What Is Social Business?
Social business— the use of social technologies as a formal element of business methods— revolves around learning how your consumers or stakeholders combine to your business and how you reshape your company to understand, accept, and innovate based on their engagement. Social business is about combining all of your business functions: customer support, marketing, the executive crew, and more. It implies doing this for the objective of creating collaborative innovation and commitment at meaningful, measurable levels tied clearly and directly to your organization’s business goals.
Social Businesses Are Participative
Ultimately, social business is regarding cooperation with and by your customers and stakeholders in chase of a company that is strongly combined with them through participative and collaborative means. As a result, a social company is often better equipped to react to marketplace dynamics and ambitious opportunities than a traditionally organized and operated firm. This may happen through cooperation in a social community, support or debate forum, or any of a variety of other social forms and contexts. The efforts beginning to the creation of a social business often begin with identifying or creating an opportunity for assistance with (or between) customers, workers, or stakeholders within an association or similar social applications.
An essential feature to note here is that when social business practices are approached and implemented correctly, everyone wins. By bringing customers into the business, or directly involving stakeholders in the design and operation of the companies with which they are associated, a steady flow of ultimately constructive ideas emerges. One of the biggest misconceptions about social media and the Social Web as regards business commentary is that it’s all negative, that the participants are all complainers and whiners. Not so. The fact is unless your business strategy is to generate negative comments the Social Web very likely presents a significant opportunity for building your business and improving it over time.
Build Your Social Presence
Campaign-centric communities are not the focus of a social business program. If you discover yourself considering “campaign,” you are either traveling for social-media-based marketing or conventional/ digital marketing that is presented to “look like” social media. Beware: The center of social business— separate from social media marketing— is around the utilization of the Social Web to business in methods that are driven essentially through organic versus paid means and which are intended to benefit your business regularly versus sell commodities specifically.
Organic communities and Social Web projects built around a business are intended to exist independently of direct spending in marketing, with the possible sign of initial seeding. They are designed to notify the business, to connect it to its viewers, and to promote collaboration between customers and employees approaching the goal of improving the business, and to maintain this over time for the goal of driving superior business results. It is equally likely that the software and related infrastructure expenses of a social business program will be paid for through Operations or IT as through Marketing.
Again, this is not to state that there is no value in spend-driven societies. There is probably significant promotional value that arises out of measured fulfilment against marketing and advertising goals. It is to say that in addition to these varieties of marketing campaigns, social business plans are centered on focus business objectives and communicated through an appeal to the lifestyles, passion, and causes of clients. These types of programs are definitely put in place to encourage collaborative support. The collaboration that happens between customers and between workers is the source concentrates of social business.
So what is it that encourages organic growth and inserts the social technology-powered business on a road of its own? It comes back to the initial declaration that organic growth happens around lifestyles, passions, conditions, specific task-based utilities, and similar participant-centric projects and interests rather than brand, product, or service-centred attributes. The prime challenge is, therefore, to align or combine the firm or company to a present community or to develop one around an actual lifestyle, passion, or cause that unites to the core business.
Business as a Social Participant
People gather around a given interest, cause, or lifestyle in pursuit of a sense of collective experience. Important to understand is that they are often motivated by an apparent desire to talk about a brand, product, or service experience with each other, relating this to what they have in common. What they have in common may in part be that brand, product, or service, but it is generally also something deeper. Apple products— and the following they have created— are a great example of this: Apple owners are seemingly connected by Apple products, but in a deeper sense they are connected by the ethos of Apple and the smart, independent lifestyle associated with the brand.
For LEGO enthusiasts— and in particular adult LEGO enthusiasts— there is a gathering that occurs on LUGNET.com along with a variety of other fan-created websites, forums, and blogs. Conversations appear to revolve around LEGO products, but in reality, the higher calling is the shared passion for creation, which LEGO (as a product) facilitates. While LEGO creation may bring members to the community, and while it may be the common thread that unites a seemingly disparate group, the camaraderie is what keeps members together years upon years. A business or organization is itself in many respects a social place. In much the same way, the social business is a place where employees and customers gather together around a common purpose of creating the products and services that define— and are often subsequently defined by— the brand and its higher purpose. Employees and customers, together through collaboration, create the experiences they want: Together they are responsible for the business. When the conversations that result are a reflection of this shared interest of both customers and employees, the conversations themselves are very likely to be powerful expressions that carry the business or organization forward.
This kind of end result— an expressed passion around a brand, product, or service— is associated with the higher stages of engagement. Beyond consumption of content, engagement in the form of curation of community interaction, creation of content and collaboration between participants are the activities leading to advocacy. Consider the role that collaboration plays in contributing to the sense of ownership as a result of the combined efforts of employees and customers, participating together in the creation of a shared outcome. This sense of joint ownership, however subtly it may be expressed, is, in fact, a reasonable and even required customer sentiment that once and for all “cuts through the clutter.”
Collaboration— sitting atop the engagement process— is the defining expression of measurable engagement. Marketers often speak of engagement: For example, one might focus on time spent on a page, or the number of retries a customer is willing to undergo before meeting with success. Measures such as “returning visitors,” connected to concepts such as “loyalty” are also used as surrogates for engagement. While all of these have value within the discipline of marketing— and most certainly have a role in establishing the efficacy of brand and promotional communications over a period of time— they do not in and of themselves provide a quantitative basis for the stronger notions of engagement as defined in the social business context. The direct observation of collaboration does.
Collaboration between community members, between employees, or between a firm and its representatives comes about when both parties in the transaction see value in completing the transaction, often repeatedly. The output of collaborative processes— the number of jointly developed solutions advanced in an expert’s community, for example— is directly measurable. Think about counting the number of collaborative processes that lead to a solution, or the number of shared results. Each is an indicator of the respective participant’s willingness to put effort into such processes. In this sense, the quantitative assessment of collaboration becomes a very robust indicator for the relative strength of the engagement process.
Participation is likely one of the easiest metrics to capture and track. Indicators of participation can be gathered from existing measures— content creation, curation, and the number of reviews, comments, and posts— and can then be used to assess the overall levels of interest and activity within online communities.
At the most basic level, as with any online interaction, the activity itself can be tracked. Accessing a page, submitting a form, downloading a file and similar content measures provide a well-understood framework for measurement. However, given the existence of profiles and the behaviours associated with curation— rating, ranking, etc.— much more interesting and useful metrics can be established and used to create very robust measures of participation.
As another aspect of participation and its direct measurement, consider “pointbased” social community reputation systems. Participants in a support community are very often rewarded through increasing social rank based on contribution to the community. Upon joining, you may be assigned the rank of “newbie” and then over time earn your way to “expert” status as you contribute and gain the votes of others in the community as they curate your contributions. At some level, there is a basic point system that is translating individual actions within the community into personal reputations: it may be visible, or it may be buried in the inner working of the community’s reputation management system. Either way, it’s there and can tapped as a source of metrics. When participants do something beneficial, they earn a point. When they do something that offends the community they might lose a point. Track both and you’ve got a solid assessment of participation.
In a thoughtful analysis using tested techniques applied in a novel manner, social media strategist Bud Caddell points out a very straightforward method for calculating the relative distribution for participation and thereby gaining quantitative insight into the role of community influencers. Bud’s method— simplified— is based on a statistical approach to tracking the spread in variance based on ratings points over time. Communities that have high variance are being influenced by a relatively small number of people compared with those with lesser variance. This is important because over time what is generally desirable is a more equitable distribution of participative effort— lower variance— across the community.