We Are Social's Social Business notes #2


Welcome to We Are Social’s Social Business notes #2, a review of the best social business thinking from around the web in the last month.

Round up of social business at LeWeb ’11
Europe’s foremost conference on all things internet completed its sixth edition in early December, and if you missed out, fear not, as we’ve picked out our favourite sessions that had a social business flavour:

Jeremiah Owyang presented Altimeter’s most resent research that looked at how companies need to return to basics and focus on building a scalable infrastructure before jumping into adopting social media. For those of you with less time we also posted his slides last week.

Dell’s Director of Social Media & Community Team, Richard Binhammer, presented his thoughts on what social business is about, before going on to discuss some of Dells experiences in becoming a better business through social (skip to five minutes to get to their key learnings).

Social organisations are a paradigm shift’ – a fantastic panel discussion with Richard Collin, Director of the Enterprise 2.0 Institute at Grenoble Management School, Sandy Carter, VP of Social Business Sales and Evangelism at IBM, Polly Sumner, Chief Adoption Officer at Salesforce.com and Nicolas Rolland, Director of Social Enterprise at Danone.

Sandy shared insights from client engagements that highlighted the importance of understanding your organisations culture, being as culture eats strategy for breakfast. Sandy recently released a book, “Get Bold: using social media to create a new type of social business”, that sets out her AGENDA framework in more detail, covering: Aligning Organizational Goals & Culture; Gaining Social Trust; Engaging through Experiences; Networking Your Business Processes; Designing for Reputation and Risk Management; and Analying Your Data. If you wanted a longer introduction her colleague Irving Wladawsky-Berger has introduced the book and its concepts on his blog.

What exactly is social business, part 2
Forbes have interviewed IBMs VP of social software, Jeff Schick, to see what they can learn from one of the forerunners in the space. From this they suggested that IBMs social business strategy breaks down into five areas: Internal social media, the customer ecosystem, listening / customer services / social selling, brand articulation and employee transformation.

David Armano has been doing a great job of contributing to the labelling and defining of the social space and last month he released his social business planning deck. The deck collates much of David’s thoughts from the past year and is chock full of value:

David also did a recent summary post on what social business is.

Social business resourcing
Econsultancy released a new report that looked at the structure and resourcing of digital marketing teams, surveying and interviewing 170 client side marketers. The reports author, Neil Perkins, warns of two trends, firstly a widespread recruitment challenge, with many struggling to find suitable staff for analytics roles as well as social media and content marketing. The second is a lack of commitment from senior management to invest in developing a higher level of organisational knowledge and support for social media.

In contrast Booz & Co found that organisations plan to dramatically increase investment in social next year, with the number one investment being made in social media is the hiring of full time in-house staff focusing on the community management, creative & analytics roles.

The findings of both reports make for great comparative reading alongside Jeremiah Owyang’s post on the composition of a corporate social media team, that sets out the average investment from the companies in their most recent survey of organisations with over a 1000 employees:

Thoughts on managing change
Perhaps one of the biggest influences of recent recessions has been financial service speculators focusing on short term goals. This problem is shared with senior management, who are incentivised to create short term shareholder value, often implicitly to the detriment of long term organisational value. If any organisation is to survive very long it will need to escape this trap, Matt Ridings sums up the quandary perfectly:

You cannot institute truly meaningful organizational change overnight.  Change like that doesn’t come cheaply, and it doesn’t come without risk.  Yet the people who make those decisions are accountable to Boards of Directors *now*.  The investors want to see continual upswings every *quarter*.  That CEO was hired for a limited period of time and doesn’t trigger his bonus payouts if he lets the company flatline for two years while he spends money making that change happen.  ‘Change’ isn’t an asset he or she can write off.  ‘Change’ isn’t a product or service that they can sell.  A time horizon of even 5 short years under those circumstances has very little appeal to an executive, regardless of the long term benefit, if they see themselves as either having moved on in that timeframe or fired because the Year Over Year growth wasn’t large enough.  The incentive quite frankly, is greater to drive that companies long term future into the ground if it means making large returns in the short term

This isn’t to say that short term performance should be disregarded, Scott Keller and Colin Price from McKinsey argue on the HBR blog that consideration needs to be given to both and have set out their five key questions for change program development. These read well alongside a great post earlier in the year from Rishad Tobaccowala that sets out his eight key learnings from 15 years in helping to drive change.

Keeping a healthy skepticism 
Perhaps more than any industry those working in the social space need to maintain a healthy skepticism, given its age and growth rate. The Economist’s Schumpeter blog has discussed some of the industries assumptions in a fresh light, summarising that as social media becomes more and more prevalent then the task of being heard will become harder yet the potential for listening, with investment, will increase.

Olivier Blanchard has also taken on the hype this month, warning against the social business siren song and reiterating that social needs to be based in solving actual organisational problems. His point is essentially social for its own sake doesn’t make your business better, but being a better business with social can, something to consider when the next salesman of utopia pops by.

Using social media to improve operations
Gary Edwards and Mike Amos have presented some ideas on how social media can be used to improve operations. Using the retailer Debenhams as an example they set out how a joined up organisation can incorporate social into their existing feedback and operation loops.

Twitter & customer services
Guy Clapperton takes a comprehensive look at the arguments for Twitter as a customer service channel, interviewing Phil Steward, head of customer service at Virgin Media Business in the process. Phil reiterates some great best practice; negativity can be seen as an opportunity to gain feedback, make organisational improvements and potentially turn critics into advocates, social media success relies on having good, clear processes and policies and having an objective is crucial before jumping in.

Global vs local brand strategies
Simon Kemp, the MD of We Are Social’s Singapore office, discussed how to manage social media across different cultures and countries, setting out a strategic framework for multi-market engagement – the 5Cs of conversation, culture, commonalities, country needs and challenges. If you’ve got time the post also has a great deck he presented at the Social Media World Forum Asia that sets out the arguments in longer form.

Social tools present on most corporate intranets
Social media tools are now present on most corporate intranets with 61% of companies reporting at least one social media tool available to some or all employees. The most popular Intranet 2.0 tools are blogs (75%), discussion forums (65%), instant messaging (63%), and wikis (61%) while social networking for employees and microblogging are on the rise at 43% and 42% respectively.

The death of email, act IX
French IT company Atos announced that they will phase out the use of email for internal communications to completely replace it with instant messaging and social platforms. The move is not that surprising when you find out the CEO hasn’t sent an internal email in five years. Time will tell how this change will impact those lower down the food chain but its a move made with them in mind; research shows that the under 25s have dramatically stopped using email services in the past year:

In another interesting move, Volkswagen Germany announced that its employees will no longer receive emails out of office hours, stopping their blackberry servers from routing thirty minutes after the end of the work day until thirty minutes before the start of the next. The change was part of a union agreed package that sought to rectify the blurring of home and work life for its employees and did not apply to senior management. The blurring of the work/home boundary is only likely to increase as social media is integrated into more organisations internal and external communications and it’ll be worth monitoring how employees and employers react within different markets.

Looking into 2012, risks and opportunities
Rachel Happe has set out a couple of hurdles for social business in 2012 and I think two of these are very astute, one being the previously mentioned lack of talent within community management, data analysis and internal collaboration and the other a wider momentum dip as many organisations realise social will take a serious investment over time and isn’t a quick fix. But these are certainly not going to be insurmountable and our MD Robin Grant highlighted that this year will see many more realise the value of social within wider business operations.