Showing posts with label social business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social business. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 15

The Problem With Chasing Profits For Most Companies

A long-time colleague of mine used to make every prospect he met chuckle over his quip that he wasn't in the "advertising business." He was in the "check cashing business." The more money his marketing strategies generated for his clients, the more often they would write him checks.

His delivery was something of a marvel too. He said it with such smug confidence that you wanted to sign up with his firm. "Yes, yes! I want to be in the check cashing business too." Who doesn't?

The notion of making money is a powerful one. It has been baked in the balance sheet for some companies — enough so that their culture permeates it. Every incentive is built around growth, awareness, profits, and sales. And there doesn't seem to be any problem with it, until this thinking begins to create gaps between the business and its customers.

How profit margins are maligning the airline industry.

On one hand, the airline industry is enjoying record-setting profits. But on the other hand, the customer experience continues to crash as airlines charge for every luxury, convenience, and necessity while stripping away customer comfort and service.

Higher fares, hidden fees, and fewer employees contribute to a growing problem, exacerbated by the additional hurdles created by airport security. There is no question about it. Flying is worse. There are problems: more lost bags, more oversold flights, more flight disruptions, and more lapses in customer service than ever before. And most analysts are predicting it will get worse before it gets better. Even reward miles are a bit of a shell game on some carriers. You can earn them, but not redeem them.

Even when USA Today called flying something to be endured rather than enjoyed last year, nothing changed. The airlines simply doubled down and let things slip a little further. They might again too.

With 87 percent of all air travel dominated by four carriers, being travel unhappy is the new normal unless you happen to be a shareholder. Airlines profits have soared as airlines limit seats to make themselves look like attractive incentives. It's no longer about cost recovery, but inflated demand.

So what is really happening? Airlines are simply operating with a profit mindset, banking on the drop in oil prices and their ability to hold fares at their current level. It's a short-term boon to be sure. With the roomiest today really the tightest seats of ten years ago, it's becoming ripe for disruption.

Nobody really knows what that form of disruption might be. Maybe it will be a high speed rail system that relies less on fuel prices or the future proliferation of automated cars that make road trips less taxing. And while some people still equate such solutions with science fiction, either seem more likely than the emergence of more JetBlues (that won't succumb to investor pressures).

The bottom line is that the airline industry is leaving itself open for competition much in the same way taxi cab companies created the ride sharing disruption, the music industry forced the digital disruption, and the reference material market killed its print. Others are ripe for disruption too.

Almost all of them had the same thing in common. They tried to consolidate or regulate rather than diversify or communicate. They sacrificed customer service for cost containment. They placed profits ahead of their value propositions. They considered themselves invulnerable to disruption.

Profits are a by-product of innovation, attitude, and cohesiveness.

The best businesses never place profits first. They value all of their constituents — customers, employees, shareholders — equally. In fact, according to What America Does Right by Robert H. Waterman, Jr., companies that do are four times better in revenue growth, eight times better in job creation, 12 times better in stock prices, and 756 times better in new income growth.

So why do some people say put profits first? Most of them believe that revenue and expenses are somehow opposing forces. But they really aren't. They often work together, provided you can demonstrate a value proposition that justifies a slightly higher premium. Make it worth it.

Sure, some people can argue that no one will notice one missing olive. But eventually, someone will notice that the entire salad has gone missing, along with the peanuts, pretzels, blankets and pillows.

It's also why CEO Doug Parker seems to be struggling to meet his goal of "restoring American to the greatest airline in the world." To do it, he will have to reverse engineer profit-first thinking that has dominated the carrier since "olive" accounting was instituted years ago. In its place, the airline will have to remember that sometimes an olive is an expense, but sometimes it's an investment. Ergo, great reputations aren't built on scarcity principles. They are built on meeting elevated expectations.

It's a lesson that long-time colleague of mine eventually learned. His "check cashing business" was shuttered. It turns out that the prospects he won over were quick to miss the "advertising business."

Wednesday, June 25

Having Engagement Problems? Make Your Audience The Content

It doesn't matter what study you look up. Marketers always struggle with the same measurements — engagement, lead generation, and sales. They aren't the only ones. Americans feel miffed too.

According to a recent Gallop poll, a clear majority of Americans say social media has no effect at all on their purchasing decisions. A whopping 62 percent say social has no influence over them.

Even when respondents were broken out by age, not much changed. Forty-eight percent of Millennials said that social media had no influence over them (43 percent said it had some).

Consumers are influenced by social media, but it has to be good.

The good news is that the consumer survey by Gallop doesn't prove much. Americans have said much the same about advertising for years. It's not a lie per se, but they are genuinely mistaken.

We don't always know which bits of information are from friends or pass through marketing messages. The same can be said for social and cultural shifts too. You would be surprised how many come from outside of the country before they are shared by Americans inside the country.

On the other hand, most marketers are still only marginally adept at social media because they tend to start out with the wrong intent. They are too "sales" focused, which generally produces a social media campaign akin to celebrating itself online. Nobody wants to visit a social page for push messages.

"How are you? Let's talk about me." It's true. Marketers don't use those words verbatim, but that is what most of the messages become. It's common for many social media experts to let you leave a page but not without pounding you to subscribe to an e-newsletter first. Never mind the risk associated with more studies that are veiled attempts for lead generation a.k.a. permission to spam lists.

The problem with all of it is pretty clear. If the intent is all about sales, then you can't expect the method to magically produce engagement. It's mostly the other way around. If the method produces engagement, then it is very likely the organization will experience incremental sales growth.

If you want better engagement, make your audience the content. 

This simple answer is only slightly deceiving in that the execution is complex. It's complex because every audience or public or group of people or whatever you call them have very different needs.

If you simply run from one organization to the next organization with a cookie cutter solution (or one stolen from a best practices SlideShare deck), people won't care about your content. The reason they won't care is because content creation that aims for engagement is not the same as content created for an editorial calendar. The content people want to read has to be about them, directly or indirectly.

What does that mean? Sometimes the answer can be exceptionally direct — a professional membership organization that focuses on its members and upcoming events (where members meet up) has a great opportunity to develop a vibrant community. Sometimes the answer is less direct — an organization that wants to establish itself on the cutting edge of an industry will seek out innovation (even if it is not their own). And sometimes the answer is in between — an event that brings together hundreds of authors and book enthusiasts makes it easier for the two to connect.

"How are you? Let's talk about you." It's the message that really matters. People mostly don't want to know about your organization, but they may want to know who attends your events. People mostly don't want to know about your program, but they may be fascinated by the advancements being made in the industry. People mostly don't want to know about your product, but they might want to know how to fix a problem or make their lives easier. If it happens to include your product, service or position, then it's win-win. Sales tend to be a by[product of doing everything else right.

In other words, maybe it's time to throw out your elevator speech and work on a deliverable instead. How can you better bring a concept, conversation, or community to your customers that they can actually be part of and care about? Good. Go do that. And once you do, never put it on autopilot.

What do you think? Isn't engagement what made the earliest forms of social media fly? People wanted to connect and the medium helped make it possible. The comments are yours.

Friday, October 12

Seeing The Future: The Active Office Space

One of the more interesting research projects coming out of Australia is a pilot intervention study being conducted by the University of Queensland. The study, which employs Ergotron WorkFit Sit-Stand Workstations, is designed to reduce the amount of time employees sit.

Mostly, the study is confined to seeing how long employees choose to stand as opposed to sit at their work stations. The initial report found that when workers were given the choice, they would reduce on-the-job sitting time by more than 27 percent. The company that makes the stations links excessive sitting with an increased risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. 

Highlights from the sit-stand workstation study. 

The researchers conducted the tests right, with two groups of office workers who were predominantly of the same demographic (women in their 30s). One group of 18 workers were given sit-stand workstations. The other, 14 workers, retained their non-adjustable desks.

In the sit-stand group, sitting time was reduced by more than two hours and standing time increased by more than two hours after both one week and three months of workstation use, compared with the group that did not receive the desks. Overall sitting time during a 16-hour weekday was reduced by about 80 minutes and standing time increased by up to 90 minutes in the sit-stand group, though no significant changes were found in walking time, researchers said.

"The pilot study provides evidence that a sit-stand workstation (approximate U.S. $399) can reduce sitting time in office workers," said Genevieve Healy, Ph.D., University of Queensland. "Furthermore, epidemiologic evidence suggests that the reductions in sitting at the workplace could potentially have considerable impact on cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes prevention."

What sit-stand workstations need to do next. 

While Dr. Healy and her team are currently extending this research into multiple workplaces to examine the most feasible and acceptable ways to reduce prolonged sitting, these studies need to be expanded to consider other areas that corporations and small businesses will notice.

For example, if the study were expanded to measure productivity, employee morale, customer service, or even space economy, businesses would be that much more likely to adopt the idea. In addition, the manufacturers wold probably benefit from stations that could be pre-programmed to match the sitting and standing height of employees without any effort on their part to adjust for ergonomics.

Currently, the the company has been mostly focused on the more apparent health-related aspects of sitting vs. standing. However, it does have an interesting set of calculators designed to guesstimate a return on investment that alludes to the 12 percent increase in productivity related to ergonomics and 20 percent increase in productivity with dual displays.

In such a scenario, the company claims that 100 employees could realize an estimated savings and productivity gain of $1.5 million, which is pretty substantial. This means the payback occurs in about 5 working days. But what interests me about the innovation is even broader.

By merging these simple low-tech solutions with modern technology, it would be that much more possible to increase the ability for people to present while standing at their workstation (e.g. Skype, Google Hangout, etc.), which always delivers better results than sitting in front of a desktop camera. Likewise, for companies that still use cubicles, planning for elevated workstations would give workers a greater sense of privacy instead of always feeling like they have to sit down to feel it.

Monday, September 17

Making Social Physical: Social Media In Restaurants

Every time I read a story that pits high touch against high tech, digital against physical, or the Internet against brick and mortar, it annoys me. These articles are worthless. The advice is nonsense. The agenda is forcing small business owners to pick one thing or the other because the future is coexistence.

I was reminded of this recently when a mutual group member (David Lopez) of mine posted an article about Mobile Point-of-Sale (POS) technology in restaurants. This article doesn't pit high tech and high touch against each other. It marries it. And this technology is only the tip of the iceberg.

The customer perspective of handheld devices.

When I was traveling in Vancouver a few weeks ago, two restaurants had already adopted mobile point-of-sale handheld devices. Specifically, the server asked us if we needed anything else and we said no, so she pulled out a handheld device. Right there, she swiped the card, allowed me to review the charge, and we were done. The handheld even listed tip options, automatic tip percentages (5-20 percent) or hard dollar amount.

Contrast this to the traditional method practiced by most restaurants. You finish your meal and the server eventually brings out the check. Most people let it sit there awhile, finishing up any remaining edibles and conversations. Eventually you slip in a charge card and it sits around until the server has time. They pick it up, take it back to the register, and then bring it back to you to sign (and calculate the tip in your head).

The traditional method means something as a simple as paying a bill can take five to 20 minutes or more. The tech-savvy solution clocks in around two minutes. The customer wins because several points of contact become one point of contact (and you can leave when you want) and the restaurant wins because everyone who has spent time in restaurant knows that table turns impacts the bottom line.

The only semi-odd thing about it, from my perspective, was having the server stand by while writing the tip. I generally tip 20 percent anyway (a old good habit from my days as a reviewer), but it felt awkward. But I imagine this feeling would pass pretty quick if it was considered a norm.

POS technology is only the beginning: iPad menus rock.

One of the restaurants that adopted POS technology went one step further. At LIFT, the menus are iPads (and better than their website). It is the most amazing experience. The menu is divided into sections — appetizers, lunch, dinner, dessert, wines, etc. You pick a section, scan the list, and then pull up a picture and description of the dish you are interested in before placing your order.

I can't remember the last time comparing and picking a dish was so easy. There were no guesses or surprises. It also helped establish one of the best first pre-meal impressions of a restaurant ever.

The iPad menus really made my creative wheels spin too. There are so many remarkable things a restaurant can do with social technology and take it to the next step. What if customers...

• could tap their smart phones to the menu and receive the menu app?
• could tap their smart phones and subscribe to a content rich blog attached to it?
• could tap their smart phones to enter a contest to win a free lunch?
• could order their meals or request specific seats before they arrived?
• could receive a survey the next day instead of trying to do it at the table?
• were invited to an upcoming special event or special menu sampling?

After just completing a two-year social media contract with a restaurant in Las Vegas, I can attest to the fact that although social media can deliver a return on investment (30-80 check-ins a month, noting that only about 10 percent of all people actually check-in), traditional social media models don't go far enough for restaurants. The primary reason is that they are too focused on impressions and captures (local searches, of all things) and not focused enough on the customers at the table.

Specifically, most restaurants are so comfortable with the old media model — impressions in magazines, phone books, etc. — they have been conditioned to think that applying old media rules to new media is all that can be done. Sure, some of them receive a lift if they implement a social media program, but the real magic of a successful restaurant in the future will not be social media as another marketing silo.

Restaurants that look at technology as an extension of their physical location rather than a means to attract people to a physical location will be the ones with the best bottom line. And those that do it in the United States now (while the recession still makes people think twice about eating out) will be light years ahead of their competitors in the future. This post only scratches the surface.

By the way, I would like to add something about LIFT, given they helped inspire the story. Hands down it was the best meal, best service, and best experience of every restaurant we visited while in Vancouver. And as someone who once wrote dining reviews of some of the finest establishments in Las Vegas, I would have given them five stars, perfection. And yes, the harbor view helped too.

Monday, September 10

Making It Personal: From Education To Marketing

While most people see the 1960s as the "Golden Age of Advertising," its birth can be traced bak to the 1950s. Along with the booming post-war prosperity and adoption of television as a means of mass communication, it was the ideal time for agencies to capture the imagination of a semi-captive audience. 

Some people find the old commercials produced from the 1950s through the 1970s a bit campy with relatively poor production techniques. But if you take a closer look, you'll understand why people responded to the messages — those commercials connected to their era on a personal and sometimes intimate level. 

Unless it's being used as a 1980s and 1990s broadcast channel (when advertising sought to out clever itself instead of appealing to anyone), social media (and social business to some degree) makes the same promise. It provides people the opportunity to get to know the people behind the company, the musicians behind a band, the authors behind the books, so on and so forth. Making it personal works. 

Where advertising and education meet is a matter of perspective. 

While that might seem an odd way to start a post touching on education, some might propose the two are related more than most people think. When it comes to delivering an effective, memorable message that sticks, there really isn't much difference. Personal perspective can solidify and shape how we view history or even current events much more effectively than statistics and bullet points. Stories work. 

One groundbreaking independent documentary series, POV (Point of View) on PBS, has been doing exactly that for almost 25 years. As it aimed to widen the nation's discussion of the most important social issues of the day, it has become its own historic archive of personal perspective by putting a human face on current affairs and now history. Here are a few examples. 

I'm Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful by Jonathan Demme conducts character analyses of fearless matriarch Carolyn Parker, who struggled to rebuild her house in New Orleans after it was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Depending on the class, POV suggests watching film clips and then organizing the information into essays (with outside sources too, I imagine) that can be applied to civics, geography, social studies, and history. 

The City Dark by Ian Cheney studies the nesting process of the endangered loggerhead turtle species. The video illustrates how artificial lighting along beaches disorients turtle hatchlings and hinders their ability to reach the ocean successfully. The film provides cross-over content for biology, environmental studies, geography, and current events. 

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement by Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday follows civil rights veteran and barber James Armstrong and where the movement fits within the context of U.S. history. Integrated into a lesson plan, it provides a perspective for civics, social studies, world history, and current events. 

There are other films too. And while teachers must always be mindful to provide contrasting viewpoints or lead students toward appreciating the "why" behind the "what happened," all of them make for memorable communication, reinforced by a personal connection between the subject and viewer. 

Interestingly enough, POV has been developing a better connection between the films too. Its Community Engagement and Education Department partners with middle schools, high schools, colleges, and community organizations to provide more resources than the films themselves. 

Educators are invited to the join a growing community network where they can borrow more than 70 films for free download, along with 125 free standards-based lesson plans. There are also more than 217 streaming video clips and access to 130 film-based discussion guides for a variety of subject areas and grade levels.

"We have found that the personal storytelling in our films is a wonderful learning tool; it becomes a springboard for discussion that not only helps students understand the issues, but often helps them learn about themselves," said Eliza Licht, vice president, POV Community Engagement and Education. "The goal of our interactive education campaigns is to use film as a tool to support students in becoming thoughtfully engaged citizens." 

While the films sometimes don't necessarily provide a broad view of all subjects (because that's the point of perspective), all of them demonstrate how communication is most effective when someone can relate to the subject. For consideration, educators might want to visit the POV's Lesson Plan section.

How educational instruction can help professional communicators.

For marketers, advertisers and communication professionals, there might be something else to consider.  When was the last time your company produced anything that connected to the people you want to reach? Or perhaps, if you want to think about it another way, what was the real reason Blendtec became one of the most referenced YouTube success stories?

Some advertising students and professionals immediately think it's the gimmick that gave the series a lift.  Sure, that was part of it. But the foundation doesn't have as much to do with one well-thought out gimmick as everything else in the segments — the personality and empathy of the spokesperson and the viewer's connection to the products they decide to blend — have equal weight.

They make it personal, much in the same way it advertisers did several decades ago. And that's the point. You might ask how you can make your company's message just as personal too, but without the blender.

Monday, July 16

Going Social: 2012 FedEx Ketchum Social Business Study

While some companies are still arguing about what constitutes a return on investment for social media, others are forging ahead with social business models. Never mind that there isn't a definitive definition.

What has been worked out, according to the 2012 FedEx Ketchum Social Business Study, are the elements that it will include. Everything else that a social business might be is a work in progress.

Key elements of a social business model from the study. 

• A non-linear flow of information between the organization and internal/external stakeholders.
• Input that drives the decision making, business processes, organizational structure, and innovation.
• The flexibility to listen and adapt to shifting marketplace opportunities in real time.
• Distribution of the ownership of social media tools across a broader set of internal stakeholders.

Simply put, a social business model aims to employ social media as it has been by a few companies even before social networks became prominent. The general idea is to move away from the notion that social media is merely marketing but rather an engaged dialogue that leads to transformative change in every area of operation. It presents one of the greatest opportunities and threats to business long term.

In essence, what people are calling the next wave of adoption is really what many people realized social media was meant to be. It's not merely about the amplification of what the company wants to tell people, but rather a vested interest in increasing the company's intelligence by removing silos and including the customer as an active participant as opposed to connecting with them exclusively at the point of purchase and when there are problems.

In theory, it sounds close to perfection. But there are some concerns. According to the study, companies are still concerned about employee privacy, content ownership, legal/compliance issues, and the inability to correct misinformation that appears on the web. Some of issues are more valid than others.

What are valid concerns? What are not? What's being missed?

• Employee Privacy. Social media has a tendency to both expose individuals (strangers want to "be friends" with the business contact) and tend to associate people with the company brand (even during off hours and even when they leave a company). It's a semi-valid concern because employees haven't adapted to the new environment. Mostly, people want to selectively be associated with their companies.

• Content Ownership. The general concern is that when employees generate a high level of interest and develop their own online networks, they tend to take those networks with them even though their association with the company had a hand in developing those connections. Although it's a risk, it's largely invalid because it's a risk that companies have faced long before social media. When people move, so does some intellectual property and so do some customers.

• Legal/Compliance. The legal/compliance issues are largely invalid, trumped up by some executives who never wanted to have the social media conversation. The reality is that as environments change so does the governance of legal/compliance issues. Many government agencies are even encouraging companies to communicate more, not less.

• Misinformation. While the Internet has some growing up to do in terms of understanding credibility, concerns over misinformation are largely invalid because it's not a new threat. If anything, more sources of information on places such as the net can better protect a company than the fewer sources that used to exist. More and more, people check four or more sources of information before making decisions. Ergo, they know misinformation might exist.

• Improper Vetting. This is the concern that ought to be on the radar, but generally isn't. Just because you increase the size of your input pool doesn't always mean you increase the size of its intelligence. Or, in other words, customers aren't always right and crowd-sourcing runs an equal chance of becoming done by committee. In fact, crowd-sourcing may have killed touch screens on the front end. Thank goodness companies didn't listen until people had the opportunity to change their minds.

• Shutter Clearance. Sometimes companies really don't want everything on the table. It's not for any malicious reason as some people like to argue. Judgements made on half-baked ideas don't necessarily make for better products. For example, I can't imagine what someone might have thought watching me write a first draft. Sometimes we all need some breathing room to think and fully realize something. At the organizational level, this might translate into fewer not more people having a big picture view.

The 2012 FedEx Ketchum Social Business Study is worth a look. 

All in all, the 2012 FedEx Ketchum Social Business Study makes for an excellent primer. The highlights I mentioned above only scratch of the surface of the content that can be mined there.

Sure, I think the buzz term "social business" is trumped up as if these things never existed (being a "social business" is what convinced Corning to make specialty glass for iPhones), but what might be different is that some of it is more likely to play out in public. That said, no matter what you think you know or feel about social business models, it's in your best interest to pay attention to what is being produced, created, and innovated as a result. This study, specifically, makes an excellent primer.

Wednesday, June 27

Reading Reviews: Do You Trust The Data?

Most marketers know that more and more people are influenced by product reviews, but did you ever wonder who is responsible for setting any downward trends? According to one study, it could be millennials.

Millennials (defined by the study as ages 18 to 34) give more 1-star and 2-star reviews than any other generation, with those in Ireland being among the most critical. Gen Y contributes the most 3-star reviews.

The study also reveals a little more than that. Incidentally, however, boomers (defined by the study as ages 47-65) still contribute the majority of opinions — 45 percent of them online. Boomers are also slightly more positive. And so are parents, regardless of which generation they belong to.

Can generational disposition or other factors alter perception?

Maybe. And if it does, it might explain why some restaurant owners I know have asked me about Yelp. They say Yelp tends to be the most critical. According to Quantcast, the site also happens to skew toward millennials. Is there a correlation? Or are the stiffer reviews the result of the community?

It's a good question that marketers will have to take into account. In general, review communities tend to be all over the map in how they share opinions. If you visit iTunes, for example, you might notice movies have very little middle ground. Most ratings come in at 1 or 5.

Music is different. It generally skews positive. App ratings are also different. Among paid apps, 5-star reviews and 1-star reviews are generally written by people who still haven't learned to reset their iPads if the app keeps crashing. App reviews are largely unreliable.

Even more telling is that iTunes book reviews are frequently rated lower than those on Amazon, but without as much explanation. Goodreads tends to stack up more 5-star reviews than other book review sites.

This isn't necessarily new. Entertainment Weekly frequently publishes roundups of critics' movie reviews, along with online sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Even though it pulls from the same sources, Rotten Tomatoes tends to be more critical.

But what stands out for me even more is that there are always one or two reviewers who separate themselves from the pack. Sometimes it makes you wonder if they watched the same movie as the rest of them. And other times you realize that even professional reviewers have no comparable standard for measurement; a bias for particular studios, actors, and genres; and sometimes a desire to be noticed that affects their commentaries.

All reviews need to be vetted before they become meaningful measures. 

Along with the study that suggests millennials are more critical, another bazaarvoice study suggests millennials are more likely to trust the opinions of strangers. In fact, more than half of them trust user-generated content and reviews more than friends and family and many won't complete a transaction before reading reviews.

For business, this means positive customer engagement is even more important. It means establishing better protocols to address erroneous criticism while vetting valid points and making changes. And it means that being a social business is more critical than most think.

Monday, June 11

Evolving Social Media: Social Business

With the advances in how social media is applied daily, the description of Social Media For Communication Strategy held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), has a hard time keeping up even if the class does not. For example, nowhere does it mention social networks specifically, let alone the advent of social business.

But then again, this was always by design. When the three-hour session was first offered at UNLV, it was apparent  that social media had a limited shelf life as it evolved. Everything changes. And only the definition seems to remain a constant.

Social media describes the technologies people use to share content, opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives by interacting with each other in an environment. 

It's not all that much different from how people are trying to define social business today. A social business, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is much like the one above with an emphasis placed on creating and optimizing a collaborative ecosystem. It isn't different, but there's a reason to go with it.

Social media was always collaborative, but social business helps people think. 

Despite the cosmetic shift with semantics, calling some of the new technologies collaborative helps people move away from the thought that social media was meant to be a broadcast platform. It's not. Broadcast is simply one thing you can do online, and it's not even the most effective thing to be done.

The only downside is that defining social business in such away detracts from the real meaning of a social business. That definition was crafted by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus as one which also serves humanity's most pressing needs, e.g., hunger, poverty, etc. The person who stole it probably wasn't aware of the definition. They just wanted to move away from the term "media."

Regardless, where the concept of a collaborative (social) business wins is in the intent. Rather than merely promoting something a business might have, it brings everyone (anyone) together to improve the experience. Sure, it sounds remotely convoluted until it's applied so let's apply it to something.

A Sports League Broadcast Model. 

When I presented a social media session for the Nevada Recreation & Park Society, I researched several parks and recreation social media programs across the country and found exactly what you might suspect. Just like most businesses, the bulk of their social media is broadcast based with the same basic steps.

1. Write up the program you want to promote.
2. Post it on the designated blog with an enrollment link.
3. Share the blog post across various social networks.
4. Email/mail people who participated in similar programs before.

There is nothing wrong with the approach, except the interactivity and collaboration that might result is limited to comments, likes, and shares. The experience isn't really immersive. It's mostly promotion.

A Sports League Social Business Model. 

But what would happen if the social media program became more immersive? What if the content wasn't designed around promotion but on skills improvement for players instead? What if the coaches and players could share their various points of view about a game or interesting training tips? What if game highlights were shared on a video channel or all participants could rate their favorite parks?

What if mobile technology provided real-time score broadcasts or weather conditions? What if area businesses could pay to promote their game day specials via the network? What if spectators could text or message someone if they saw any problems, ranging from park damage to unruly teens or suspicious visitors?

What if players could check the scores of all games being played concurrently and track the standings of various teams? What if players were highlighted or featured for making the play of the day? What if outside contractors could be partnered with to provide solutions (such as seat cushions for hard benches)? The steps would be considerably different. Simplified to four steps, it might look like something else.

1. Focus the communication on what people value. 
2. Match this value across most logical technologies. 
3. Develop tools that make the experience participatory and collaborative.
4. Continually build upon the program, focusing on emerging needs and ideas. 

Promotion (and hoping people share the content) would no longer be the emphasis of the online communication. Instead, promotion would be the outcome of a well-defined collaboration. Likewise, the same holds true for applying similar techniques to business.

Almost any time we shift the thinking away from company objectives to customer objectives, participation increases exponentially and opportunities emerge where they never existed before, internally and externally. At least, that is the way I will present it during Social Media For Communication Strategy on June 16. Someone else can help people catch up on Pinterest.

Monday, June 4

Fostering Change: Social Business Research

A new research report by the MIT Sloan Management Review in collaboration with Deloitte suggests there might be more to the social business concept than most people think. In addition to a survey, the study includes supplemental case studies from companies like McDonald's, IBM, Salesforce, SAP, and Yammer that are putting the practice to work.

According to the report, 52 percent of survey respondents believe that social business is important to their business today and 86 percent of managers believe social business will be important within the next three years. The only holdback to the enthusiasm is that executives still don't feel comfortable with the metrics that might prove value.

The researchers, on the other hand, make the case that metrics might not be as important as some people believe. While metrics are important to make assessments, the outcomes transcend measurement in improving operations, innovations, and humanization.

The social business movement is being led by media and tech companies. 

Not surprisingly, the businesses that seem to be leading the way in developing a social business structure are media (entertainment, news, and publishing) and technology (IT and tech). Among the media industry, more than 74 percent of managers already rely on social software. Among the tech industries, more than 65 percent already do.

The industries less excited about the social business concept include energy and utilities, manufacturing, and financial services. However, even these industries do not dismiss the concept outright. Almost half the managers in energy and utilities (which are generally conservative and slow to change) say it will be more important in three years.

The downside for all of these businesses is clear enough. Several struggle with defining the terms they apply to their business, developing long-term vision, funding adoption, and prioritization. The overwhelming holdback is fear in various forms, including employee abuse, change, and self-preservation by means of operating in closed silos. Justification of those fears are often verbalized as risk, security, legal liabilities, regulatory concerns, lack of measurable results, and the lack of industry-wide adoption.

There also seems to be an overemphasis on growing revenue (and linking measurements to it) as opposed to pursuits that result in revenue growth, e.g., innovation, cost reduction, and better efficiency. And while social software (including social media) is generally considered the backbone of social business (whether applied internally or externally), the adoption of these tools are largely underfunded.

The study included surveying managers in 115 countries and 24 different industries. The 3,500 respondents represented a cross-section of management roles, ranging from coordinators to those on boards of directors. You can find the report on social business here. It requires the submission of a name and valid email address.

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