"So what is this social business stuff about? How is it going to benefit our business? How will it contribute to the bottom line?" I was talking to someone from our management team the other day and their concern with following a social business strategy is real and valid. These questions are still commonplace in the NZ workplace.
So what are the benefits of social business? What are the opportunities?
Social business is not just about social media. Social business is about looking at ways in which your business can share and engage more, both internally (with employees) and externally (with customers). The benefits of this increased level of sharing are immense.
Get your brand noticed by more potential customers by using Social Media
By sharing relevant and interesting content regularly on your social media channels, you will get your brand noticed by a larger number of potential customers. Social media facilitates a feeling of trust and if (when doing their research to buy) customers see you participating in social media, on Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, they are more likely to engage in a conversation with you. They are more likely to recommend you.
Read this article from the NZ Herald recently, "Increasing sales by getting social" which highlights how social is working for businesses in the B2C space.
In the B2B space, companies are also using social media more as an essential tool in their marketing campaigns. In the US, Cisco used their social media channels to launch a new router. They used blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, videoconferencing, mobile and games instead of using a more traditional marketing campaign. The social campaign cost $100k less than their traditional campaign and they were able to monitor results as they happened*.
Achieve greater customer engagement
How do you stay connected to the customers you do have? These customers have valuable ideas and advice for how you could improve your business products and processes; how can you access that information?
In today’s world where consumers are bombarded by choice, experts agree it will be a sense of loyalty driven by good customer experience that compels customers to remain with one supplier over another.
One way of engaging more with your customers is to use a digital platform, or website that has a main objective of creating a community. Customers are encouraged to share their insights with you via this platform. Customers who are sharing, feel more engaged and are more likely to recommend your business to their contacts. There are many other benefits aside from product recommendations.
Knowledge and information exchanges with and between customers can be of benefit to companies in a number of ways including improved product development, sales and marketing and overall business performance. These exchanges are fostered by social networking tools resulting in mass collaboration and more highly targeted customer communications where the customer drives the relationship.
Further to this, customers can become part of the strategy making process. Increased awareness of their needs and desires via social media mean that organisations can incorporate this feedback into future strategy. Customers become a part of the value adding process and this can progress them through further stages of the customer engagement cycle where they become advocates for organisations, connecting and influencing others in their own networks.
So, should you be thinking of an alternative to your corporate website? In this recent article, the question is asked “Is the corporate website dead?”. While I think we’re a long way off from that, the writer sparks an interesting debate. With the rise of social, and more sharing, we should be seeking new ways to provide our customers with the information they are seeking other than solely on our corporate websites, and social media provides one way of doing that.
Greater employee engagement and collaboration
By exposing your employees conversations to everyone in the organisation (on a suitable digital platform) you spur employees to share their knowledge and contribute more. Different people from different layers and areas of the organisation can contribute, speeding the decision making process, idea generation, better learning and development, and ultimately resulting in more satisfaction in the workplace. Greater engagement leads to a sense of belonging and improved culture. This is especially good for the Gen-Y-ers.
At one time, junior employees would not have a channel for voicing their ideas, the chain of command ensured that their ideas were not taken seriously. By having the right platform in place, juniors get to contribute to the conversation as well, leading to greater satisfaction, making them less likely to jump ship so often.
Employees are realising they can fast track their success and get noticed more by taking part in social, by building a following, by using their networks.
Deloitte in NZ have implemented Yammer to connect staff and their knowledge and they are seeing real benefits from doing so, "Social Business: What are companies really doing?".
Better idea generation and product development
Idea creation is no longer just a part of the R&D department. All this sharing drives innovation. Customers are contributing, employees are contributing and one of the major benefits to this is that you avoid creating solutions that are solely the idea of one department, you avoid "department think", and are able to develop more well-rounded products with input from a variety of sources.
Read this article on how Red Robin in the US made their burgers better by taking note of insights received on their Yammer channel "How Red Robin transformed its business with Yammer".
Enhanced, more efficient supply chains
Just as you want to hear from your customers, your suppliers want to hear from you. What are your ideas for optimising your purchases, can you see ways to make the process more efficient? If you had a simple way of sharing this information with your suppliers, would you? Well plenty of people around the world are, resulting in more efficient supply chains.
In this article on Forbes.com read insights into "Where cloud computing is improving supply chain performance".
How will all these factors improve our bottom line?
Knowing how all these benefits are going to affect revenue is important. Especially in a business such as ours; we get paid when our employees are working for our customers so if they're spending time being social instead, it results in less revenue.
The answer; it's about balance. It's about knowing that the potential benefits are much bigger than a relatively small investment in the shorter term.
If you can achieve more engaged customers who are more likely to recommend you, better idea creation and product development, more engaged and collaborative employees, and more efficient supply chains; is that not worth an investment in the short term?
Social is a disruptive technology. It is completely changing the way we do things. In answer to this, we must keep changing too or we risk becoming another Kodak (or Borders, or Motorola, or Blockbuster). The answer is to become a more adaptive and agile organisation and social is the way to get there.
At Olympic, we're at the start of our social business journey. Over the next year I'll be working out ways for us to become more social. Join me along the way to find out how we're doing.
Tara Wrigley is a Consultant at Olympic Software NZ Ltd. Tara has a degree in Electronic Commerce from The University of Waikato and is currently working towards her Masters. Her field of interest is Social Business and understanding how to increase engagement with customers and staff to improve business outcomes. Tara works with the management team at Olympic to develop new Social Business strategies and initiatives. Follow her progress on Twitter @tswrigley, connect with her on LinkedIn, read about her social business journey in her blog articles or email her at email@example.com.
*Example is from Mark Fidelman's book "Socialized!: How the most successful businesses access the power of social."