are Special Ops groups that include Snipers. How do you recognize a skilled marksman from a newly enlisted grunt? Surely they aren't all wearing "Expert" badges?

Or are they?

Verifying Service Records

The consumers, customers and businesses that are looking for social strategy guidance have access to more information at hand than ever before to vet the history of analysts, experts and consultants via the very same channels they're trying to break into. But, they don't have the ability to simply check service records. It's all too easy for self-proclaimed gurus to pin badges on their own breasts.

When an expert wants you to believe that he's honorable, he may tell you that he served in the trenches, lugging a heavy ruck sack over steep hills in blistering weather. When a foot soldier wants you to believe he's a larger-than-life hero, he may tell you he was a black ops commando. Even worse, some vendors pass off similarly uniformed staff with little to no enterprise experience at all as "the point of the social spear," yet they're more like toy tin soldiers.

Here's what you should remember: true military veterans rarely sit idly talking about their experiences after the fact -- they're always looking ahead to prepare for the next battle. If someone is trying to impress you with tales of social business heroism, there is a good chance he or she is lying, looking to gain 15 minutes of fame on TechCrunch or has awarded themselves a promotion without moving up through the ranks after spending some uncomfortable nights in the muck on the front lines ducking incoming grenades. Hint: look for the business battle-worn with a few scars.

Don't be fooled by influence rank, as many inexperienced souls are promoted during times of war -- it is an inevitable ploy to calm the masses by imposing additional levels of command and control during periods of stress. The reality is that the more people there are shouting orders ("you must listen and engage"), the more confusion sets in. The voices that matter most are those who can pull the trigger with accurate aim. No matter what your social strategy is, what you want is a Special Ops Commando. After all, they're the resources most often responsible for targeted executions.

Social platform vendors have a responsibility to their customers to fill their professional services ranks with war-tested enterprise business analysts. No, not like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal - we're talking real deal action figures armed with cool weaponry and the skill to use them.

Profile of a Social Business Analyst Sharpshooter

How do drill sarges become sarges? It’s not just because they are the loudest.

Simply put, real social business analysts have done real work with enterprises, earning invaluable domain knowledge. The very best of the best, like Special Ops professionals, (cadre -- drill sergeant) have know-how in multiple disciplines such as CRM, Customer Service and ERP, as well as an evolving understanding of the impact of pervasive communications (like social engagement) on business. If we look to the military, we can identify seven key characteristics of trained warriors that well represent the abilities competent practitioners should possess:

  1. Proficient and Safe Handling of Weapons -- practitioners should have a thorough practical knowledge of the solutions and applications they promote and deliver. This means knowing how to pick the right weapon for the right strengths and how to take them apart and put them back together in the dark without shining a flash light on a manual. They must be capable of guiding implementations and integrations -- providing adroit offensive coverage for key processes like sales and marketing, while also applying careful knife skills to compliance and governance requirements.
  2. Observation -- practitioners have honed their skills in scanning, observing and logging all they see. This allows them to detect minor details that may aid them in spotting additional quarry and avoiding ambushes, which further develops their ability to collate information scrutinized from multiple angles, which they share with other team members and commanders as real time intelligence. They continue to monitor surroundings and activities and do not pull the trigger until it best supports the mission.
  3. Map Reading and Topography -- practitioners carefully read existing maps and sketch additional scaled diagrams to plan navigation to and from operation insertion and extraction points with the ability to identify recognizable landmarks along the route. They must be able to accurately calculate range, wind direction and distance to be covered to get from A to Z, with strategies ready for scaling any obstacles and reconfiguring the path if detours are encountered in between.
  4. Cross Training -- practitioners pair up regularly with other forces in sales, product development and customer service to cross train each other and keep each unit on their toes. Encouraging participation in cross training exercises requires the ability to adeptly detail the value to the individuals in learning how all of the pieces fit together to create a customer-centric organization capable of creating consistent customer success stories.
  5. Fitness Training -- practitioners undertake daily, rigorous training to keep their skills sharp. They’re disciplined about perfecting their knowledge spanning multiple disciplines. This usually includes trade-craft practice, practice and more practice with their core products, plus research and/or enrollment in additional courses to study new technologies and methodologies.
  6. Communications -- practitioners are able to effectively communicate both up channel and down, internally and externally, using a variety of tools. In case of comm system issues, they should have the ability to troubleshoot and find alternate methods to send and receive messages, including the use of hand signals if necessary. ;-P
  7. Marksmanship -- practitioners have the ability to consistently hit both stationary and moving targets within short or long ranges. They must be able to accurately use scope to find hidden targets within specifically defined areas. They must be able to fire from conventional and unconventional positions for the strongest probability of a first shot kill.

"In the Trenches" Expertise Drives Social Business Sophistication

Incorporating social listening, analysis and engagement strategies with traditional transactional business processes requires an understanding of the mission in the context of the customers. Putting tactical implementations in the hands of people who may have decent abilities in one or another area of "social" anything is like putting a loaded semi-automatic in the hands of a kid who is so eager to play with his new toy that he just starts shooting for the sheer joy of pulling a trigger.

You shouldn't get the "social business expert" badge until you've earned it by successfully participating in enterprise business executions.

Rally the troops!

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