Help with My New Report: Employee Engagement & Advocacy

Businessman holding paperI’m passionate about Open Leadership, and the imperative to be open, authentic and transparent in the way we lead. This is all the more important when looking at how to engage employees, and tapping them for the bright shiny object de jour “employee advocacy”.

To that end, my colleague Jon Cifuentes and I are working on a new Altimeter report on how companies create holistic strategies that increase internal employee engagement and external employee advocacy. The report looks at the fundamental disconnect between organizations wanting active and engaged employees and the actual execution of employee collaboration, engagement, and advocacy efforts.

Three recent studies exemplify the problem.

  • Gallup found that only 13% of employees worldwide are actively engaged while 24% are actively disengaged.
  • A more optimistic report from Weber Shandwick, released just last week, found that while 47% of employees are ProActivists or PreActivists who are inclined to take positive action on behalf of their employers, 31% are HyperActivists, ReActivists, or outright Detractors who can hurt their employers with negative actions.
  • IBM just published their CHRO study and found that only 42% of CHROs interviewed felt that they were effective at fostering employee engagement and commitment, and only 20% thought they were effective at addressing collaboration and information sharing challenges.

Technology is also having an impact. The vast majority of employees all have personal access to social media — and frequently use it to talk about work. Collaboration platforms and enterprise social networks like Chatter, Jive, and SharePoint/Yammer often connect employees at work. A rising plethora of employee advocacy platforms all aim to make it easier to engage and amplify the voices of employees. The biggest challenge that all of this technology creates is the expectation of openness and transparency that many organizations are still struggling with — at a theoretical level, they would love to see more employees speaking positively about the brand, but also worry about slips up like the most recent US Airway’s accidental porn tweet or HMV’s live tweeted firing dustup last year.

Three Types of Engagement for One Employee

To address these issues, we’ll be looking at employee engagement in three distinct areas, which typically involve three different activities, three different owners in the organization, and three different technology platforms. The problem: There’s ONE employee.

Three types of employee engagement

This evolving view of employee engagement boils down to the evolving relationship between the employer and employee – all aspects of work are changing in the face of this new dynamic. Digital engagement becomes not the end goal but the forcing function, providing a new context for the entire employee engagement strategy.

Our research will seek to answer questions for business leaders at the core of this conundrum:

  • How do I develop a coherent and effective employee engagement and advocacy strategy, rather than a series of initiatives? What are the elements of a holistic strategy?
  • How do I select, deploy, and integrate technology to create a foundation that also leads to and facilitates employee engagement and advocacy?
  • What new leadership skills and organizational structures will be needed to create better coordination of employee engagement across the organization?
  • How do I know that what I’m doing is working and making a difference? (The age-old measurement conundrum.)

How You Can Help Altimeter’s Research

Altimeter is committed to what we call “Open Research”. Rather than keep our research behind locked doors, we’re sharing this early peek with the hopes of getting external input. We’d love to hear about the following:

  • Strategic approaches to overall employee engagement. Does your organization take a strategic approach to employee engagement? What other functions in the business are you integrating?
  • Leadership and organization. What role does leadership have in the strategy? How are you breaking down silos across organizations to connect internal engagement with external advocacy?
  • Use of technologies. How did you decide which tools to use to support your strategy? How are you planning to connect internal and external employee engagement platforms — if at all? How are you integrating with existing enterprise systems?
  • Measurement and results. How do you connect your employee engagement strategy to business results? How do you think about measuring the overall strength and evolution of the employee relationship?

If you think you have a contribution that could be made, please fill out this very short form (also embedded below) so that we can collect your input in an orderly fashion. Please also note if you would be willing to be interviewed for best practices and case studies. All information collected will be used only for background purposes. We will seek specific and explicit permission for any information we intent to publish or use publicly. And of course, you are very welcome to email me or my colleague Jon Cifuentes if you have any questions or suggestions.

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State of Research & Consulting: The Smartest Network, Not People, Will Win

Closeup portrait of business people with hands on hands

This post was originally  cross-posted on LinkedIn. You can read the original post here.

My background as an industry analyst at Forrester Research and management consultant at the now-defunct Monitor Group gives me a unique point of view into the intersection of two industries, Industry Research firms (dominated by companies like Forrester, Gartner, and IDC) and Management Consulting (with leaders like Bain, BCG, and McKinsey). Both are being hit by the classic Innovator’s Dilemma, where new entrants offer services that are cheaper (or free) to an under-served customer base. I believe that the established players have several facets of their business models that limit their ability to respond.

Let’s take a look first at the state of the research industry:

  • The double-edged sword of syndicated content. Research firms derive much of their revenues from great content that sits behind a syndication wall. But analysis from journalists, bloggers and independent analysts is rapidly improving in quality and available at a great price point – free. And technology vendors like IBM conduct cutting edge research that is arguably better than what any research firm can do. While syndicated revenues scales thought leadership wonderfully, research firms can’t cannibalize themselves without seriously jeopardizing profits. The result – free content from these new entrants – is gaining a significant foothold and making syndicated clients take a closer look at their investment in annual seat-based subscriptions.
  • Individual versus firm brands. Research firms promote the expertise of top analyst talent – but not too much for fear that these “stars” gain too much visibility and spin off to create their own firms, stealing away clients in the process. Non-compete contracts and restrictions on personal blogs are attempts to try to contain the brand of individuals. But this means that all talent needs to be homegrown as no established thought leader would ever consider subsuming their own brands. This opens the door for companies that know how to attract, grow, and develop individual brands in harmony with an overall umbrella brand.
  • Clients demand more custom solutions. Research firms don’t like consulting – it’s messy, time-consuming, and not as scalable as syndicated research. But their clients are dealing with tough, disruptive problems of their own – and parachuting analysts into a client for a day leaves many clients wanting more detailed, customized advice and strategy. While research firms have made decent inroads into creating consulting services, these efforts typically involve dedicated consultants rather than industry experts – because every minute an analyst spends with a client means less time spent on generating syndicated content that pays the bills.

Now let’s turn to management consulting firms that have their own set of challenges:

  • Secrecy constrains engagement. Consulting firms operate in the Cone of Silence to respect client confidentiality, which limits their ability to network and share best practices sometimes even within a firm. Contrast that to their clients’ own increasing willingness to share with and support each other through formal networks like Corporate Executive Board and SocialMedia.org. The result: It’s getting harder and harder for consulting firms to provide new insights and value to smarter, networked clients.
  • Clients demand more research to justify decisions. Consulting firms rarely invest in industry research that isn’t specific to a client because it’s a cost that can’t be easily recovered across multiple engagements. This business model constraint means that a key client need – research-based evidence needed to justify risky strategic bets – aren’t at the fingertips of these consultants.
  • Deep relationships versus deep expertise. In the Internet and social networking age, small boutique firms and even individuals with deep expertise can create visibility, generate press, and get on the radar of potential clients. This challenges the broad expertise and brands of traditional firms who rely on a brand and deep relationships to carry it forward, even in areas when expertise may be lacking. One of the key notes of disruption in consulting is the pairing of these boutique experts with the mainline consulting firms, supplementing knowledge of the firm’s inner workings and relationships with deep expertise. Guess what happens when senior management sees that much of the value is being created by these boutique experts rather than trusted counselors?

If your firm is in either of these two industries, I encourage you to take the following three actions to refine your business model and guard against disruption:

  1. Develop and grow networks. Research and consulting firms often indulge in hubris, believing that they have THE smartest people in the industry within their walls. But how can that be the case in fast developing, disruptive spaces? Buy yourself an insurance policy against the pace of change by developing a network of the brightest people OUTSIDE of your firm including people at rival firms. At Altimeter, we cultivate and feed that network with our Open Research, where we give it away for free. The result is thousands of people reading the research, commenting on it, and helping us develop the next research. The result is in research that is better, faster, and cheaper to produce. In the future, it’s not the firm with the smartest people that will win, it’s the one with the smartest network.
  2. Invest in the brands and careers of individuals. The success of research and consulting firms depends on attracting A+ talent – and that talent won’t stick around if they think they can do better elsewhere or even on their own. At Altimeter, we believe that a strong individual brand results in a strong company brand – the two live in harmony so that we can leverage individual thought leadership AND the company brand. But we also create the greenest pasture possible for individuals to stay with us – there are no non-competes, no constraints on personal blogging or book writing, that artificially keep someone around when they don’t want to be here. When one day the fit is no longer there, we agree to bid each other “all the best,” knowing that it was a fair exchange of value for the time that we worked together.
  3. Create synergies between research and consulting. Rather than look at either research or consulting as a cost center, think about how they can each lower costs and actually result in better outcomes in the other area. Research improves when you can apply it to real client problems. Consulting deepens your understanding of client pain points that results in better, more meaningful research. The key is to find people who can stretch between these two areas. At Altimeter, we have analysts who do primarily research, but stretch frequently into consulting to keep that research grounded. And we have consultants who spend most of their days working with clients – but who then stretch into research, which gives them research-based grit to bring into their engagements.

So because the incumbents in the research and consulting industries have very real business model constraints, I see plenty of opportunity for new entrants to disrupt and gain a foothold.

Additional reading and resources:

 

Disruptive Trends to Watch in 2014

Forward to 2014 new year concept

This post is part of Altimeter’s Trends to Watch in 2014

To kick off the new year, here are seven trends I’m following closely in my research at Altimeter, inspired by my conversations with clients, keynote audiences, social media communities, and very generous thought leaders. The list is not exhaustive of what is important, but these are the key issues I’ll be digging into in 2014. For each trend, I also include a few thoughts on the implications for organizations — and what actions they should take.

1. The Imperative for Strategic Disruption

Innovation is hot, hot, hot. I’m constantly asked how companies can use digital and social tools to capture and develop more innovation that leads to strategic growth. These executives want to develop a strategy that builds innovation into the DNA of the organization, with strategy, organizational structure, and processes to make innovation the job of every single person. But I don’t think it’s enough. Given the pace of change, I’m hearing from executives the need to set a goal of becoming disruptive, because innovation won’t be enough to keep startups and competitors intent on disruption at bay. The key difference is that disruption involves conflict and friction, the dilemma that Clayton Christensen says is the bane of innovators within organizations.

But there’s a key difference today, in that new technologies and management approaches like agile development create organizations that can sit on that knife’s edge between managing strategic disruption and crumbling apart in chaos. The implication for organizations is how will you create the strategic imperative to build resilience and adaptability into the organization so that you can disrupt yourself and your industry – rather than be disrupted. I’ll be researching how organizations create a strategy to become a disruptive organization, one that can identify and capitalize on The Disruptor, that unique leader who can identify a disruptive opportunity and pull the resources, people, processes, and most importantly, culture, into a coherent strategy.

2. The Rise of the Digital Executive

The year 2014 will mark the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web. This means that people entering their 40′s — the time when they come into positions of power and responsibilities in organization — have had spent their entire professional career with the Internet. They will think digital first, integrating mobile and social holistically into the strategies that they develop for their departments and eventually, companies. The implications for companies is that this is going to inevitably set up conflicts in executive board rooms. If these up and coming Digital Executives are not given the support and latitude they need to fulfill their vision, they will leave.  and their mindsets will set the directions.

Implications: Clash of the board room as senior board members who are not digital natives will have to align with the strategies being created by a digitally-minded executive team.

3. Social Goes Mainstream — and Gets A New Name

At the end of 2013, Pew Internet Research released a report that showed every demographic group in the US had the majority of people online using social networking sites. And the Seniors — those age 65 or more were not far behind with 43% of those that are Internet users using social networking sites. And overall, 72% of ALL Internet users are social. So if you think “social” is still something that is done only by the young, you need to get your facts straight. The  implications are that your customers and your employees are social in their personal lives — and you’re missing out on precious relationship-building opportunities if you don’t respect this medium. That said, there is almost an allergic reaction to “social” in some enterprises, especially when it comes its internal use. So we’ll see a gradual usurping of social initiatives into overall digital strategies — which should be the case as it becomes more integrated and feature, rather than a destination.

Percent of Internet users using social networking sites

4. Increasing Privacy Concerns

The recent NSA data collection revelations and security breaches at Target and SnapChat have people more on edge than ever about the collection and use of their personal data. Add to that the potential of big data being used by companies, Facebook, Google and Apple tracking your every move and it’s no wonder people are concerned. The data supports this feeling: GlobalWebIndex found that in the US, the percent of people who say they are concerned that the Internet is eroding their privacy increased from 47% in September 2010 to 57% in Q3 2013, a 21% increase over three years. Similar trends exist in other countries, except, curiously, in China where it’s been dropping slightly over the past year.

 The implications are that organizations that hope to tap the promise of big data will need to begin NOW to clarify what data they are collecting, how they are using it, and how they will secure it. And this can’t be buried in the user agreements — it needs to be front and center as part of the relationship definition with customers. The key — developing trust so that when you collect and use the data, it makes sense in the context of the growing relationship.

 5. Holistic Approaches to Building the Future of Work

The seminal research being done by Lynda Gratton at London Business School on the Future of Work points out how the realities of technology, globalization, demographics, social, and energy resource changes means that organizations will have to rethink how work gets done. In response, organizations are starting to make strategic preparations — Dell recently announced a goal that by 2020, 50% of its workforce will have some sort of flexibility work arrangement [link]. This is much more than simply deploying an enterprise mobility platform or having a BYOD policy. I recently moderated an Evolving Workforce Roundtable at Dell where a key takeaway is that the CIO will need to be much more focused on the overall experience of not only employees but also customers. That “experience-first” mindset will be needed to shepherd in a new era of employer-employee relationships. In this holistic approach, culture and leadership will provide the guiding principles and strategy, while technology will become the means, not the ends.

6. Engaging Empowered Employees

In speaking with HR professionals over the past decade, one of the biggest things keeping them up at night is how to tap into and engage what they perceive as their biggest assets — employees. What’s changed over the past year is that it’s now also the concern of business line leaders as well as the rest of the C-Suite. They all see that engaging and involving the workforce from anything from driving innovation to engaging directly with customers can create a powerful and sustainable competitive advantage. But here’s the rub — most companies lack the culture and leadership mindset to do this. My research in this area is closely linked to the Future of Work research, but looks at how the combination of strategy and technology creates engaged and empowered employees. I’ll be looking at how collaborative and social platforms are merging, and which day-to-day activities make the most sense tackle first.

 One company I spoke with was highly discouraged because an early experiment in employee engagement went nowhere. When I dug deeper into the situation, we discovered that the company decided to focus their enterprise social network primarily on upcoming labor negotiations — talk about jumping into the deep end! Their hope that the ESN would help foster conversation and engagement left out a key component — the relationship between management and union members simply wasn’t there to be able to allow the conversation to take place face-to-face, let alone in a digital environment. The implications for organizations is that you need to have an employee engagement strategy that takes into account how technology will — and won’t — be used.

7. Customizing Enterprise Platforms to Increase Productivity

Improving productivity with technology continues to be a priority for many companies, but is becoming harder to do as most firms have already realized initial gains. One emerging area is the customization of enterprise applications. Most of the work to date has been around integrating your favorite platforms so that they work well together (e.g. Salesforce + Box, Exchange + Facebook) but an emerging trend is moving beyond the traditional  “one-size-fits-all” approach and customizing enterprise apps for each employee.

The email inbox is a great example — we all use the inbox in different ways, some of us keeping emails in there as a to-do list while others live by the Zero Inbox rule and creating specific task lists elsewhere. The adoption of new productivity tools in the consumer space, such as LinkedIn Intro, and Mailbox phone app, mean that these or similar offerings will shortly grow legs and walk into the enterprise through the back door. CIOs should look for ways to reflect the flexibility of these productivity tools in the way traditional enterprise and collaboration platforms are used.

If you have ideas, suggestions, or examples of how your organization is addressing one or more of these trends, I’d love to hear from you. Please add to the comments below or email me at charlene@altimetergroup.com.

Infographic: State of Social Business 2013 and Outlook for 2014

Living 2013This past year has been a busy one for me and Brian Solis on the research front. We’ve published the following:

Brian and I recently introduced an infographic that summarizes high level findings across all of our work in 2013 (scroll down to see it below). And the key finding is that while organizers are making significant headway in terms of building out their social efforts, they are far from realizing real business value.

My outook for 2014 is that many more organizations will overcome the stigma of “social” and seek ways to articulate connections with customers and employees into their business. In just the last half of the year, we’ve worked with several organizations that are doing the hard work of connecting their social efforts to business value — it sounds easy to connect the dots but actually building the organization, governance, and process to do this will be most of the focus in 2014.

It isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t have the appeal of new consumer bright shiny objects or excite of a tech IPO. But this is where the real value will be created, real benefits will be built. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a bit of gut-wrenching leaps of faith as employees and customers are empowered, but hopefully in a year we’ll have seen key numbers like the percent of companies associating social with business value increase from today.

Highlights from the State of Social Business Infographic

Companies are organizing and formalizing social media strategies into social business strategies…

  • 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team. This is up from 67% two years ago.
  • Social media teams have grown from 11 people in 2010 to almost 16 in 2013.

Social business strategies are spreading across the enterprise…

  • Social media headcount across the enterprise has more than doubled at the largest companies from 20 in 2010 to 49 in 2012.
  • According to our research, there are 13 different departments across the enterprise with at least one person dedicated to social media.
  • The majority of resources are allocated to marketing at 73%, but as you can see, social media covers almost every major function. Now, whether or not social media is organized and integrated, well, we know that it’s not really.

Marketing = 73%
Corporate communications = 66%
Customer support = 40%
Digital = 37%
Social media = 35%
HR = 29%
Product/R&D = 16%
Advertising = 16%
Customer/User experience = 15%
IT = 14%
Legal = 9%

Companies are trying social business to positive business outcomes…

  • About 50% of companies say social business has improved marketing optimization, customer experience and brand health.
  • Nearly one in four have actually seen an increase in revenue.

Companies though have a long way to go…

  • Many social business programs lack a strong foundation.
  • Only 17% of companies identify their social strategy as mature.
  • 52% of companies say that executives are aligned with the overall social strategy.
  • Just 26% of companies approach social media holistically (operating against a cross-enterprise level strategy.)

To succeed, build a foundation for social business…

  1. Benchmark you program with Altimeter’s Social Business reports (see below…underneath the infographic).
  2. Document existing challenges and opportunities to address in 2014 and 2015 (we don’t move as fast as we’d like).
  3. Align all social business efforts with business objectives and priorities.


New Report: Social Media Education for Employees

Last year, we asked companies about their top social strategy priorities. The second top response was “Developing Internal Education and Training.” Yet, when we surveyed companies earlier this year, we saw that only 38% had any education program in place, beyond ad hoc efforts.

Over the past few quarters, we identified a number of large companies that have developed social media education for their employees, to learn why and how. We interviewed companies as diverse as ARAMARK, Kaiser Permanente, RadioShack, and more — and learned that social media education helps achieve two key business objectives:

  • Reduce the risk of social media violations to protect employees and the company, and
  • Increase employee advocacy and effectiveness, both on and off-domain.

In addition, one of our most important findings is that social media education can be deployed given limited resources. For example, at Adobe two social media team members spend approximately 10% of their time on this business program. One person told us: “You can do it with a very limited budget,” while another said “You don’t have to have all the bells and whistles, and you can roll this out to a limited set of employees first.”

We’re happy to share with you research today, particularly for those of you who may be including social media education in your 2014 plans. Our report, Social Media Education for Employees, includes a framework to structure your education program — based on four unique roles and learning objectives — and a 10-point checklist of requirements for success. It’s embedded below, along with the four data charts from the report.



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The State of Social Business 2013

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Altimeter hosts an annual Social Business survey to learn how social media is evolving within enterprise organizations. Data is then compared to previous reports providing a sense of movement to the numbers and also a developing benchmark for our analysts and clients. Our last survey was studied in Q3 2013 and also Q4 2012, the latter was used to provide context to a report published by me and Brian Solis in our report, “The Evolution of Social Business: Six Stages of Social Business Transformation.”

We are now making the data available to the public for free use under Creative Commons (cc) as part of our Open Research program. The figures included in this report are also compared to previous survey findings from 2011 and 2010. There are two publications available, which are embedded below as well — there’s a report with some analysis and we’ve also just published a PowerPoint deck so that you can easily incorporate the information in your presentations. All we ask is that you properly attribute the research back to Altimeter.

Overall, we found that investment in headcount and infrastructure have steadily grown, as companies reach “intermediate” stages of social business. Several are turning their sights from “social media” as an extension of marketing and communications, and seek to push a “social business” agenda throughout the organization. Top findings include:

  • Most organizations are “intermediate,” with only 17% self-described as “strategic” in the execution of their social strategies.
  • 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team, at the division, corporate or both levels — only 22% of companies do not have a dedicated team.
  • Companies are committing more headcount to social media across all sizes of organizations. The biggest jump is for companies with more than 100,000 employees, which now report an average of 49 full-time employees supporting social media, compared to 20 in 2010.
  • 85% of companies have an organizational social media policy, yet only 18% of companies report that their employees’ knowledge of social media usage and the organizational policy is either good or very good.




The Twitter IPO: Some Initial Analysis

Twitter just tweeted that it has filed a confidential S-1, with the appropriate disclaimer. Here are a few reasons why this filing and IPO warrant close scrutiny.

  • Twitter is the last of the Big Four to go public. In the social networking ecosystem, Twitter is seen as a must have in terms of a social strategy, and is the only major player left that is still up for grabs — YouTube (owned by Google), LinkedIn (IPO), and Facebook (IPO) are all spoken for. Other upstarts like Pinterest are just getting started so Twitter is going to be the talk of the town into 2014, which is the earliest the IPO can be expected. There will be a certain “last call” mentality to the Twitter IPO that wasn’t there for Facebook.
  • Confidential filing gives Twitter control. Twitter took advantage of the JOBS Act pass last year, which allows firms with less than $1 billion in revenue to file an S-1 confidentially. This means that unlike Facebook, Twitter won’t be subjected to a microscopic dissection of every word of its filing. This is a good thing, because Twitter’s business model isn’t the easiest to explain. As Twitter begins the roadshow, they’ll be able to roll out their story to investors in a systematic, orderly way that enables them to tell their growth story to the world.
  • Timing and Friends benefit Twitter. Twitter should be saying a big “Thank You” to Facebook for carving out the path before them. Facebook has spent the past year educating the market about social media advertising, doing much of the heavy lifting and laying out the red carpet for Twitter.
  • Challenge: Twitter’s Advertising Model. The biggest challenge that Twitter has is that its main form of revenue comes from “sponsored tweets” which is a form of native advertising (see Altimeter’s just-published report on Native Advertising). The problem with these sponsored tweets is that they are not, at present, a standard ad format that can travel outside the Twitter platform. That makes ad buying — and scaling to media buyers — more difficult.
  • Discipline to Stick to the Business. The tweet that Twitter posted one minute after the “filing” one shows everyone at the computers with the next, Now, back to work.” The company has been preparing for this day, and realize that it’s a long, long slog for the next approximately six months before the actual IPO. The team will need discipline to focus on the work, rather than pulling out spreadsheets to calculate their potential net worth. Not an easy thing to do!

These are still early days, and I anticipate that we’ll learn a lot more about Twitter’s business over the next few weeks and months. I, for one, am eager to not just see the numbers, but also to hear their story. Because as one of the four foundational platforms of the social space, they have the ability to shape the future as they envision it unfolding. And the vision that Twitter CEO Dick Costello and his team roll out is sure to be interesting.

New Book: The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy

I’m very proud to announce the publication of an eBook that I co-authored with Brian Solis, entitled “The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy“.

Based on research as well as real-world experience with our clients, Brian and I found that there are common characteristics of successful social business strategies, the most important one being a laser focus on achieving business goals. In fact, the most successful businesses are those with an executive who can articulate the vision and strategy roadmap almost as well as the social strategist.

Here’s a summary of the Seven Success Factors of Social Business:

1.  Define the overall business goals. You can’t align your social strategy with your business objectives if you don’t even know what your objectives are.

2. Establish the long-term vision. If you’re not striving toward the end goal, you’re likely to veer off the path. If you want your team to fully invest in your social strategy — and you need the support of your entire team– you’ll need to communicate your vision with clarity and passion.

3. Ensure executive support. In the early days you may be able to fly under the radar, but at some point, if you want to truly have an impact on the business, you’ll need the backing and support of key executives.

4. Define the strategy roadmap. You already know your business objectives and have a clear vision. But how are you going to get there? Plan out your route, what roads you’ll travel, and what roads you’ll avoid.

5. Establish governance and guidelines. Who is responsible for executing the social strategy? What’s your process of listening and responding to your customers? If you clearly define this process and then stick to it, you’ll spend less tie floating along throughout the social sphere and more time strategizing your social growth.

6. Secure staff, resources, and funding. In the early stages of social growth, you might outsource your social media campaign to an agency, and that’s fine. But you should also be looking down the road and planning to develop internal resources to take your company to the next level as your social prowess — and your business — grows.

7. Invest in technology platforms that evolve. Resist the temptation to jump on the latest technology bandwagon before you have a long-term strategic plan in place. Hold off on making significant technology investments until you’re equipped with a sound vision and strategic plan.

The organizations we studied didn’t necessarily have each of these success factors fully developed; rather, we found that it was much more important that each factor was aligned with immediate and long-term business goals.

So ask yourself — how robust is your social strategy? As you look at each of the elements above, consider how well you are doing in each area. Score your social strategy on each factor on a scale of 1 (not doing it well at all) to 5 (knocking it out of the park). In the spirit of open discussion, I’d love hear how you scored yourself — where your strategy is strong, where you need to improve.

In the book, we go into detail about how to approach each success factor, illustrating the key elements with best practices and exercises, as well as common mistakes to avoid. One of my favorite sections is how to convince and even rally decision makers at the executive level. Brian and I also designed the book to be a quick but useful read — at only 100 pages it’s something that you can give to your team and executives and reasonable expect that they will actually read it!

Our hope is that the book will help you move from having a pile of social media tactics to having a social business strategy around which your entire organization is aligned. And if you need additional help crafting that strategy, Altimeter can also help with our Social Business Strategy service offerings.

More information and additional resources:

Upcoming Webinar: Thursday, August 15th 10am PT/1pm ET. Registration and details.

 

How To Create A Successful Social Business

Are you a social business? By this, I mean are you aligning your social strategy to business goals? In a new Altimeter Group Report, “The Evolution of Social Business“, my co-author Brian Solis and I found that this was not the case. Only 34% of businesses we surveyed felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes. Brian goes into detail about our findings in this post.

Our research found that organizations typically go through six stages of social business evolution. But this doesn’t mean that you have to wait until Stage 6 to realize business impact. Rather, it’s not only possible but crucial to focus on achieving business results right from the very beginning. The six stages are as follows (for a deeper dive into each, please download the report):

A great example of this from the report comes from Shell. They launched the Shell Facebook presence only in January 2012 and they mostly post content on the page and moderate comments. But they see tremendous benefit from this activity because their business goal is to understand and improve their reputation with customers and partners. They ask the question, “To what extent is Shell meeting customers’ energy needs in socially and environmentally responsible ways?” The key here is that this is not an effort isolated to Facebook — they measure reputation across ALL media channels so that they can see their activities impact reputation differently. Moreover, they measure this DAILY. Shell may be early in their social business journey, but they make sure that they see business impact from their efforts.

Creating Your Social Business Strategy

The focus on business goals is the key to having a coherent social business strategy, which we define as “the set of visions, goals, plans, and resources that align social media initiatives with business objectives”. That alignment and focus on business objectives forms the foundation for the strategy, no matter where the organization is on their evolution. Just 28% of respondents in our survey felt that they had a holistic approach to social media, where lines of business and business functions work together under a common vision. A mere 12% were confident they had a plan that looked beyond the next year. And, perhaps most astonishing, only half of all companies surveyed said that top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their companies’ social strategy.”

But there is hope. we found a set of best practices common across all development stages. We call these the Success Factors of a Social Business: 

  1. Define the overall business goal and align social media strategies against it.
  2. Establish the long-term vision for becoming a social business.
  3. Seek and earn key executive support and sponsorship based on the business case, not the trend.
  4. Beyond marketing and service campaigns, develop a list of prioritized initiatives that will demonstrate business value at the enterprise-level and in key functions/lines of business and plot them on a two-to-three year roadmap.
  5. Train and educate executives and employees not just how to use social media, but also how social media can impact business objectives and how to develop and run programs that do so continually.
  6. Get the right people involved at the right levels. An effective social business strategy takes a unified approach with cross-functional support. It’s a combination of social media savvy and business acumen.
  7. Invest in technology only after your vision and strategy are set. Technology and social media in general are only enablers to the overall mission and purpose you set forth.

Applying The Social Business Success Factors

From the research and from our work with clients, we have found that these success factors become especially important when the organization moves from one stage to the next. Some of the most common issues we’ve seen organizations face include:

  • Getting executives to buy into the social strategy — and fund it. Factors #1 and #2 which use business goals and a common vision to align the organization, become crucial. Sometimes this can be accomplished with a short education session, but more often, it requires that social strategy be built into the very fabric of the executive’s work and priorities. This is done only by strongly linking social activities to the 3-5 strategic goals that executives care about. If social doesn’t help the executive accomplish their mission critical goals, then it won’t ever make it on to their radar.
  • Creating a coherent strategy for social business. As crazy as it may sound, we’ve been working with clients to create three year roadmaps for their social business strategy. That’s not a typo, although it may seem impossible to do this in a fast-changing technology landscape. The key is to focus on the long-term strategic business goals of the organization and to make technology decisions ONLY after the vision and strategy are set.
  • Establishing governance. This is the perennial question, “Who owns social media?” This isn’t a simple issue determined by company size, maturity, or industry. It’s base much more on how the organization sees social playing a role in the company in the future, and creating a roadmap to bridge the reality of today to the future. One organization we worked with envisioned a multiple hub-and-spoke model with product and country teams. But to get there, they realized they needed to be temporarily centralized first, move into a basic hub-and-spoke with defined responsibilities, and a migration path for governance to pass into the spokes in a few years after training ensures that the skills and capabilities are in place.
  • Engaging and transforming the organization. This is perhaps the most challenging problem facing senior executives — they see the need to redesign and retool the organization for greater flexibility, adaptation to a changing landscape, and resilience in the face of increased competition. CEOs see social technologies as a way to harness and bring together employees, customers, and partners, but don’t have a roadmap to be able to do this.

By keeping in mind where you are in your social business evolution AND using the success factors, you’ll be able to start tackling some of these tricky issues. We’ve seen firsthand that this is not an easy journey, but it is one that you can successfully navigate. I’d love to hear how your journey is going — what stages are you in and have you encountered similar challenges? If so, how has our organization managed to move forward? Add your comments below or send me an email with details — we’re always looking for more case studies!

If you’d like to learn more about how Altimeter can help your organization move quickly and efficiently through the social business journey, please get in touch with us at sales@altimetergroup.com.

Why Most Social Strategies Fail

When I ask people what their social business strategy looks like, I usually get the following response, ”Oh yeah, we’re on Facebook.” The conversation continues apace:

- Twitter account…check.
- YouTube videos….yup.
- People who seem to know what they doing with those accounts…kinda.
- Metrics….Likes.

But that isn’t a strategy – it’s a series of tactics. Having a Facebook page is like having a telephone — it’s a tool that needs a purpose. What you DO with Facebook to meet customer expectations and attain business goals lies at the center of a coherent social business strategy.

My colleague Brian Solis and I are in the midst of conducting research on what makes a good social business strategy and a key finding is that as companies evolve their social initiatives, the efforts get disconnected from business goals. So while the company grows in its social media efforts, strategic focus, with a clear goal in mind, falls to the wayside.

This isn’t about waiting until companies have reached a stage of “maturity” before they are deemed to be successful. Rather, we found companies thriving at every stage of social strategy evolution. The key is coherence, where the business goals, executive support, social business capabilities, and the value created by both internal and external social initiatives all work together in harmony.

Here’s an example: one company we spoke with focuses most of their social efforts on developing their Facebook presence. The company rarely replies or engages with people who post on their page. On the surface, you might dismiss this company as not “getting” social media because they don’t actively engage in a two-way dialog.

But in so many ways, their strategy is far more coherent than companies that blindly engage for the sake of engagement. That’s because they are very clear about the purpose of their Facebook presence, which is to showcase the personality of the company. While they enjoy having millions of fans, the key business metric they track is reputation, which is used across all aspects of the business. On a daily basis, they ask their Facebook fans, as well as people in other channels, how they are doing on delivering their products, and if they are doing so in an environmentally sustainable way. They can then compare which channels are effective at driving their goal of improving reputation.

So how can you tell if your social business strategy is successful or failing? One way is to look across the elements of your social strategy and see if they align with each other in such a way that supports clear business goals. Are your capabilities in line with what you are trying to achieve, or have you bitten off too much and are not realizing the full potential of your efforts? Do you have the organizational governance in place to allow disparate business units to align their social efforts against a common enterprise goals, or is each line of business pulling in separate directions?

Another way to gauge where you are with your social business strategy is to take Altimeter’s Social Business Strategy Survey at http://svy.mk/QkcYRH. The aggregated results will appear in an upcoming report, and as a thank you for sharing, you’ll receive a data cut that you can use to benchmark your company against other organizations of the same size. You will receive this benchmark data after the research report is published.

The survey looks at the following topics:

  • Strategy: What are common goals and objectives? How do you measure the value of your social business efforts?
  • Organization: How are your social business efforts organized? How many people are dedicated to social business?
  • Budget: How much are you spending on external and internal social business efforts? What are you planning to spend on technologies and services in 2013?
  • Social Media Policies: What policies do you have in place? How well do employees understand those policies?

Please note that we plan to end the survey in the next week or so, so please take it as soon as possible! Also, please forward to others who may be interested or share with your social networks. Link: svy.mk/QkcYRH.

Lastly, please share why you think your social business strategy is successful — or on the flip side, what is dysfunctional about it. We’d all love to learn from your experiences!