How “Social” is your organisation and why does it matter?

I just had dinner with a friend who had flown in from Canada. He mentioned that he speaks to his kids in the UK daily but does not do facebook or anything “Social” as he felt it would take too much time. As I pondered over how people in North America could live very happily without social media I returned to my laptop to find a facebook message from an old work colleague who I had not seen in many years. However it was just that a facebook invite to connect but no dialogue or question or comment so I was left to guess what had prompted the message and it created more questions than it answered. This is using the tools but it’s not being social. It’s back to how social you make the tools and not what you use.

The way we use and develop social channels is key to its success. If we just focus on the no of fans and followers and not the quality of dialogue our social media efforts will fail. I have now seen enough abandoned facebook pages to know how easily efforts can flag and staff slip away if they are not supported or trained to have quality conversations and focus on really understanding who they are communicating with. If your business is just focused on “fans” then stop and think through how “social” your aims really are.

Are you just involved in “Social” because everyone else is or is it because you can see how it can help you to get much closer to your customers? Do you use it to better understand your customer preferences, niggles, wish lists and other things that build insight and help you to meet their unmet needs. My view is that we are drawing close to the meeting of Social and real time Customer Relationship Management (CRM). At this interface are a myriad of issues, competing channels and egos who all think their channel has the best plan so should get the biggest chunk of budget. I’d love to hear how amicably ecommerce and social teams are working together when they are operating separate budgets.

The key to lasting success is making sure that the culture of your company is “Social”. This means more than the occasional outing to the pub but that you trust your staff enough and have given them enough freedom to resist using facebook to keep up with their friends whilst at work but have given them enough scope to use social media to draw in the support of friends if they are battling with a work issue and need some help or advice or information. Tonight I was lucky enough to have a friend who sent me a great link to help me with a client project completely unprompted as they knew what I would really appreciate – I then went on to tweet the link to my Twitter followers as I realised that it could really benefit them too.

So what does building a “social” organisation mean when we sit in front of a PC or staring at a tiny smartphone screen? Firstly it means ensuring that everyone in your organisation can have an online conversation and share information seamlessly across the company and I don’t mean just having email. I mean sharing documents and working on them collaboratively using for example the myriad of social tools such as Google Docs and other free web platforms. It means if you are a large organisation having a way you can recognise every staff member personally in your organisation and know a bit about them. If your company intranet is ridiculed by staff then you know you have a tough challenge ahead. Being social means knowing your customer preferences and their history when they contact you and having one view of their relationship with your organisation. Unlike most banks where you have to go through security for the upteenth time for each different type of request because you the customer has to be passed from one department to the next. Brands and our reputation will be shaped not by what we say but what our customers say about the quality of their relationship with our organisation at every touch point. Does it all add up for your business? Are you listening to customers as they share their insights? Are you sharing these seamlessly with the people that can put things right and are they ready to listen and act? Make sure you have a good sponsor when the brown stuff hits the fan and the housekeeping or stroppy invoicing clerk yells “What’s this got to do with me – Social Media- that’s a marketing thing isn’t it?”

OK so why does being “Social” really matter? Some of you may have read about the recent launch of Facebook Groups and the tie up between Bing and Facebook which means that even “Search” is about to turn “Social” which means that with about 2 million websites already using social sign ins where you can “like” or “join” the site, “likes” from your network and website are going to start appearing in your company and brand search results. Imagine how much more powerful that will be for companies wanting to stand out from the crowd if your friends have a good word to say about them when searching online. If you’ve ever done a search for a company in Facebook recently you will notice the Bing search results coming up at the bottom of your search results. Give it a try and you can see where all this is heading – it will start to build momentum after the recent Fast Company initiative to find the most influential person on the internet. My prediction is for Facebook Groups to flourish over the next few months and blossom into powerful buying communities.

Next week I’d like to share some learning on social media metrics and what to measure and why? What do you want to hear about?

Please leave a comment - we all like them