There is a rather large difference between companies “doing” social and “being” social. For a company to succeed at this new business model, they must learn how to do social and also, enable their people to be social.
Doing social is the imperative part of the equation. This means making plans, defining objectives complete with outcomes, tracking and measuring success and making adjustments to the plan along the way. Most companies start doing social within their marketing and sales departments to drive traffic to their site and raise awareness about their products or services. This usually looks like marketing managers using social tools to broadcast their message to the world.
However, being social means building competencies across the organization that encourage, support and institutionalize the use of social tools by a broad cross-section of employees and other stakeholders. For an organization to be social, the people who are part of the organization should be able to use the tools available on the open web, and also have a clear voice and a comfort level about interacting with customers online.
You can spot the truly social organization — doing more than just “doing” social — by looking for these behaviors:
1) There are many people within the company who have the power and skills to utilize social media across many different facets of the organization – from sales to engineering, from marketing to customer care.
2) The social organization has many different channels for engagement and strives to meet their customers where they “live” online. This doesn’t mean implementing a random smorgasbord of tools, but rather, a dedicated, strategic approach to connecting with customers online.
3) The social organization brings social data into legacy systems such as CRM, customer satisfaction scores and customer support, They have connected their disparate databases to the social network and can gather information about customer needs – socially.
4) Customers are at the center of the company’s products and services. Social tools are used — judiciously — to engage and understand the customer.
5) Social organizations understand the largely unwritten rules for “being social” that mandate being generous with ideas, appreciation, thought leadership and relationships online. They give more than they take from the customer.
Being a social organization requires acting socially — maintaining a deep dedication to supporting business relationships online. This doesn’t mean employing armies of millennials to tweet all the live-long day. It does mean placing customer satisfaction as a paramount strategic goal for doing business over the long haul.
To move from doing social to being social, an organization must ask itself ‘who drives social bus?’ If the marketing group is just “out there” tweeting away, joining LinkedIN groups and setting up Facebook fan pages without a plan to build a deeper understanding of customer needs, or if the data generated by online social relationships are not being traced throughout the organization’s core operations, then chances are the company is just “doing” social.
Moving from one camp to the other is not light work, but will be required to build and maintain competitive advantage over the next year or so. In particular, core operations must change to integrate social data – both technically and behaviorally – across the business. Companies will need to learn how to make sense of raw data found on the social Web. Organizational designs will adapt to reflect the new reality that everyone owns the products of social business activity. The notion of social business changing enterprise core operations is not widely discussed (yet!) but I predict it was dominate the discussion is years to come.
The new social mandate means everyone is now accountable: to pay attention to the customer, to listen and truly hear, and most important, to figure out how to sense and respond to the subtleties of conducting social business online. This is the new way of doing business — demanding but well worth the effort in the long run.