Companies Must Plan Holistically For Social –Beyond Marketing

Having just returned from vacation, (hence the break from blogging) I had the distinct pleasure of keynoting Silicon Valley AMA last night at Cisco’s Telepresence suites in Santa Clara. In my opening keynote, I had a specific message to marketing leaders in the valley to think holistic about social. I outlined some of the major impacts to other departments beyond marketing.

Companies Must Plan Holistically For Social –Beyond Marketing

PR and Communication: The first business unit to be impacted by social, these organizations realized and have adopted the rise of blogs as early as 2005, and in response, many have launched their own blogs, or are sophisticated in blogger outreach. Additionally, AR professionals are just starting to recognize the impacts of social as analysts are able to bypass traditional gatekeepers and talk directly to product teams using these tools.

Marketing: Whether it be corporate or field marketing, the impacts are far reaching to marketing. Marketing has had to become an enabler as anyone who participates in the company with social is now acting on behalf of the company. There’s been several instances of support mishaps that have become the domain of marketing.

Events: Whether it’s virtual or physical, events need to develop a strategy around social. Event teams need a pre, during, and post strategy, and need to join communities where they exist. I’ve outlined how events need to harness social into their strategy in this informative post.

Sales and Field: Sales teams have always been social, now these tools amplify their relationships and communications. Marketing must be a resource and educate sales teams how to appropriately use these teams, including teaching them how to listen, engage, and act professionally as they would in real life.

Sales Operations: Systems that organize customer data need to quickly ramp up and include social data. Information found in LinkedIn, and other social networks can be aggregated into customer databases such as CRM systems.

Partners and Channel Marketing: The opportunity to allow your customer and partner channel to learn from each other, syndicate your product content, or to quickly educate them is at hand. See how channel marketing can benefit from social.

Human Resources: Now, with websites like employees can rate their experience at an employer, and even gauge the quality of leadership. HR professionals know they must build internal communities to allow and encourage employees to connect to each other. They also should extend existing behavior guidelines or disclosure policies to include the social domain before a crisis emerges. Recruiters have been using social tools to find candidates such as LinkedIn, Google Searches, and scanning blogs.

Product Development: Engineering, R&D, and other product or service creation teams recognize that customers are talking about their products and making suggestions in websites such as UserVoice, or Linkedin or Yahoo answers and need to envelope customer feedback and factor into the product lifecycle.

Support: Client service teams must reach customers where they are (like BestBuy or Comcast in Twitter) to support customers, as well as use social tools within their own companies to provide an opportunity for customers to self-support each other, or develop a collaborative knowledge base that can be shared between customers and support teams. Support teams should fix their existing support issues –not just respond in Twitter as it teaches customers bad habits.

Executives: Often the job of great leaders is to listen and communicate. These tools amplify each of these behaviors and can be used to listen to employee and market insight, as well as communicate back to them. John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO has an internal blog in which he communicates to employees on a regular basis.

I certainly didn’t get every department and look to you to fill in the gaps for the opportunities and risks for those that I listed above or those I missed. A few years ago, I created this diagram of how social can impact the product lifecycle, it’s finally become relevant.

Leave a comment below of some departments that I missed, and the opportunities and risks to each.

Update: Kirsti attending the event, and has more notes from the presentation. She notes the changes that companies must prepare for: disparate websites, internal rebellions, and developing long-term plans.

  • One department not on your list is Finance. Whilst that might not be a prime candidate for social activities outside of a company, I believe that there is big value in a strong internal social media programs for a finance department. An internal Twitter for instance could be a great asset to answer all the questions that this organisation receives on a daily basis. Having worked in a finance department myself, I certainly would have loved having all the applications and tools at my disposal ten years ago.

    BTW, welcome back, hope you had a great vacation 🙂

  • The first one I would add would be Education/Training for organizations that have such departments. Groups are using blogs or sites like Ning (or their own internal systems) for knowledge management and for sharing documents such as policies, procedures and how-to manuals. They can hold live classes via sites like UStream to reach employees in multiple locations, archive them on YouTube and Vimeo, embed them on their Intranets, announce new offerings via Twitter, etc.

    While some may implement tools such as Movable Type’s motion to keep much of this activity internal, others may find that sharing non-proprietary materials in the public realm can also benefit recruitment and even sales. Social media tools offer a variety of ways organizations can enhance their professional development and training programs.

    They can also help employees continue to learn on their own by encouraging them to subscribe to industry related blogs and network with peers online. I for one have gotten many great ideas for social media and blogging by participating in Twitter real-time chats such as #blogchat #socialmedia and #smchat.

    In doing so I connect with peers interested in these topics, but I also gain new perspectives as I see the problems and solutions people have in industries as varied as government, manufacturing and education. This is a very useful way for anyone to keep up with the current and emerging best practices in their field.

    This article is a great way to show people that social media isn’t just for marketers.

  • It’s very important for companies to understand that they can’t just hire a “Social Media Manager” and expect that person to be their presence in social media. That person needs to be allowed to educate others throughout the company and to empower them to participate in the social spaces in a way that benefits everyone, the employees and the company. Seems like lots of us are looking for a shortcut when, in reality, there’s a lot of work ahead to really do social well – like you describe in this post. Great food for thought!

  • It is a good list; my only comment is that I think support was the first department ever to be affected by social media. We have had supporting each other in Usenet for the longest time, Microsoft launched their MVP program (identify, recognize & empower influencers in the technical community) well over 12 years ago.

    Filiberto Selvas

  • Actually a 2nd comment / question: what was the message you wanted to send them by asking them to “Plan Holistically”? I think eventually we will think about social in “layers”; there will be the technical infrastructure layer where (I believe) a large organization can benefit from some level of standardization; there will be the “compliance” layer where companies will have to show their social media activities are proper; there will be the “best practices” layer where you will have standard ways of using social to achieve business objectives that could be used again and again in different spaces across the company, etc.

    Was that what you meant? what was their reaction?

  • How about legal? No one’s mentioned it. The legal department probably needs to be aware of what’s happening in the sphere at the least.

    I’m with Eric. You can’t just hire one guy and expect him to be your entire company’s presence. Customers & potential customers need to see that your company lives and breathes as a collection of individuals, not a monolith.

  • Cory

    Yes, Legal is severely impacted by every single of the above mentioned. They must couple with HR and Marketing and other groups immediately to set guidelines.

    I often advise clients to involve legal early, however come prepared with a risk mitigation plan. I had to do this at Hitachi.

  • Great topic.

    I think of holistically meaning a combination of the creation of a horizontal presence between and within departments-“tipping the silos”- a also the layered social media practicum as Filiberto described.

    It can’t be a pure SM play without getting the business flow aligned’s both the challenge and the opportunity.

  • Working in client services at a B2B I have to question how much value the use of twitter can bring to our clients whose questions/problems are often very technical and specific to their accounts. On the one hand our department as a whole could perhaps use twitter to notify clients of product enhancements or temporary issues/downtime. But for the former, blogs or email probably do it better, and for the latter making problems public could unnecessarily hurt our reputation (as an aside we really do have 99% up time, so maybe the infrequency of “problem” tweets would be to our benefit publicly).

    Having only worked at one company I certainly can’t speak for other B2B’s, but despite not using most social media to help our clients we’re obeying the all important rule of being where your clients are. In our case, they’re on email/phone. (More support for your hypothesis that email is a social network)

  • How ironic! Today in a meeting with my VP of development I explained that I have ‘a holistic view’ because of my role as a community strategist.
    I really appreciate that Alterian (who recently acquired my company, Techrigy SM2)is open to implementing my social ‘habits’. I loved working cross functionally in our startup & I’m enjoying the new challenges of integrating my practices into an enterprise that’s global.

    I’m leading a workshop on the How-to’s on this topic at Enterprise 2.0 in Nov in SF. I invite everyone to join the discussion!

    And for Maayan, have you considered using networks like Twitter & LinkedIn for lead gen? My team has had great success (and our customers prefer telephone/email too).

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  • I would submit the folks who work on the factory floor, who likely fall under the Operations department.

    I recall taking customers to plant visits and I was amazed by the discipline required to perform repetitive tasks. Yet when approached they were seemingly very happy that someone other than their supervisor was paying attention to them.

    Imagine Procter & Gamble’s blue collar labor force being in actual touch with customers who use “Tide” connecting via Twitter? Disruptive, yet how can this not be seen as authentic?

  • Customer service is another department to include.


  • I’m with Taylor. Customer service and customer care are going to be dealing with the frontline fallout for organisations who fail to monitor and engage in social conversations with their audience. It’s the customer team who are the most social in any brand (or should be).

    What I love about the new definitions of social business/media is the fact that it will force companies to address the customer journey touchpoint failures they’ve been hiding behind for so many years. Nowhere to hide now!

  • One glaring omission Jeremiah, is the company supply chain. Being able to interact with your suppliers via Enterprise or social media channels will have positive impact on cost reduction initiatives, supply chain efficiency, and demand management.

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  • I have to agree with Mark Fidelman on this point. With all the buzz you can create towards these media sites and being able to interact with your customers can give you a positive impact on the cost reduction. Social media makes you able to be at the core to locate every customers needs.

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  • When you said “holistic” I first imagined melding social media components with legacy strategies and tactics (i.e., “traditional”). I wonder if that was what Craig was hinting at above.

    Well, if you meld the holistic social media across departments with the holistic plans for each department, combining social media and “traditional” concepts, you’d have one hell of a 3-D graphic.

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