As Social Technologies Become Pervasive, Prepare Your Company

When I started this job a year and a half ago, my coverage was simply over social networks and community platform vendors. On occasion I would speak to brand monitoring companies, and of course pure play social media sites (blogging software, microblogging, etc)

But now, I spend talking to companies from a variety of spaces as social technologies creep into their space. It’s increasingly difficult to monitor as it spreads, but expected as the era of social colonization takes hold.  Social technologies become pervasive and spread throughout the entire company.

Vendors that are currently ramping into the social space:

  • CMS vendors are gearing up and offering social features, much to the chagrin of the community platform players.
  • Customer support departments are quickly moving outside their defined support domain to where customers are supporting each other.
  • CRM vendors are connecting to social networks, serving up social content in their dashboard. We’re discussing how far this will reach.
  • Web Analytics firms are starting to scan social sites and partner with others, they know influence has spread beyond server analytics alone.
  • Customer reference programs recognize that unfiltered customer opinions are happening beyond their control.
  • Agencies of all sorts.

Vendors that will become increasingly important in the social space:

  • Affiliate marketing will become an increasingly important as more brands start to act on word of mouth programs.
  • Email marketers are starting to recognize that the social network inbox is where eyeballs have shifted to.  Given Google’s evolved email platform looks more like a social network or operating system than an email ‘inbox’.
  • Advertisers want to think beyond banner and IAB ads to more engaging or social ads.
  • Large consulting firms are preparing to offer million dollar packages to enterprises for change management and social integration systems.

Companies as a whole –beyond marketing– must prepare as social cascades the enterprise
Social technologies are creeping into nearly every aspect of business, making this incredibly difficult for brands to manage as so many systems –and therefore stakeholders– are looped in willing or not. Having spoken to some brands that are tackling this change, here’s some practical advice that I learned the top firms are doing:

  • 1) Recognize the trend that social technologies are crossing over to all aspects of the business: If you’re responsible for social media leadership in your company, recognize that this technology is pervasive beyond corp comm and marketing as we saw in the last few years.
  • 2) Yet, as things start to get complicated, simplify: Rather than focus on the all of the distinct arenas that social crosses, focus on the trend that customers and their opinions will be part of nearly every aspect of your business –even if you don’t choose for them to be present.
  • 3) Start the culture change now with internal education: The internal culture change is the biggest hurdle for companies. I spoke to a traditional media company yesterday that is quickly migrating away from print to online, and is conducting internal ’show and tell brown bag sessions’ across the enterprises where people can come from any department.
  • 4) Rather than build a strategy focused on technologies, build around customers and employees: Above all, don’t focus on the technologies themselves, start to train yourself to start and end a discussion with customers (and/or employees) rather than “Twitter”.
  • 5) Organize your company for social: There’s an innovation curve here that your company must jump, but to be successful, you’ll need to change not technology (only 20%) but culture, strategy, process, roles, and how you measure (the other 80%). I’ll be publishing a report in the near future (with data from a recent survey to brands) that discusses how companies are organizing for social technologies, and what some best practices are in the near future.

There’s a lot of social media strategists that are reading this blog, and vendors who support them, I’d love to hear from you the changes in the last 12 months we’ve seen, as well as some practical advice to brands to be prepared.

  • The practical advice is to adopt a preparedness strategy from the board level on down. Public companies especially. Hearing @ebayinkblog talk about tweeting earnings calls made me realize there will be lawsuits around inadvertant material disclosures and SEC investigations unless 1)social media guidelines are clear, 2)apply to everyone 3)are taught at new employee orientation and 4)represent a willingness on the part of top management to be transparent enough not to be blindsided. This includes corporate boards full of old guys, who may not use these tools themselves, but who will be taped and photographed etc where they didn’t expect to be and whose children may end up tweeing up a storm about private company matters:-)

  • Pingback: What’s your Story?()

  • Pingback: Å ta i bruk sosiale medier = endring av organisasjonens kultur « Eva 2.0()

  • Pingback: Make it easy… Social Media = Conversation « I am Jen and this is my Blog.()

  • Couldn’t agree with you more, Jeremiah. I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that social media is not — cannot be — just a marketing or PR/corp comms item to be checked off a list. It is becoming more pervasive by the day, and while different companies, industries, and individuals will take up use of different types of social media at different rates, it’s naive to think that any of them *won’t* take it up.

    As always in business, the focus should come back — as you rightly say — to customers. How do we serve them & give value to them? How do we build value across the enterprise? How do we differentiate ourselves in the marketplace?

    These questions were relevant before the birth of the telegraph. They’ll still be relevant for as long as there are companies and customers — regardless of the specific technology in play.

  • Pingback: Social media across the enterprise. -- Hoover’s Business Insight Zone()

  • Jeremiah,

    Your first point about social technologies crossing all aspects of the business is one that resonates with me in the discussions I have had with brands over the past year. Light bulbs seem to be going off across Corporate America as more companies share their best practices with each other. But it’s more than just technologies, as you know. Companies are starting to see the value of the data, insights and engagement opportunities across the entire enterprise and smart companies are formulating customer outreach strategies that move far beyond the concept of a single social community manager.

    Mike Spataro
    Visible Technologies

  • Pingback: articles-twitter-facebook « Stefanm, my link collection()

  • Jeremiah,

    Excellent article. A must read for anyone looking to get into Social Media or that thinks they are an expert. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve banged my head against a wall trying to get fellow CEO’s from YPO to TiE to embrace Social Media. There’s definitely a fear factor. The good news is that they are now slowly starting to come around. The funny thing is that these are the same guys that back in 2004 that thought blogging was a fad.

    I am going to share this article with my all of my colleagues. Thanks for putting this together.

    Rajeev Kapur (Chief Wala)

  • Pingback: Editor’s Picks: June 1-5, 2009 | Search Marketing Standard()

  • jrhgh5hi6hy9iouim
  • Pingback: Editor's Picks: June 1-5, 2009 « Search Marketing Standard()

  • Pingback: Internal-External Brand Alignment Blog » Blog Archive » Focus Friday. Employees as Brand Ambassadors()