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.




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!