FUD! (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) is typically used by sales and marketing types to position themselves against competitors. IBM used to be renown for using this tactic and now it’s being used in a different way. Executives are turning FUD around and using it on their own organizations with regards to the use of social media. While companies widely accept that social media is transforming the business landscape, executives are still reluctant to approve anything more than small tests or pilot programs.
This reluctance by executives is being translated by many to simply infer that they are scared. Looking at it from an executive point of view however might shed a different light on the use of social media. Companies have spent decades building out their networks of consumers, partners, suppliers, employees, and special interests. So why does management shudder whenever you begin to put a “social” in front of the network? Consider, today’s business models are developed with layers of hierarchy and managed very linearly. By this, I refer to the typical order of developing product, inserting the supply chain, managing distribution, creating point of sale campaigns and attracting consumers. There is a very linear process for managing corporate messaging, customer service, measuring consumer sentiment, channel partner alignment and so on. What social media does is dis-intermediates most linear processes and connects disparate networks in ways that enterprises have not yet created “management” solutions for. Like the classic management book implies, we have moved the proverbial manager’s cheese. So what does this mean to social media champions inside companies?
In order to make decisions, executives need clear objectives, relative impact on short term and long term business and data points to back it all up…not theory. Introducing a company’s employees to be social is one way to start (a good post by Rachael Happewill help identify ways to get started). This helps to build confidence, trust and develop skills for those tactical purposes. What is still missing though is the bigger issues surrounding change management and working procedurally in a non-linear environment. For instance, at its most basic, what happens when corporate messaging is spread by consumer reviews not Corp Comms department? What happens when consumers demand (or request) product features instead of market research? Take it a step further now and consider what might happen if your consumers could connect directly with your suppliers and eliminate your company’s role in assembly? Now it moves beyond ratty little conversationalists to a complete dis-intermediation of non-essential middlemen and your company is no longer relevant (think newspaper business).
In order for companies to consider adopting social across an enterprise, social media strategists need to move beyond campaigns and tactics and begin considering corporate lineages. A research study commissioned by Cisco contained keen observations for agencies and strategists to consider.
“Only one in seven of the companies that participated in the research noted a formal process associated with adopting consumer-based social networking tools for business purposes, indicating that the potential risks associated with these tools in the enterprise are either overlooked or not well understood.”
This is only one of the findings that was pointed out. The entire excerpt was reported by CNN Money here.
How do we ease executive’s minds and begin socially infusing companies? Our moderator this week is tasked with helping connect those dots. Helping us out this week, B.L. Ochman will provide her years of insight and success at convincing executives to get past dipping their toes in the water. Our topic and questions follow:
Topic: Fear Factor: Understanding the Value of Adding Social Media to the Mix
Q1) Why do executives still doubt social media?
Q2) Do companies have time for social media?
Q3) Are there quick tactics that can be used to build company enthusiasm around SMM?
The twitter based chat will take place on Tuesday 02/02/2010 at noon EST. To participate follow #sm45 on your favorite Twitter client or on our live site.
It is not often that a technology comes along and changes the world. That is the case with Twitter. Started in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Twitter is a micro-messaging platform used to communicate via the web or mobile 160 characters at a time. In only a few short years the service, both widely acclaimed and widely criticized, has certainly had it’s impact across all corners of the globe.
The impact varies as much as the individuals who use it. Some things Twitter has been used for includes:
- Reporting News – the first news and pictures of the Hudson plane crash were sent out on Twitter before any major media was on the scene.
- Civil Unrest– like the twitterscope (microscope that Twitter creates, yeah I just made that up!) around the Iranian presidential elections of 2009. The world gained insight into the civil dissention surrounding the election proceedures with detail like nothing ever witnessed before.
- Education – grade school teachers turning to Twitter to help in class projects and providing global experiences.
- US Politics– most notably, President Barack Obama used Twitter daily to connect with supporters pre-inauguration.
- New Business – small companies using Twitter to scale like Threadless and others use it to pick up incremental business like Tony & Alba.
- Public Relations – many companies are lifting the corporate communications veil and using Twitter to humanize the organization like Kodak’s CMO. Government agencies are also using Twitter to communicate better
Need more examples? Well, this week’s moderator actually wrote the book on Twitter case studies from over a hundred interviews he completed. Now he wants your story. Shel Israel has a storied career in the social media space helping companies, from start-up to grown-up, better utilize digital communications to grow their businesses. This week’s #socialmedia chat will take a look at how Twitter is affecting all of us and where Twitter’s value will lie in the future. As one of the industry’s most respected thought leaders, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to “hang out” with Shel Israel for an hour.
Topic: Twitterville – What’s Happened, What’s Coming
Q1: How did Twitter change you business in 2009?
Q2: How will Twitter change in 2010?
Notice anything different here? This week we will focus on only two questions (compared with the usual 3). Please join us Tuesday 01/26 at 12 noon EST and follow along at #sm44
If you want to purchase an accounting system, customer relationship manager (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform for your company, it’s a pretty established process. There are a few meaningful vendors in your space determined by the size of your company, the features are all pretty clear and there are case studies galor for how-to and how-not-to select, implement and run those systems. Now, if you want to source some external help for social media, well that’s a different story.
We hear how everyone is a social media expert whether they’re certified or self-proclaimed. You can find people who believe many are akin to snake-oil salesmen and of little use. But if you are a company who needs external help, how do you weed through this entirely new industry? That is the point of this post, to effectively source external software and/or services to help deliver on your social media initiatives.
The industry is growing by the day: Agencies (traditional, interactive, digital, public relations, etc), Consultants (individual or small teams), web-development (SEO, measurement, advertising, now with social elements), Software Vendors, Service Vendors and you could continue to sector this list ad nauseum. All of these different components all have varied levels of experience whether personal or corporate and varied levels of perceived successes. Wading through all this fluff to get to someone who can meet your specific needs is difficult at best. One of the most proven methods of sourcing external suppliers is through a Request For Proposal process or RFP. As stated in Wikipedia, an RFP is:
“is an invitation for suppliers, often through a bidding process, to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service. A bidding process is one of the best methods for leveraging a company’s negotiating ability and purchasing power with suppliers. The RFP process brings structure to the procurement decision and allows the risks and benefits to be identified clearly upfront.”
Where to Start? There is a widely accepted order by which to initiate and execute a typical RFP.
- Establish Criteria for Evaluation: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” ~ Alice in Wonderland. Two key things here: 1) pull together a cross-functional team to develop criteria. this gets broader input and incorporates all departments from the start which will make ultimate buy-in that much easier. 2) evaluate your needs and develop criteria that would best meet those needs.
- Vendor Research: Once you have identified the criteria by which to evaluate, begin to research which vendors may fit (large agencies, small consultants, big integrators, small off-the-shelf, etc) and develop a preliminary list.
- Request For Information (RFI) or Request For Qualifications (RFQ): Some will say this step is not necessary or that it drags out the entire process too long. I tend to disagree however as it allows you to understand the market better and, done correctly, will provide additional direction for your RFP. From the RFI, you can eliminate roughly half of the prospective vendors on you list.
- Develop and Send the RFP: Here are 2 RFP Templates to consider Sample Social Media Template from Social Media Group and Sample Unbranded SEO RFP. Possible organization by Purpose/Goals, Criteria, Timelines, Vendor Questions / Responses, initial cost estimates. The RFP should convey what you are looking to accomplish, the criteria by which you will measure, the expected timelines, additional capabilities and cost estimates. This will elicit consistent responses by which to evaluate and rank the responses.
- Review the Responses: taking into account the criteria, evaluate the best responses by committee (remember the more input along the way, the easier the buy-in at the end) and narrow down to a top three (or simply choose a winner – see the next bullet for why not to do this)
- Interview the top 3 responses: At this point, you notify the vendors they have either made it to the finals or they have been eliminated from consideration. By having this process, you maintain the most negotiating leverage. During this phase, you can narrow the scope, interview vendors and negotiate final costs. If vendors know they are still competing, they will continue to put the best package together that they can offer. If you wait to negotiate pricing after you award a final vendor, the negotiating leverage moves to the vendor.
- Make a Selection:this speaks for itself. Remember to organize timelines and accountability from both sides to make sure everyone knows who’s responsible for what during the installation process.
Now this is a traditional process and for the most part I would follow this procedurally. My one hesitation is actually in developing social media criteria, companies will typically lump technology, strategy development, execution, community management, SEO, advertising purchasing, etc into one big project labelled “Social Media Initiative”. Personally, there is not one company let alone person who could pull this entire project off. My recommendation then, is to create sections of the RFP and allow vendors to submit responses only for those areas where they are strong or to actually create 3-4 separate RFP processes which most companies are not equipped to pull off. Let us know in the comments if there is a better process that you have encountered.
While this is a good start, it does not provide the nuanced detail needed to truly start this process for your own company. For this, we bring in the creator of the Social Media RFP and top strategist Maggie Fox. Maggie and her team at the Social Media Group work with companies like Ford Motor and SAP to deliver social media solutions. She will moderate this week’s session and help us all prepare to source external suppliers to help meet our social media needs. This week’s topic and specific questions include:
Topic: The Social Media RFP: How to Get the Best Results
Q1: How do you formulate a proper RFP that conveys your social media goals?
Q2: How do you identify the vendors, consultants or agencies to send your RFP to?
Q3: How do you evaluate your responses to pick the best solution?
Please join us this week as Maggie Fox moderates our Tuesday #socialmedia chat at noon EST. You can follow along by watching #sm43 from any twitter client or simply from our LIVE page.
Everyone’s talking about integrating social media into our everyday business. Whether you have a small local business or are a global enterprise, everyone is interested in the best way to incorporate social media practices in some way to solve their business challenges. As with any disruptive technology there are no shortages of short-sighted integration strategies. Initially we all focus around the new shiny toys/technology then we focus on the people side and the individuals who are using the shiny new toys are how great they are for it. Eventually we need to evolve, to discover the best ways to integrate into our management and business practices.
Over the last couple of years, we have seen many attempts at defining the RIGHT approach. First, it was Forrester with the POST methodology where the People, Objectives, Strategy then Technology were the core focus. This approach turned everyone into strategists, albeit for the betterment of campaigns. Campaigns are how agencies are oriented, client teams organized by geography then charged with the next big idea to WOW consumers. Therefore, this is how many large companies who outsource their creative and marketing duties with agencies started “trying out” social media, through a number of well-thought out , one off campaigns. The problem with the campaign approach is that everyone figured out that if social media is about developing relationships then a series of unique campaigns could not possibly deliver on the expectations that social media marketing promises.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Dachis Group recently rolled out their methodology around Social Business Design. This approach says that the only way to compete in the future is re-organize the entire enterprise from the ground up with a framework to be a social business by design. There is some good thought here around culture, business process and technology however no company wants to be the first one to scrap decades of legacy to “try” a new way to build a company. Even if the management agrees to it, the shareholders will demand proven solutions.
So where does that leave companies? Right now it depends on their leaders. If you break out small businesses, it comes down to the type of leader that runs the company. Some individuals “get” Twitter or other tools and will figure out how to make them work best to solve their unique business challenges. Other small business leaders still need to be convinced this new “fad” will last before they invest any of their time into it. For each respective small business competing in a local market, it will come down to whomever continues to build better relationships with their consumers whether online or off. If customers feel a connection, they will patronize that local company whether they follow them on Twitter or not. It’s still that simple. Want proof? Look at how many small businesses still do not have a true website…and they have made it this far. Focus on a great product and over-the-top service and people will continue to purchase from you and spread the good word.
For larger business competing in multiple markets or globally, social business will play a larger part of their business success. The speed by which information travels socially is simply overwhelming, good or bad. Consumers have a new expectation for engagement, service and transacting. Companies who succeed will be the ones who are able to embrace this new consumer, employee, partner or shareholder and manage appropriately to those expectations. Note of caution: Simply communicating quickly does not equate to a new, successful social business. So what else is there?
Social business transformation is happening from many fronts and is yet to be perfected. But one thing is for certain, you do need to understand more than just technology and culture to truly apply social to your business. While every business is different from it’s management, employees, culture, focus, expectations, etc your consumers are still the same as your competitors. The big question then is how to win. In my opinion, those who consider the underpinnings of prior corporate revolutions will be better suited to transcend into this new age than those who continue to stay shallow in their thoughts. Consider such areas of practice such as:
- Psychology: Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs which refers to 5 basic needs including: physiological, safety, social, self-esteem and self actualization
- Sociology: which is often referred to as the Social Science, is the study of human societies.
- Network Sciences: LikeMetcalfe’s Law – which conspires that networks (of faxes, phones, computers, people, or anything else) dramatically increase in value with each additional node or user
These sciences have influenced business revolutions including the information, management and globalization business revolutions that have helped shape the pace by which we operate today. The question is how the new Social revolution will re-shape traditional business practices today and in the future. Less discussed movements like social production, cognitive outliers, the wisdom of crowds and distributed transparency will certainly help shape this business revolution and the companies who embrace these learnings will emerge as leaders in the future. The only way to get your businesses out front will be to look beyond the shallow dialogue like openness, authenticity, transparency and building relationships that is prevalent today and start understanding how the sciences will continue to influence business and consumer expectations.
Social, Managerial and Organizational Dimensions will all have an impact on both intra-organizational and inter-organizational aspects in social business integration. To take us through this week’s conversation will be a true change agent in her own right, Kristi Colvin. Kristi has a tremendous amount of experience leading corporate integration of disruptive technologies. She will lead us through a series of questions to help challenge us to think deeper in managing our organizations through this monumental, customer led sea-change that is upon us. The topic and questions follow:
Topic: Socializing My Business – What Comes After the Chit-Chat?
Q1: Why do we even need to integrate social into our businesses?
Q2: How should you begin to socialize your business and what should you expect?
Q3: What does social business integration look like for employees & the company?
We hear so much chatter that companies have to be participating in social media. The chatter then leads into who should do it….and Voila! A single person is assigned to it. That person is usually born of the marketing or public relations (PR) team and the goal is rather simple: 1. Listen and 2. chat it up in an effort to create customer relationships. Customer Relationships! are you kidding me?!?! Who in marketing or PR has ever had to directly sell or service a customer (let me help you – not many)? So why don’t we ever hear about social media from the people who are responsible for managing direct customer experiences on a daily basis? That’s right, the customer service teams, talk about resources! Customer support, service, tech support usually have dozens if not thousands of company representatives waiting for you to call. Ahh, therein lies the issue. Customer service is typically reactive and most likely engineered to react via the telephone.
It is interesting to consider though. Customer service is probably the one department with the most experience in developing customer relationships across your entire organization. Every executive understands the numbers associated with keeping a customer versus the cost of acquiring one, yet Service rarely has a seat at the executive table. Executives all proclaim that Job #1 within their companies is to over-deliver on quality and service and yet none really have any idea on what the Experience is in buying from their company. The experience is what social media is all about. Every experience a customer has with your organization plays a part in developing not only that customer’s relationship with your company, but the relationship of that customer’s network too. Developing customer relationships are about managing a series of defining moments with customers (ie: pleasant to talk to, was I treated with respect, was my inquiry answered timely, did rep answer or fulfill my question). Contact centers are traditionally very strong with telephone support so incorporating online social media into contact centers is certainly a challenge. There may be nothing more important however to developing a truly social enterprise than incorporating the contact centers in a meaningful way.
The challenges abound. Systems are all centered on a phone switch, representatives trained to be reactive and solve problems, integration into core infrastructure including ERP, CRM, even accounting and not-to-mention many contact centers are wholly or partially outsourced. With that last part it now becomes an entire corporate ecosystem that has to change instead of a couple of people in a department. The payoff though is equally impressive for any company who can transform their client relationships with customer service being at the core. Consider a blog regarding a comparison of cameras debating which to get. If your camera company was the only one to contact that person and offer a promotion or simply a closer look through a video demo, your chances of the sale are good, however your chances of developing a relationship through a positive defining moment are great especially when exposed to that person’s network. Consider a tweet for someone in a strange town looking for some comfort food. If you are the only restaraunt who responds and delivers on that experience, youhave created a tremendous asset in that customer’s network however large or small it may be.
As social media has enabled citizens access to limitless information regarding your product and your company, it has also created a new class of customers. These customers have access to insights, reviews and most of all – random thoughts regarding their most recent defining moment with your company. The rules are changing and contact centers must change with them. Social media is propagating a new class of defining moments for companies to deal with. Those moments are no longer siloed to a channel of communication (ie. phone, email, letters). They permeate all channels and the customer expectations are re-set to near real-time for answers and for attention by your customers.
Companies at the front of this revolution to infuse social media into their service channels will most likely be leaders in their respective industries. Our moderator this week is no exception. Shashi Bellamkonda directs social media across Network Solutions, the de-facto leader in all things needed for businesses to manage a web presence. Shashi is one of the few social media all-stars that actually is recognized in the industry for what he does as much as by what he says. Shashi will lead us in this discussion coming with first-hand experience in how major corporations actually handle social media inside their service units. The topic and questions follow:
Topic: Engagement Through Customer Service: Your Contact Center and Social Media
Q1: When should customer service engage with consumers using social media?
Q2: How can contact centers scale to meet the demands of social media?
Q3: How can you determine if Customer Service is being effective with social media?
As always, the chat will be Tuesday (01/05/10) at noon EST. You are invited to join the discussion or at least follow along by tracking the hashtag #sm41 and be sure to include it in all your tweets. Another way to follow along is to use our LIVE page as well. We look forward to a tremendous discussion!
Return on Investment or (ROI) is one of those terms that has been mis-used by all in 2009. As we look to 2010, how can we get back on track. We know there is going to be a strong influx of interest in social media projects by companies. In fact, a report from econsultancy and bigmouthmedia suggest that 86% of the 1,100 companies surveyed plan to spend more on social media in 2010 and 13% plan to spend the same amount. The report is further detailed here. With all this investment in 2010, will any of it be tied to ROI or will it be looked at as non-financial impact?
We stated that the term ROI is widely mis-used. Here’s what we mean:
This is NOT ROI:
- The return of my Twitter usage is 2009 is 1,637 followers.
- I increased the page views of my website by 300% on an investment of $120.
- I increased my brand awareness by putting better content on my blog.
The actions above relate to non-financial impact on a business. For more information on Impact on Business we did a post a couple of months ago here. What seems to happen is that we take what is a financial term (ROI) and mix it around with investments in media measurement or listening tools or other social media tactics that are a part of non-financial metrics like building relationships, brand management or engagement. While these are all necessary and they do require an investment, the results are almost always non-financial. Therefore, if you are in front of executives and trying to attain funding or approvals, they will be interested in financial returns as measurement. While redefining the terms to meet your specific needs may be fun or even cute, no one is going to sign up for ROI when it means Return on Interest or Return on INgagement.
So what is ROI? The accepted definition of return on investment is very straightforward: gain from investment minus cost of investment, then divided by cost of investment. In other words, recruitment, engagement, interactions, listening are all very important pieces of the ROI equation however until that customer or prospect does something (ie: make a purchase) there is no financial measurement. The exception to this is the relation to cost savings realized by an investment. A great image of this was done by Olivier Blanchard:
Another important piece of the ROI pie is about actuals. ROI is not about what we think is going to happen, it is about what happened. Or in the words of Olivier again, “It’s not about potential, it’s about actual performance.” So ROI is not a forward looking statement, rather it is backwards looking results. So if you are looking for a quick refresher, check out this widely viewed deck on ROI here.
You may have guessed already on who could possibly by moderating this much needed discussion on ROI. If you guessed Olivier Blanchard aka “The Brand Builder” then you are correct! Olivier has long been a recognized and sought after practitioner and speaker on the topic of social media ROI. He brings a very clear yet in-depth understanding to the topic and we are thrilled to have him moderating this chat with us. The topic and question this week are as follows:
Topic: Advancing the Discussion of Social Media & ROI
Q1: How can strategy & planning can impact ROI?
Q2: What are the steps to integrate SM across a business?
Q3: What is the difference between measurement & ROI?
Please join us this Tuesday 12/22 for the weekly chat event at 12 noon EST. The hashtag for this event will be #sm39.
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