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!

Analysis: Why Buying Yammer Makes Sense for Microsoft

Microsoft announced that it would buy Yammer for $1.2 billion, after a week of speculation that the deal was imminent. From my perspective, having researched the enterprise social networking space (see report), the acquisition is a continuation of current trends in the industry and makes a lot of sense for both MSFT and Yammer.

Yammer CEO David Sacks wrote in a blog post about the acquisition, “When most people thought social networking was for kids, we had a vision for how it could change the way we work.” When Yammer launched at TechCrunch four years ago, it won the “best in show” award from judges and it’s been on a rocket ride since then for two simple reasons — it’s free and people love using it. The result: 85% of large companies have Yammer inside their walls.

That love-driven virality is a key reason why Microsoft bought Yammer — after all, who would use the word “love” to describe Microsoft or a product like SharePoint? The fact is that Yammer and its competitors are creating new way for work to get done, that is not only effective but also — dare we say it — makes work fun. Microsoft knew that it was behind in the enterprise social networking space and could either build organically within SharePoint or acquire. I think they did the smart move by buying Yammer as it gives them not only the largest independent player, but also penetration into virtually every company that already is using its products.

The challenge going forward is how Microsoft will integrate Yammer into its Office offerings, in particular, SharePoint. Yammer already enables integration with SharePoint that inserts microblogging capabilities right into SharePoint, making the enterprise app much more social. Up to this point, the main selling points of ESNs has been that they just had to be better than SharePoint’s built-in social tools. That is no longer the case, so you’ll see other enterprise apps companies scrambling to snap up remaining players like Moxie. Here’s a graphic from my ESN report from February that shows how the world (used to) stack up in terms of players — this is a game being played by the big enterprise players now.

Fig. 7 Enterprise Social Networking Technologies Evolve From Three Scenarios

While there is concern that adding Yammer makes worse an already-confusing mix of Microsoft offerings, it’s nothing compared to the bewildering situation facing CIOs when it comes to ESN. One CIO shared with me that he faces a situation of having Salesforce’s Chatter, VMWare’s Socialcast, Yammer, and SharePoint all running within his organization. And that didn’t include rogue installations of Box and Google+.

In the end, it makes sense for each company to have one — and only one — enterprise social network in order to ensure universal access. Thus ESNs like Yammer become battlegrounds in the way that other foundational enterprise tools like email, IM, and CRM have become. In this way, Yammer makes a whole lot of sense for Microsoft, as it becomes more integrated into all of its offerings, rather than remain a standalone. Here are some examples:

  • Any organization with a SharePoint installation will now get supported integration of an ESN into their organization – and more importantly, make sure that the technology actually increases business value.
  • Any organization with Yammer but that doesn’t have SharePoint will become a lead for Microsoft.
  • Office 365 gains a huge foothold into SMBs that may have already implemented Yammer, but would never consider SharePoint. If they are already using Google Apps, integration between Office 365 and Yammer becomes a potential switching point.
  • Microsoft Dynamics has a potential answer to Salesforce Chatter.
  • Provides a counter to IBM’s Lotus Connections.
Taking all of the above into consideration, the $1.2 billion price tag begins to make sense. But the intangible brand value goes back to where this blog started — the potential that we as workers and companies will again love Microsoft. Even if that translates to just a chance for a mild “like” for Microsoft products because they enable social connections, it will have been worth it for Microsoft to acquire Yammer.

 

Beyond the IPO: Ten Implications of a Public Facebook

By Susan Etlinger, Charlene Li and Rebecca Lieb

The run-up to Facebook’s IPO reminds me a bit of a wedding: everyone’s attention is on the big day (expected to be Friday May 18), without much regard for the weeks, months and years afterward. Charlene Li, Rebecca Lieb, and I sat down to discuss some of the implications of a newly public Facebook: on shareholders, business and Facebook itself. — SE  (Cross-posted from altimetergroup.com.)

Whether or not Facebook’s IPO ends up being one of the world’s largest (this Washington Post article places it 6th, between AT&T Wireless and Kraft Foods), it will certainly earn a respectable position in the history of the public markets, a lofty spot for an eight-year-old company in a relatively unproven business.

We identified ten areas where we are watching Facebook closely, as an indication of its success in the future.  We picked these topics because they intrigue us, because they provoke discussion and, ultimately, because we believe they are the issues most central to Facebook’s future.

#1. Leadership

 In a media frenzy in which anything (such as, for example, wearing a hoodie on a road show) can spark a news cycle, it’s to be expected that Mark Zuckerberg would have kept the lowest possible profile during Facebook’s quiet period. But now during the roadshow, on the first day of trading, and afterwards, he’ll need to step out, step up and set the tone for how he will lead this company into its next major phase. Can he pull it off?

The decision Zuckerberg must make, as a CEO who’s famous for his a “go away; we’re working on it” attitude, is whether he will use this milestone as an opportunity to cultivate his newest constituency: investors. As CEO, Zuckerberg needs to be accountable to his shareholders–not to a stock price per se, but to their faith in him. We will start to see clues to this decision during the first earnings call (a trial by fire for any CEO of any newly public company).

Of course, it’s all fun and games until there is a major hit to the stock price.  We know, generally speaking, what the triggers will be: a new, poorly received product, a privacy issue, slowing user growth–the registration statement is full of examples.  When this happens, Zuckerberg will have to demonstrate a completely new level of leadership. He’s chosen his executive team wisely in that both COO Sheryl Sandberg and CFO David Ebersman are strong, respected executives who have been through this process before. And, despite his youth, Zuckerberg has learned from previous missteps like member revolts, privacy, and Beacon.  If you still wonder if Zuckerberg is ready for prime time, imagine how you’d react if a major, highly unflattering motion picture had been made about you while you were still in your twenties. The issue isn’t if he can avoid controversy, but how well he can quell the concerns of skittish investors.

#2. Innovation

 Facebook has a hacker culture; its development mantra, “done is better than perfect,” is at the root of both its growth and its biggest failures. Given the massive number of monthly active users (901 million according to the latest released numbers) the strategy has been to release product to the market and learn as it goes.

But as a public company, Facebook will need to choose whether it will continue to release products the way it has in the past or take a more cautious approach.  How will it behave when it’s not just the pundits on Twitter, but the shareholders who react?

Although they’d hate the comparison, there’s a strong role model in Google, which, even as a public company has managed to maintain its agile development strategy. Granted, there’s always the risk of a Buzz (Google) or Beacon (Facebook), but Facebook has demonstrated considerably more focus from the start than Google.  Furthermore, the company sent a strong signal in its last quarterly statement that it will continue to make investments for long-term growth, even at the cost of short-term profits. It’s setting expectations that it’s investing for the future, not just for the quarter.

#3. Brands

 Will brands buy what Facebook’s selling? Facebook is, after all, a media company, and while it has other sources of income through partnerships, brand dollars are what will ultimately make not only the IPO, but the company itself, succeed or fail. With close to a billion users, Facebook is the biggest media company that’s ever existed, in any medium, ever. Advertisers go where the eyeballs are, which is Facebook’s undisputed advantage. After that, it gets a bit trickier.

Facebook is at the vanguard of developing products that merge and conflate advertising and marketing, that blend content, conversation, paid, earned and owned media with media buys. Advertising is media buying, but those other aspects: owned media (premium brand pages) and earned media (the conversations and comments and interactions brands have with their fans, users and yes, detractors) are part and parcel of what Facebook is working to monetize. It’s still experimental. Brands are still testing the waters and are far from establishing best practices or firm models in a “brand” new environment.

#4. Data

Facebook is also in a position, thanks to its staggering user base, to possess and be able to leverage data on a scale we’ve never before seen. Likes, affinities, social graphs, recent behaviors – it’s all there, together with the basic demographic information. Again, the ability to package, parse, productize, make understandable and actionable this vast quantity of data is as formidable a challenge for Facebook as it will be for the media agencies who buy against these very new models. Facebook’s potential as a marketing data juggernaut is very real, and can potentially take advertising to new levels, if the company succeeds in making that data useful.

#5. Mobile

 Most of the coverage around mobile has been focused on Facebook’s “lousy” mobile applications. But we believe this is a red herring – the core issue revolves around the slow development of mobile advertising and marketing. The S-1 says it best in the section on risks related to advertising:

§  “…increased user access to and engagement with Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently directly generate meaningful revenue, particularly to the extent that mobile engagement is substituted for engagement with Facebook on personal computers where we monetize usage by displaying ads and other commercial content…”

But with 85% of revenue coming from advertising as of the end of 2011, the more effective Facebook is at appealing to its mobile users, the more it risks shifting revenues from the Web platform where it can monetize users, to the mobile one where it can’t — at least not immediately.  So the real question becomes how Facebook will balance creating mobile user value against driving shareholder value.

Facebook can’t risk waiting too long before moving aggressively into the mobile space, but also needs to buy time to help mobile advertising develop. Given this significant risk, the purchase of Instagram represents $1B of earnest money that Facebook is focused on the long term.  With the war chest Facebook will have accumulated post-IPO, building a great iPad app and upgrading the smartphone experience is a foregone conclusion. The bigger issue to watch is how well Facebook can develop the mobile advertising market with that experience, in a similar way that it created social media marketing.

#6. Investors

 The first earning call is always rough for a first time CEO, and Facebook will likely not be any exception. But what we are watching closely is if Facebook will develop a different kind of relationship with its shareholders. The company is, at its essence, about sharing: will a newly public Facebook use its own platform to share more information with investors?  Facebook has an unprecedented opportunity to change the way that it handles investor relations. Will it take this opportunity, or will it stick with the tried and true?  We’d love to see Facebook use its own platform as a way to engage with and provide greater transparency to its newest stakeholders: the public markets.

#7. Mergers & Acquisitions

 Thanks to Instagram, every venture-backed start-up has dreams of meeting with Facebook’s M&A team. Will Facebook focus on smaller acquisitions to acquire talent or smart ideas, or will it make major deals to really move the ball forward?

One of the more interesting areas of speculation lately is what would happen if Facebook were to buy Bing from Microsoft. With Google arguably its most formidable competitor, the addition of search would give Facebook advertisers a direct response medium they could not get before on Facebook. Google is, at its essence, a search company that has struggled with social. Facebook is a social company that needs search. A Bing acquisition would up the ante in a significant way between Facebook and Google.

Looks good on paper, but acquiring Bing would also be a huge distraction and a departure from Facebook and Zuckerberg’s legendary ability to focus on social sharing. A more likely scenario is that Facebook and Microsoft continue their long-term strategic partnership, integrating Bing deeply into the Facebook search experience.

Regardless of whether it buys Bing or another organization, few companies do the “merger” part of M&A well. We expect that Facebook will focus on smaller acquisitions that it can absorb and leverage quickly, while any large acquisitions like Instagram will be kept running separately, in much the way that Google ran YouTube as a separate entity for years. Again, a focus on the long term gives Facebook the ability to look at M&A in a very different way than traditional companies who much justify every single penny spent on a company.

#8. Culture

 Facebook is a private company in many respects (one of which is about to change dramatically), but the internal culture has always been very open. It has invested heavily to create this open culture, and it has slowly but surely been reducing the amount of information shared internally in the run-up to the IPO.

This will only increase, as the company will now be beholden to even more securities industry regulations intended to protect investors from selective disclosure. So again the balancing act, this time between employees (and openness) and shareholders (and fiduciary responsibility). Which leads us to…

#9. Talent

 Once it goes public, how will Facebook retain talent, especially top talent?  Expect to see the usual exodus as people wait to vest, then cash out (the Bay Area housing market is already bracing for impact).  But, again like Google, Facebook will retain its cachet for some time to come, and some will be motivated by the opportunity to change the world from within Facebook rather than from without. Where else can you find a platform of 900M people to try out your next great idea?

#10. Privacy

 Zuckerberg has said that increased sharing is core to Facebook’s growth. But with greater sharing also come increased pressures on and threats to user privacy.

Over the past eight years, Facebook has mastered the art of trial and error when it comes to privacy. There have been huge missteps (Beacon), significant improvements (to privacy settings) and escalating tensions as the company has continually pushed its users to share more, and more often, frequently beyond their comfort zones. The company has accumulated a great deal of resilience along the way, and has tried to balance giving people a granular degree of control (at the risk of confusing them) with offering a simplified experience (at the risk of alienating them).

The addition of Timeline, and the emergence of “passive sharing,” raise the bar yet again. A few months ago I installed the Washington Post Social Reader on my Timeline. Now I know that it involves social sharing, but one day when I was in need of a little “mental floss,” I clicked on a story about Snooki’s recent weight loss. I didn’t think anything of it until a bunch of friends and work colleagues started teasing me. There it was, along with comments: “Susan Etlinger read an article: “Snooki Finally Reaches Goal Weight of 98 Pounds – But Has She Gone Too Far?” I was, frankly, mortified. I’d forgotten I was “in public,” and I am someone who is supposed to know better.

Wherever your stance on Facebook’s privacy record, privacy will continue to be a litmus test issue for Facebook. User outrage is one thing; shareholder outrage is quite another. We will watch to see how Facebook balances continued innovation against privacy. Where will Facebook stand when and if privacy issues affect the stock price — will they pull back or forge ahead?

As always, we’d love your thoughts on these issues. What are you watching as Facebook heads into its IPO?

 

 

Report: Making The Business Case For Enterprise Social Networks

In 2011, the US hit a milestone — more than half of all adults visit social networking sites at least once a month. But when it comes to using social-networking technologies inside organizations, many business leaders are at a loss to understand what value can be created from Facebook-like status updates within the enterprise. Some organizations have deployed social-networking features with an initial enthusiastic reception, only to see these early efforts wither to just a few stalwart participants. The problem: Most companies approach enterprise social networks as a technology deployment and fail to understand that the new relationshipscreated by enterprise social networks are the source for value creation. Yesteryear, internal technology departments could force software on business units, but in today’s consumerized world, business units can adopt enterprise software, often without IT ever knowing. As a result, a new approach is required that focuses on four key ways that relationships create value through enterprise social networks:

  1. Encourage sharing.
  2. Capture knowledge.
  3. Enable action.
  4. Empower employees.

This is the first of two reports on enterprise social networks, with this one focused on how it creates value for organizations. The next report will focus on maturity models and the future of enterprise social networks.

Data HighlightsThe report also includes input from 13 technology providers, 185 end users, and surveyed 81 ESN decision makers from companies with over 250 employees (see below in Related Resources for links to the data). A few of the findings and graphics from the report are included below. There was only moderate impact on business goals. On a scale of 1 to 4, the highest impact seen – improving collaboration between departments/teams — scored only a 2.91 (see Figure 5 below).

Enterprise Social Networks Have Only Moderate Impact On Business Goals

A key reason for this is that there were few metrics used to gauge effectiveness. Most metrics were engagement-oriented in nature and not necessarily tied to business impact. For example, the top three metrics used were 1) More/faster collaboration across the company; 2) Frequency of use; and 3) Engagement across the company (% of employees using it) (see Figure 6-1 below).

Top Metrics Measure Engagement, Not Progress Against Business Goals

In fact, no organization surveyed believed they measure ESNs very well, and only 31% felt they measured ESN impact somewhat well. A quarter admitted that they didn’t measure at all! (see Figure 6-2 below).

Most Organizations Admit They Measure ESNs Poorly

Four Ways Enterprise Social Networks Drive Value
Despite the promise and potential for ESNs, they have only received moderate traction. The problem is that most ESN deployments to date have been treated as technology deployments with a focus on adoption and usage. A different way to think about this is that ESNs represent a new way to communicate and form relationships — and because of that, can bridge gaps that exist in terms of information sharing and decision-making processes. To better understand these use cases, we found that they boil down to four different types of gaps in the organization — tough problems that can’t be addressed by the current technology, process, or culture.
  1. Encourage sharing.  Remember how revolutionary email was? It fundamentally changed the way we communicated by reducing the cost/effort and collapsing the time frame and scaling it to include multiple recipients. Social represents a fundamental change, simply because, at its essence, it encourages sharing. The simple presence of a status update box on a page encourages people to share their thoughts, activities, and expertise.
  2. Capture knowledge.  Capturing the collective knowledge of an organization is a daunting task because it includes a wide range of facts, information, and skills gained through experience. Yet few people proactively sit down each day to document and capture their knowledge. ESNs provide an opportunity to do just that, by capturing glimpses of knowledge through profiles, activity streams, and interactions.
  3. Enable action.  Having an ESN in place means that operations and processes can begin to change as well. This happens when the day-to-day process changes because the ESN enables new relationships and behaviors that address a gap that prevented actions from being taken.
  4. Empower employees.  The last way ESNs drive value is that they empower and embolden people to speak up and join together, as well as gives them opportunities to contribute their skills and ideas.
Enterprise Social Network Action Plan
To be successful with your ESN, you need thus to focus on how relationships can close the gaps of information flows and decision making in your organization. To do this, you should take four steps, with your technology selection coming last, not first.

Figure 10 Enterprise Social Networking Action Plan

Related resources. In the spirit of Open Research — and to spur further discussion on the topic of enterprise social networks, we are also making available a PDF summary of all questions asked in the survey, a PowerPoint of the graphics, and the full data set. If you discover additional insights, we ask that you share back your findings with the community.

Webinar. I’ll be doing a Webinar on Thursday, February 22nd, 2012 at 10am PST on the report with Socialcast’s CEO Tim Young. More information and registration is available at http://t.co/1XI8nMkp. It will also be recorded and available for playback on Socialcast’s site.

Related blog posts:

Stay in touch. Would you like to be notified about upcoming reports or even participate in our research via surveys or interviews? Please let us know by filling out this form.

Open Research This independent research report was 100% funded by Altimeter Group. This report is published under the principle of Open Research and is intended to advance the industry at no cost. This report is intended for you to read, utilize, and share with others; if you do so, please provide attribution to Altimeter Group.

New Report: “Make An App For That: Mobile Strategies For Retailers”

When it comes to shopping, I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone. Some apps are actually helpful, letting me explore products or buy something immediate. But the vast majority of the retailer apps litter my screens, sitting unused after an initial, disappointing whirl.

My frustration is reflected in the findings of my colleague Chris Silva‘s new report, entitled “Make An App For That: Mobile Strategies For Retailers“. Of particular value is that Chris pivots the report around two major strategies retails can use when it comes to mobile:

  • Enrich: These strategies are focused on driving transactions and measured in total purchases, purchase size or frequency, and purchase-per-store metrics. The ROImodel is simple — engage mobile buyers and grow the business.
  • Engage: Engage strategies are not as transaction-centric as enrich strategies and are aimed at improving user interaction and brand affinity. Engage strategies can provide product information, post-purchase support, or help to provide a presence for retailersand brands with a fully online presence. The focus is on bringing shoppers closer to the brand to drive interaction, not just spend.

The problem is that most retailers approach mobile for mobile’s sake and miss the mark when it comes to delivering value for the mobile consumer. For example, Chris points out that Abercrombie & Fitch’s mobile app doesn’t actually show any of it’s clothing while Longhorn Restaurant’s app has a cool 3D app that lets me cook a steak — but I can’t directions to the nearest restaurant.

What’s Your Mobile App Strategy?

One of the things I love about this report is that it is jam packed with highly actionable advice. Below is an example of a decision matrix which maps our your mobile app strategy options based on type of product and your goals.

Make An App For That, Which Path To Take?

Chris lays out four types of mobile apps that retailers can build, and makes the call on when to use which by writing, “As a rule of thumb, informational applications and Buy/Ship applications are most oftendesigned to build interaction with users and engage new buyers. In some of the strategiesamong brands that have been successful, the winning ingredient in the application is theinformation source the user turns to, which builds trust and engagement with that user todevelop a “go-to” relationship. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, augmenting and, perhaps, fundamentally changing and improving the user’s buying experience can reap vastrewards for the company while solving a real user pain. Regardless of the application choice,the need for a novel tool that solves an actual user’s problem is key to driving customer use.”

Make An App For That, Maturity And Next Steps

But my favorite part is at the end, where there is 1) an assessment tool to help you determine your mobile app maturity, and 2) recommendations on what to do first, second, and next based on the findings from the maturity assessment. I’ve included the recommendation graphic here but you’ll need to link over to the report to see the assessment tool.

Want To Learn More?

Here are a few things to do:

  • Read the report. I’ve embedded it below and it’s also at http://bit.ly/zuMYZb.
  • Attend a webinar Chris is doing on the report on Friday, March 2nd at 10am PT. Here’s the link to register.
  • Follow Chris on Twitter at @802dotchris.
  • Read blog posts about the report from my Altimeter colleagues. I’ve included links to them below.
Chris Silva: New Altimeter Research: Make An App For That
Jeremiah Owyang: Hey Retailers! Refine That Mobile Marketing Strategy