How ready is your business for social media?

57% enterprises are making some investment into social media in 2011 (based on data from Forresters)

Social media is a disruptive technology as it changes how a company operates. No organisation can adopt social media unless the underlying business processes, workflow and resources are aligned with the social media strategy and tools to manage this.
Altimer Group recently released a report based on research they have done into the social readiness of businesses.

There are four areas to focus on:
Governance & Reporting
At the very minimum a company needs a social media policy as part of their employee handbook.  This should set the guidelines around how to behave online, confidentiality & disclosure. This should protect the company and individuals against any legal risks.
Some companies blanket ban any social media activity and block the sites through their firewalls, rather than managing the risks and defining the boundaries. From a digital darwinism view, those companies that block the sites are putting their companies at risk to benefit from the competitive advantages that they could gain through social media.
Those companies that are governed by the FSA, there are legal obligations that they need to be aware of around social media.
Business Processes
As the volume of conversations grow and the numbers of channels that are needed to be managed grows, an internal workflow needs to be created to manage the process to ensure that the conversations & content are managed efficiently and effectively.
A triage system needs to be implemented so if any negative sentiment conversation that needs escalating can be done so in an organised, safe way. Processes and guidelines need to be in place for the individuals managing the campaigns, so they know what tone of voice to use and the appropriate language.
The triage system needs to be clearly document and all people involved need to be familiar with how to manage a social media crisis.  There are many examples (Habitat and Kitkat) of where companies haven’t responded appropriately to the backlash of their customers online.
Ongoing training and education for the team involved need to be implemented, so they are up to speed on the software / tools they are using.
Reporting & Responding to feedback
It is all well and good to participate in the social conversations but companies need to listen to the customer feedback and adjust their products / services accordingly.
There is a real disconnect within businesses on this issue.  Some companies jump on the band wagon of joining the conversations with little thought as to how they’ll deal with the negative feedback.
Larger businesses need to think about CRM and how to integrate Twitter IDs and Facebook information into their CRMs. The larger CRM packages are only just waking up to the notion of this. For some they are hacking in the functionality without thinking about the workflow and admin time required to manage this aspect.
Before embarking on a social media campaign companies need to think about the objectives of the campaign.  Is it reputation management, social selling, customer engagement, creating a buzz, supporting other marketing campaigns, or growing brand awareness.  Each of these will have different metrics and tools to manage. The other key issues is that the metrics around social media are in their embryonic stages and variances between the information in platforms such as Radian6 or Meltwater buzz is huge, as they are all putting different weighting and algorithms around influence, reach, and sentiment.  A lot of the platforms are only 70% accurate on measuring sentiment as they can’t identify sarcasm or irony.
So there is still a degree of manual intervention in the creation, monitoring and reporting of social media. However companies need to put some metrics around this so they can measure the ROI on their social media campaigns.
Leadership
Social media campaigns only work if the board of directors and senior management teams are behind the initiative. Otherwise the campaigns will fail as they do not have the overarching strategy or leadership to get the foundations in place.
Social media cuts across all silos/ divisions within a company – IT, Marketing, PR, Fiannce, and Operations.  There are many models around for how social media should be implemented within a business but the one from Jemeiah Owyng is the best by far.
The ‘hub and spoke’ structure works best by far (from experience and from reading this article). Having a central team with cross departmental representation is key. Those key stakeholders would then manage the social media aspects within their teams.
However implementing this is a change management project that touches the very culture of a business.
Conclusion
Starting a social media campaign shouldn’t be taken lightly, it should be a consider approach ensuring the risks are mitigated and the team within the company behind the initiative. Most important though is being true to the company values and being authentic and real. It isn’t just about going through the motions, but believing in building a community around your brand and products/ services – which will create that competitive advantage and generate brand advocates who’ll remain loyal.

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