Acknowledge the Revolution
It is happening all around you. People are talking. Whether you realize it or not, your company is the topic of conversation – inside the organization and out. And while you are powerless to stop it, you do have a choice: you can engage employees and communities in an open, transparent dialogue, or you can carry on in blissful ignorance, applying antiquated business strategies while your competitors seize your market share.
Like it or not, the world is changing how we do business, and in his new book Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social, Forbes contributor Mark Fidelman (@MarkFidelman) asserts,
“An adaptive business is the only business that will survive the new challenges ahead, challenges caused by a massive shift of power from corporations and traditional media to customers and influencers.”
In essence, Socialized! is an enterprise playbook for capturing the full power of social. Plays based on interviews with more than 150 social business leaders and influencers, as well as Fidelman’s personal experience leading social business change, are presented in a simple and strategic manner, supported by historical facts and modern day illustrations.
Build a Culture From the Inside Out
Every company has a culture, which speaks of its values and future business potential. It is the essential thread that holds the tapestry of your social business strategy together. According to Fidelman, “Not only does having an internal social business system make business more effective at the external effort, it’s often critical for a company’s long-term success.”
According to the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust and transparency are more important to corporate reputation than a company’s product or service. “As we all know, reputation, like trust, is earned, not acquired,” adds Fidelman. “Where the prevailing wisdom preaches control by the commanding executive and a narrative of obedience by the employee, social business stresses a culture of openness and experimentation, and emphasizes the necessity of community. A company’s reputation is now more visible than ever, and a few executives in the C‑suite can’t control it.”
Socialized! guides in assessing your company’s current culture and provides practical steps to creating a culture of highest potential; one which will build an adaptive, supportive community of members from your organization, which he calls a “digital village,” that can adapt quickly to market and competitive threats.
Apply a Playbook
Within a digital village, a company must establish a playbook of sorts, which provides a step-by-step plan for creating an impactful voice, cohesive identity and best social practices used within your organization. “Not having a playbook is the single largest reason existing social efforts collapse,” says Fidelman. “The playbook is your organization’s strategic guide to starting, launching, and executing on plays that will help make your organization more effective.”
The internal social playbook looks beyond the initiatives of establishing an Intranet site, a Yammer channel and a few disparate blogs and emphasizes the importance of transparent and unified goals. According to Fidelman, these goals need to be created with your employees and shared throughout the organization, and they directly affect how your audience will relate and respond to your company’s future efforts.
Engage Your Digital Network
Only when this internal community is established can an organization collectively look towards building a sustainable external social business, which Fidelman defines as “the activities your business conducts that directly affect people outside your workforce.” This digital network requires a devotion to customer relations management and an attentive listening ear, along with other key components, such as:
- Establishing and training executives and employees on basic social media practices. “Some companies, like the New York Times, have policies that read ‘Don’t be stupid’ and leave it at that, notes Fidelman.
- Connecting and empowering thought leaders. “The public relations soapbox doesn’t cut it anymore; communications are now a two-way street,” said Fidelman. Customers don’t trust your advertising as much as they do the individuals they have been following for years, so Fidelman advises making it a priority to build a reciprocal relationship with these influencers. Then, you can work together to educate your target customer about the pain they are experiencing, pain that your product can solve.
- Build or join an external community. Fidelman asserts “Building an external community around your brand is one of the most powerful things you can do to positively impact sales, create goodwill, and generate ideas. It’s also an effective feedback vehicle. Imagine a community of thousands of people discussing topics related (and sometime unrelated) to your products every day. Your community is answering support questions, helping other members with career aspirations, or just networking.
- Contribute valuable insights and information to the community in ways that encourage participation and develop genuine relationships based on an exchange of ideas
- Harness information provided through customer feedback and crowdsourcing to improve your business output.
The author lays out a number of concise social playbook initiatives, or plays, to enable your organization create an engaging experience for your digital network and begin to take responsibility for the impact your product or service is having in the market. Executed correctly, the playbook serves to break down communication barriers and build the trust your target customer is already requiring of you.
Embrace the Future
From the beginning, Fidelman lays out the historical timeline of the relationship between technology and business, starting with the Industrial Age in the mid 1800’s and ending with the Social Age we currently live in. Throughout these periods, we laud companies such as Ford, General Motors, IBM, and Yahoo! who took advantage of the technological tools of the times and continue to do so, some even developing their own. Yet he states, “Now is the single greatest time in history to be in business.”
There is still much progress to be made and new strategies to discover. Socialized! may not provide you with a 100% fail proof business plan, but its sentiments for the value of embracing new strategies and leveraging disruptive mobile and social technologies are well established and readily attainable. And at the very least, in this period of shaky economic recovery, billion dollar bankruptcies and life-altering Ponzi schemes, a push for social transparency is a welcomed breath of fresh air.
Mark Fidelman’s must read book, Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social (Bibliomotion, November 2012), and is available 11/15 at bookstores nationwide, as well as at all major online retailers. You can get your FREE copy of Socialized!, when you register for BusinessNext Social, the world’s premier social business conference, by November 21.