Blog: Like Minds’ Social Business Immersive at Social Media Week 2013.

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This blog post was written by Adam Tinworth at Like Minds’ Social Business Immersive at Social Media Week 2013, which aimed to give an understanding of how this social media transformation is affecting the way businesses acquire, interact with and retain customers.

JP Rangaswami – Chief Scientist at Salesforce, UK.

He could have saved us half an hour by getting us to read the Cluetrain Manifesto – the best introduction to why we are where we are.

When he speaks about social business, people ask him if there are anti-social companies. There are. They’re born of fear. The fear builds walls between customers and the company. The idea of connecting with customers fills many companies with fear.

Cluetrain suggested that there were two sets of conversations: one inside the firm, and one outside. And they’re different. If you live in a broadcast and hierarchical world, you have a measure of control – and safety.

We’re moving from the Millenials to the post-Millenials and they’re shifting to a different experience of technology – one where social networks replace Facebook and “message” replaces “in-box”. The age at which his children get their first mobile phone has decreased with every child. These people will change business – but even the hierarchal, broadcast world was the result of the technologies of the day.

Customer interactions are always referred to in the past tense because they’re only accessed after they happen. “Transaction processing” – it was once called, and it was expensive. Now, with the pervasive presence of technology – and especially mobile – we can produce a constant activity stream of what we’re doing. And it’s easy enough to do it in expectation of figuring out how it will be useful later on.

And customer has moved from being able to say nothing, to have a genuine voice. Social businesses are those where people are connected inside and outside of the firm. Customers and staff can interact together in real-time. Social can look like social work, or social media, or social science. No-one has a right to define social.

Every era is defined by abundancies and scarcities. The new abundance is connectivity and intention. New scarcity is attention. There are so many things coming at us that it’s hard to focus. The human at the edge isn’t the end of the delivery network – it’s the start. Business has to engage with that – especially if they have intention signals. Imagine having a network inside and outside the business where people can express, record, aggregate, and distribute their voices. That’s where we are.

The Cluetrainers predicted this a decade ago. We’re there now.

Jon Ingham – Strategic-HCM.

The first step in connecting better with customers is connecting better with the people inside your company.

Companies are using tools like LinkedIn to push out jobs socially. There’s a growing belief that more and more recruitment will be done through networks, either through “boomerang” hires, or keeping people in networks so that when the right vacancy comes along, they’re ready to hire them.  A lot of learning is moving away from the sage on the stage model to a more social, networked model.

There is a tendency for people to play with the shiny new social media toys and forget about the reason they’re using them. Social is greater than social media. Rather than thinking about the tools, let’s think about social capital and relationship capital. If we can focus on those, it’s much easier to see how we can use social media to achieve particular benefits.

Social business has to include social media – but it can be a lot bigger. We need to start by thinking about how to connect people within the organisation.   Best Buy has only been able to connect with their customers better because they went through the same exercise internally first. Sometimes you can meet customer needs better by focusing on your employees first. They can’t support customers until they can support one another.

One organisation’s social strategy might look very different from another’s. There are no best practices in this field. There are lots of good practices, but this field is still developing. There are different ways people can connect. Some will benefit from better collaboration, others from social innovation.

For most organisations, social media will be the biggest part of this jigsaw. With a diverse, international workforce, sometimes these tools are the only way you can connect effectively. You need people to connect through their personal power rather than their positional power. You need social leadership. And then you can get the whole organisation learning together. But you also need physical spaces for serendipitous meetings and connections. So workplace design is part of this.

Just connecting people through these tools isn’t enough – the company needs to value personal connection and respect very deeply.

Euan Semple – Digital Consultant.

“Process” is a word that sends chills down my spine. At the BBC, making shows, we did stuff. When John Birt arrived, we had an incoming management class that began to bandy around words like “process” – it was used almost aggressively. And that language issue coloured my early days of management. I was expected to use that sort of language. I started wearing a tie and talking funny to protect myself. But then I realised I was on a slippery slope. There’s a price of pomposity – it effectively disables you and keeps you a cog in the machine. Reading xxxxxx’s Fear of Freedom. Fantastic book. People struggled to retain a sense of identity as the control of the middle ages turned into nominal freedom.

We’re coming through another step-change, with social and psychological changes. The whole thing about getting a job for life and consuming until you die is looking a hell of a lot less secure than it was before… Work is looking more like a collection of networks – but people have always done things through networks.

Business has a problem with words like “conversation” and “social”. The latter has connotations of “social life” rather than work. But people know when they’re working. People assume that asking questions is a weakness – it admits that you don’t know something. But conversations need questions – and people wading in with answers kill the conversations.

We’re turning social media into a “thing” – it’s the thingification of social media. It becomes sellable, marketable, something people have to do. But what I see is the web becoming part of people’s lives, and encroaching into their workplaces. And this is why IT gets jumpy – they have this ordered, structured thing they call the workplace.

What’s the return on investment? Let’s go back to the “love” thing. It’s about passion, engagement, and giving something of yourself to the world of work. Work has become impersonal; people are just human resources. To shrug this off is a huge challenge – reminding people how to talk to each other like human beings. We’re shrugging off the last 150 years of industrialisation.

A Scotsman’s tip on RoI: keep the “r” small and no-one calls about the “i”. People spend too much money on this stuff. The other thing is to turn in on its head: what’s the RoI on stopping it? It’s happing already.

And stop reading case study porn and just do it.

Joanne Jacobs – COO 1000heads, Sydney.

The most important thing about building communities is listening, not talking. Companies seem to treat communities like Borg collectives. If you want people to behave the way you want them to, you aren’t building a community, you’re building a dictatorship.

People flock together, but not just for safety, but for an opportunity to work collectively towards goals, but individually their opinions count. They are a collective of individual opinions. The word “customers” belittles communities to buyers. Of course, we need to make money as businesses. We understand that. If you think of them as buyers, then you are not allowing them to contribute to your business except as buyers.

You’re missing the opportunity to involve your community in product development – and that’s what most businesses find most challenging. You have to consider your audience as possible experts in what you do – possibly more of an expert than you are. You need to develop an attitude that you listen to your community.

There is an adage that you shouldn’t listen too closely – they are often too invested in the way things are. But you need a culture of listening and stimulating participation, and it’s a huge skill. It’s the Love that Jon and Euan talked about – it requires a different style of management. It requires giving people space to excel – and most organisations suck at that.

Do you still visit icanhazcheeseburger every day? Why not? You need to build communities based on performance. Some communities in London have expired, some have evolved so the original members no longer participate, and others have continued to grow.

There is a natural pattern of communities that follows the Gartner Hype Cycle. Successful communities develop and evolve. However, the plateau of productivity starts to decline over time. It’s natural for people to lose interest over time. This is perfectly normal.

Any marketer or PR person in the room who thinks it’s about controlling the message? You’re going to fail. Start thinking organically. Marketing warfare is dead. Get over it. If you think you can manipulate people’s opinions, you will create a muppet community. (mnah, mnah)

Find people who communicate well with others, and give them the chance to lead the conversation. You’ll have people who talk a lot – and also those who have a lot to contribute but will need encouragement to come out of lurker mode.  Move towards co-creation, rather than just advocacy. We’ve always done this, but the technologies now exist to do this in a public forum.

Why should some communities be allowed to die? Some, because people lose interest. Some because products and services are no longer required. Learn when communities should die. Cyber communities often have lifespans of about 18 months. Then you need to innovate or die. You can just let them move on. There is a reason that the most common word associated with advertising is “false” – we stopped thinking and acting as communities.

Neville Hobson – For Immediate Release.

The only guy with a suit and tie… He was a corporate drone, but he is no longer. He has a suit, a tie AND a PowerPoint. But there’s a huge amount of commonality in all the talks – and that’s a good thing. We’re clearly on the same page.

Looking at the landscape:

Our world is connected. No one will disagree with that. It’s the basis of all the changes that are coming. Facebook is dominant. You have to go where your customers are. Marketers are obsessed with numbers: followers, retweets, Likes – but do they know what they mean or achieve. Everyone has mobile devices. It’s not about the tools, it’s about what the user does. But people make plans which are all about the tools – and then wonder why they fail.

He first read Cluetrain back in 2001 – and he didn’t like it and rejected it. But he was a corporate drone then – and it gave him a sleepless night. There are risks involved – and it challenges you to move outside your comfort zone. A lot of people dismiss this thing straight away – if you get through that the fear can be diminished by a logical risk assessment approach. 2005’s social customer manifesto is just as valid today.

It’s initiatives by individuals within companies that make a difference, not big initiatives cascaded down from the top. Often they’re little experiments that don’t go anywhere – but people learn from them. What happens to the corporate spokesperson, or to comms, when everyone is communicating? Good question. Time to restate your value…

Don’t look at big numbers, look at small numbers: the people who are making changes and doing good work. People make mistakes. “Keep making mistakes” – Esther Dyson. We need to have patience with experiments and admit that people aren’t perfect.

Some good examples: HSBC has social media newsrooms. Vauxhall in the UK: also has a social media newsroom.  Once upon a time if you wanted a beautiful hi-res pic of a product, you had to be a journalist. Now anyone can get these car shots from the site. Many people are using LinkedIn groups as well. Facebook is not a marketing channel – well, that used to be his view. Now he thinks it can be – but only if you talk to people, rather than market at them. Cadbury’s is doing it well.

You can’t be a friend of a brand. You can be a friend of a brand manager. I can’t have a conversation with an anonymous person behind a brand name. A brand is an impersonal, inanimate thing.

Social media is:

  • An irresistible force. It’s growing rapidly and dramatically.
  • It’s evolving into a social business. But he’s yet to see it well done
  • The enterprise going back to school. A business not fluent in social media will be at a competitive disadvantage.

It’s also a commitment to keep running, it needs to be integrated. Demographic data isn’t understanding the customer. You need to know why they do what they do. (The End of Business as Usual – Brian Solis)

It’s a calculated risk, Recognise the change that’s happening, make a deal with employees to eliminate FUD, be where your customers are, listen, and permit not prohibit. You need to give up control – but that’s not the same thing as letting anything go. Be natural. Learn to deal with criticism, and be humble. And have a clear and measurable objective – and a plan. And always, always, listen. Recommendation: The Social Business MBA.

Delphine Remy-Boutang – IBM.

How did we transform IBM into a social business? Social business is built on three pillars: people, technology, and process. This journey didn’t happen overnight. At the beginning of the web, we were very much into experimentation. Then we moved into the web as an information platform, and now it’s a relationship platform.

The transformation started internally. The company becomes an enabler of employee-generated brand communications. They had 17,000 blogs. their own network – SocialBlue – and so on. They don’t force anyone to be active – we educate them and trust them to contribute. The process has taken over a decade. Back at the turn of the Millenium, they got bloggers and would-be bloggers together on a wiki to generate their blogger guidelines. They were created in a social way. Social media is everyone’s responsibility.

They have a monitoring centre in India where all mentions of the brand are tracked. They have the Blue IQ Ambassador program – 1200+ ambassadors worldwide, giving personal support to the internal written information. They also try to surface their experts on their own domains, by giving easy ways of connecting with key people through social media from the main websites. They don’t try to own the entire intelligence of the discussion on their own site. The same applies to presentations – they worked with SlideShare to provide the first branded experience in the site around their decks.

Sometimes negative experiences can bring a community together. An example: a community coming together around a bad transport experience. If Eurostar – who she travelled on that morning and which was really late – had spent the money to give travellers WiFi, they’d have a far more supportive community.

They measure three things: volume, the share of voice, and sentiment. From there they can build KPIs to measure the success of their social media activity.

Lee Provoost – Senior Strategist, Dachis Group.

Where your comfort zone is and where the magic happens are not the same place. It’s great to go to events full of people doing work like you, but he’s not hearing case studies that really wow him. Many businesses have their social platforms that tick the boxes. But are they really integrating this stuff? Using social without changing your working methods is just putting lipstick on a pig. Maybe people turn to social media because your customer services are rubbish – or your products are.

Larry Downes at Forbes pointed out that switching to internet shopping was evolutionary for customers – and revolutionary for businesses. Amazon has the advantage of not having a huge legacy business behind it. You can’t easily take old businesses like Best Buy and transform them into agile e- tailers. Most companies have been designed in the 20th-century mode of predictable, repeatable processes. Customers have been spoiled by free Facebook, free Google, and so on… They expect traditional businesses to act more of these service providers. The traditional organisations want to appear like a modern 21st-century company – but they’re still run like 20th-century companies.

There are many challenges. Germany has a huge issue around privacy – so working with businesses there means now working with data from social networks. If you have 20 separate corporate entities within your business – who pays for what? How do we keep social business manageable and cost-effective? RoI is hard. It’s a very, very difficult thing -even outside social media. You need to be realistic about it. But the most interesting challenge is uncovering insights from the vast amount of social data being generated. And – most important – how do they uncover actionable insights? More information does not always mean better decision making.

Most metrics are best used for analysing change rather than as an absolute measure. Why have things changed in the sentiment analysis? Why has my influence score dropped?  Stepping away from absolute numbers and towards trends allows you to drill down and understand how particular events effect your success.

With so many different social channels now, how do you manage this? How can you ensure that 300+ social channels send a consistent message? There are tools and dashboards that allow you to do that in a crisis situation, by identifying the owners and allowing you to push messages to them.

We need to match actionable insights with their business needs and challenges. You can’t just be a social media expert – you need to understand their business problems to get board buy-in. And you need to understand what drives people. Consultants are driven by fear, excitement, and the need to hoard knowledge. So then you can see that you can persuade them to engage socially by showing them that if they don’t share some knowledge no-one will know that they’re an expert.

Find ways of nudging people and businesses into the behaviours they need.

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