It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since the management strategy book which Peter Kim and I wrote — Social Business By Design — hit the shelves in bookstores and online. At the time, we felt there was a distinct need in the marketplace for a clear-eyed assessment of what had been accomplished in enterprise social media after nearly seven years of progress by organizations large and small. We saw that organizations were largely leaving the days of early experiments behind and organizing more comprehensively for social media. Because of this, we believed it was time to take this body of experience and extract the core concepts and lessons learned in the industry so far into a more distilled form for executives and implementers alike to help take their efforts to the next level.
To the extent Pete and I succeeded, it was because of the tremendous efforts of many smart and highly-motivated change champions around the world that have put their reputations on the line to help make social media a priority, and in many cases, a notable success in their organizations. Social Business By Design is really just their story. We’ve all collectively learned a tremendous amount about the ideas and concepts of social business as well as the daily block-and-tackle work of driving change, adoption, and having genuine business impact with them. We also learned the social media in the enterprise can’t really be a siloed activity, but effects the entire organizations and requires broad engagement to have the most effect.
We also confirmed that one of the hardest won lessons has been that social is a highly participative activity, and is only truly successful when anyone can participate (Tenet #1 from the book.) We’ve found that social media efforts that can’t get beyond the fundamental principle of social business don’t last to refine the other nine.
To that end, the book and its approximately 100 informed case examples from which we extracted the ten fundamental tenets of social business has had a great reception over the last year, with positive reviews in Forbes, customer reviews, and elsewhere. Since it’s original publication, we’re also pleased to note that Social Business By Design has been turned into a Audible.com audio book, with excellent narration by voice actor Keith Silverstein. Social Business By Design also been optioned for translation and publication in the Indian subcontinent and in China for publication later this year. It’s also become a periodic new column on InformationWeek. And we continue to get gratifying notes about and pictures from people buying it by the box for their organization.
Based on feedback to date, we believe the book speaks for itself as one of the more succinct and up-to-date summaries for managers and strategists on how organizations can become more social across marketing, sales, product development, customer care, employee collaboration, and other functions using a pro-active and coordinated — yet largely decentralized — enterprise-wide effort. In our practice and research, we’ve repeatedly found it the case that many organizations are becoming social businesses largely “by accident” through the accumulation of disconnected department-level social media efforts. Organizations can do so much better with social media if we adopt a higher level perspective and learn from those who came before us.
In sharp contrast, the social business “by design” approach is a much more effective (and quite a bit shorter) route to the goal:
- Guide social business efforts at a strategic level with close coordination and a data-driven feedback loop to efforts on the ground.
- Reconcile existing enterprise functions, processes, and solutions with updated new social business methods.
- Build a strong foundation, usually a central set of resources (with dedicated people, tools, and budget) that empowers the organization by providing best practices, common guidelines, infrastructure, and so on.
One data point continues to stands out from our work: Consistently, when we look time and again at who is leading in social business, we find that they are leading much more effectively within their organizations while also laying extensive groundwork for social business transformation. A look at who is top ranked (out of thousands of companies ranked in near real-time) in our strategic Social Business Index reveals organizations such as Disney, News Corp, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Procter & Gamble who remain consistently at the top across their constituencies of workers, business partners, and customers. In short, successful social businesses are as cohesive in their efforts as they are decentralized in enabling participation and local initiative. What’s more, they typically resource their social media efforts far more than the average organization.
Over the last year, we’ve received feedback in various forms that the ten tenets we identified in the book were the essential ones for most social business strategies to focus on. However, in the interim, we believe there have been additional lessons learned that have been very important, even critical to social business efforts. Here’s what they appear to be, given that the full story and supported data are still emerging:
- Full business impact requires a data-driven approach to social media. While we made the case that social business intelligence is key to harnessing the value of enterprise social media, we’ve consistently seen that some of the highest ROI is coming from efforts that marry customer data and social data. See a gallery I put together of particularly high impact examples, including the T-Mobile case study. Takeaway: Though some may think big data is just a buzzword, it also delivers the highest impact when it directly guides social business efforts.
- Organizations ultimately make a serious enterprise-wide commitment to social business due to external forces. Take advantage of this. Either they feel they are falling behind their competitors, or they feel like their customers have moved on or both. Most organizations live in a sort of equilibrium between the waning of legacy channels of customer/worker experience and the pull from the new social channels. It’s only when something dramatic changes that resources and priority are allocated, which we typically see rolling up into a social media center of excellence. We regularly witness large organizations repositioning themselves suddenly because of new pressures that have upset the relatively static conditions before them. In other words, identifying the imperative for social media within the organization and then getting it recognized within the organization is the single greatest catalyst to driving initial change.
- The most successful organizations are deeply networked socially. The data I used to support my argument that we are near to having a C-level social media role (even if it’s just called the Chief Customer Officer or Chief Digital Officer) showed clearly that across many large organizations worldwide, the ones that were seeing substantially higher benefits with social media, had it firmly in place at scale across their organizations.
I was recently quoted in the MIT Sloan Management Review that we are in the trough of disillusionment with social business. I believe the data shows that this is the case, even as organizations find themselves more surrounded by social media than ever before, even profoundly so.
The fact is that most organizations are still not focusing on what makes social media uniquely powerful, and instead try to use it as a medium for what they did before. Getting away from ‘paving the cowpath’ is another major reason we wrote the book: To underscore the fundamental mechanisms and principles that sets social business apart from other communication revolutions. And we attempted to do this from a large enterprise perspective. We do hope that these ideas will arm the thinking and efforts of agents of change as they look at deriving even more value from social business, as it steadily moves to the core of how our organizations operate today and tomorrow.
As always, Pete and I would love your feedback and insight on this approach, particularly as it relates to the core ideas of social business that we attempted to convey in updated and refined form. In the meantime, as appropriate, we do hope you continue to distribute the ideas in the book — in print and electronic form — to your colleagues, customers, business partners, and leadership circle to help drive success and create much more mutual value for your stakeholders.