50% of Organizations Claim to be a Social Business.

A Forrester Research report indicates that 50% of organizations surveyed are investing in social business technology in 2012. The other 50% are waiting for evidence of business value.

I’ve struggled to find a consistent definition of social business so I’ve created one of my own. I believe a social business is one that exhibits these five characteristics.

Executive Level Support

A social business understands at the C suite level that the organization is made up of people who probably already engage with friends, family and business colleagues in social media. And, rather than trying to create two separate personas between the proverbial 9 to 5 worker and the social creature, the C suite recognizes that the employee is a social creature whether at work or not.

As such, being a social business embraces the social element in at least three functional groups of the organization: 1) human resources, 2) customer service, 3) marketing. Ideally, the Sales organization also embraces social, especially when an organization invests in social business technology empowering sales people to collaborate with all corners of the organization to achieve sales objectives.

Executive level support also means transparency. When C suite execs participate in social communication both internally and externally, it sends a strong message to employees and to the market that the organization is genuine in its actions as a social business.

Marketing is Not a Department

A social business understands that marketing is not a function of one department.

A CMO collaborates with other C level executives to identify strategic goals, then defines the content strategy and communication plan to achieve the goals. In a social business, the CMO is empowered to recruit other functional subject matter experts to participate in marketing execution plans.

A content strategy that involves all customer-facing departments must include cross functional subject matter experts. Such participation allows for creation of more relevant content. Engagement in the market place with subject matter experts is far more credible than engagement with employees of a marketing department who may lack technical subject matter expertise on certain topics.

Employee Branding

A natural extension of the “marketing is not a department” concept is the notion that some of the participating cross-functional employees that participate in community engagement can develop a brand of their own.

A social business embraces individual employee branding because a social business provides guidelines and encouragement for both parties to benefit – the employee and the employer. I call this the “halo effect.” A social business has alignment with select employees whose brand develops in the market. When such alignment exists, we see this halo effect. One of my favorite examples is Matt Cutts of Google. He is the face of Google to the SEO community. Additionally, many other Google employees shoot videos discussing product announcements.

In a social business, social media channels are just that – channels. There is no talk of “social media strategy.” It’s a business strategy! Social media channels are just part of the enablers in the business strategy.

Investment in Social Technology

A social business understands that technologies are needed to facilitate internal engagement among employees, external engagement in the market, development of content, social sharing, social engagement and measurement of outcomes.

Recent acquisitions this year in social technology include: Salesforce acquired Buddy Media and Radian6. Oracle acquired Vitrue. Microsoft recently announced they are acquiring Yammer. These acquisitions are evidence that enterprise software companies must provide tools to their customers to enable their social business.

Data Driven Marketing

A social business is very analytical. It must understand the make-up of its employees, partners and customers. And, the only way to truly understand each of these segments is through data.

As referenced in the previous point, use of technology to analyze big data is critical to have a keen understanding of each segment. We live in the age of relevance. Whether we’re marketing to prospective customers or engaging with employees or partners, communicating in hyper relevant ways is absolutely necessary.

In today’s social culture, generic communication and engagement is received as not relevant. Nothing turns off a person faster than a non relevant engagement. People simply don’t have the patience for non relevant communication. More importantly, people have options and with a simple click can turn away from your message or engagement. Even worse, the negative sentiment created in non-relevant communication can have a long lasting and potentially viral effect.

Data driven marketing also refers to keen analysis of customer reaction to marketing programs. Technology investments are necessary to make data driven decisions. A social business understands the necessity of making this investment in order to make data driven decisions.

A social business is a journey, not a destination. At the time of this writing, few organizations have made the paradigm shift culturally toward becoming a social business. Sure, many have invested in social business tools and technology. But, the culture shift is an even bigger paradigm shift than allocating budget for social business software.

Be sure to get the Ultimate Social Selling Guide for today’s modern sales leaders with everything you need to know to plan and launch your social selling strategy.

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