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Social media is enterprise media: How business can expand with the social universe

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Implement first. Gain competitive advantage.

If you build it, they will come

 

Strategy. Tactics. Integration.

With anything new, there are always those who implement first. So it goes with social media. Some business leaders may be put off by the “social” in social media. It might be better to think of the technology as enterprise media.

Facebook’s had its difficulties, but what’s sure about social media is that several companies have realized that social media represents a strong competitive advantage. It’s not about social tactics, only. Like all communications, strategy and tactics have to align. Integration is key.

What’s happening regarding those who are using social technology?

The road to success is built one strategic brick at a time

Success. It speaks for itself. When companies that have been successful with social media are surveyed, the same findings come up again and again. Success is defined through:

  • Developing a strategy
  • Getting the C-suite to prioritize that strategy
  • Dedicating social media staff to execute social media strategy

What are marketers and communicators doing?

Marketers and communicators, by the very nature of their work, either jumped or were forced into the social space. Since they’re “in”, what are they doing?

  • 94 per cent of all businesses with a marketing department used social media as part of their marketing platform
  • Almost 60 per cent of marketers are devoting the equivalent of a full work day to social media marketing development and maintenance
  • 85 per cent think social media networks/tools will increase business development
  • 69 per cent think it will increase traffic to corporate websites
  • 65 per cent think it will improve marketplace insights

The numbers are compelling. Executives see the potential the digital universe offers to business. A new universe. Will executives invest in it?

Without investment, ideas are just loose currency rolling into a gutter of “what if”. But when businesses invest in the social media space?

How are companies that have already achieved “buy-in” doing?

They built it, and business came:

 When you commit, you produce a hit

Without a doubt, strategy’s important.

Are you developing a strategy? Do you have one? Is senior management on board?

How’s it going for the businesses that had the courage and foresight to invest in a social future?

Research indicates social enterprise initiatives add value to the bottom line:

  • 77 per cent of people with 3 or more years of experience commit more than 6 hours weekly to social media marketing

Of those:

  • 72 per cent  saw new partnerships — most of it B2B
  • 78 per cent gained leads from social media marketing
  • 75 per cent improved search engine rankings

Light through the threshold:

Opportunity

Since marketing and communications executives expect social enterprise to grow, the opportunity is in early integration.

  • Only 30 per cent of businesses are getting help with some part of their social media marketing

Only 30 per cent.

  • Seven out of ten businesses are ripe for individuals, internal or external, or an organization able to help businesses as they become increasingly social enterprises

Companies that realize social enterprise is here to stay, and:

  • Develop strategy
  • Prioritize that strategy

and then,

  • Execute that strategy

… are going to be ahead.

Executives see the potential. Highly entrepreneurial firms that move quickly to seek competitive advantage will:

  • Gain a foothold in an area of marketing and corporate communications that is bound to develop partnerships/relationships in the future
  • Partnerships/relationships lead to business development

and

  • Better communication
  • Better communication leads to change throughout organizations

It’s this organizational change that will reveal increasing opportunities.

Some of these opportunities may not have even been born in the collective imagination yet.

But they will be. 

I’ll be continuing posts on Social media is enterprise media: How business can expand with the social universe

Coming soon:

Social. Mobile. The future.

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Stats: 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report
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Customers continue to fuel business case for sustainability and leaders are saying they get it

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Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most sustainable:

Helping businesses compete responsibly

Managements get it

Half do, according to a recent study:

MIT found 53 per cent of managements surveyed said sustainability initiatives have helped their companies profit.

With the wind of change at their backs, leaders changed their business model.

Policy and politcal pressure

The MIT study found that legislative or political pressure also plays a big role: 34 per cent of respondents citing the law or policy initiatives as affecting their ideas about sustainability.

People want sustainability built into an organization’s thinking.  They like the idea of sustainable products.

Two of the top three reasons leaders cite as being reasons for changing their business is the value proposition that is sustainability.

The art of listening

The automotive industry and the energy and utilities sector, often criticized for not being green enough,  finished first and second in making a business case for sustainability. Both industries were over 40 per cent.

Lagging

But technology and communications and the financial services sector scored low at 27 and 21 per cent respectively. These sectors have potential. If they’re behind, there’s opportunity for smart businesses in tech, communications and financial services to take the lead where competitors are lagging.

Publics are hard to ignore

Even companies like Apple, challenged regarding their supply chain, have invested in sustainability. The creation of their solar farm in Maiden, NC, (under pressure from environmental critics?) gives the company a positive. But Apple was recently hit with another bomb regarding its supply chain. Because of the company’s enormous cash horde, critics are unsympathetic, feeling Apple could do more.

Studies show the advantage of brands differentiating themselves through sustainable thinking.

If consumers and legislators are demanding more sustainability planning from companies, and businesses that haven’t been viewed as green traditionally are committing themselves to sustainability, can other companies afford to miss out on the potential value add?

The edge in keeping consumers happy

It seems like the pressure from consumers is something thoughtful managements have foremost in their minds.

As public relations and marketing find themselves increasingly challenged by astronomical growth in channels and tools, the obvious answer points to embracing sustainability and CSR as a strategy: Managements themselves say sustainability adds value.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most sustainable.

If everyone’s thinking the same thing, give me a contrarian

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We need to learn how to listen to the contrarians. The ones who don’t feel it.

They won’t always be right. But they will help challenge beliefs we see as self-evident.

No as affirmation

People who challenge us to challenge our own beliefs are worth their weight in gold.

Sadly, contrarians are often labelled as “difficult” or “disruptive” — just like creative kids in school. They don’t swim with the majority.  This is their strength.

We all have biases.

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s largely the contrarians who force you to analyze the greatest dangers to a popular idea, company or product. Part of leadership is having the confidence to listen. Listening is too often the forgotten communication skill.

Whether dialogue begins as scribbled notes on paper or a conversation in a cafe — dialogue is communication. Communication is at the heart of all innovation.

Diverse communication, voices with differing opinions, offers the best framework for generating/evaluating new ideas and alerting an organization to:

  • Illusions of invulnerability
  • A pervasive belief in the moral goodness/rightness of the group or the group’s ideas
  • An often self-imposed inability to think critically

Sometimes no is the no we should’ve said yes to

Rarely is the short-term gain of a less-than-honest tactic effective in the long-term. Flouting best practices can work for awhile, but, ultimately, less-than-best practices will fail.

When the consumer sees what she deems to be corruption, poor customer service, bad labour practices or other corporate failings, she tends to react. She exercises the freedom she has:

Choice.

Maybe not immediately but eventually.

Social media, highly mobile, has amplified the ability to react with great impact.

When a company, product or idea reaches a certain mass, it becomes its own worst enemy. Some stakeholders can become inculcated. Perhaps this is one of the most vital times to challenge biases, beliefs and assumptions.

Momentum carries forward, but eventually reality strikes like the force of gravity. In crisis, leadership may exert more control and listen less. Can success cause a similar phenomenon?

A company, product or idea has hit (or is very close to hitting) its zenith at the point of maximum group think. It’s different this time is the tolling of a bell. The point of critical mass often exerts itself in a mania, and depends on people thinking the same and buying the same products or consuming the same products or beliefs.

Success breeds failure: Failure breeds success

There’s an irony in that success can breed failure.

Often, the ones we should’ve listened to go unheard.

Eventually, you’re expending most of your energy trying to convince consumers that your product or ideas are still the best or the coolest rather than coming up with the products or ideas that truly are the best or the coolest.

Maybe you forget to develop the relationships that fulfill the need that needs fulfilling.

In all creative thinking, the really new looks ugly at first. It’s threatening. And it threatens the adherents of the current popular idea, product or company most.

Do we just want our lives to be easy? Do we resist being pushed to think? None of us think so.

If the majority of people are consuming the same product or idea, are they thinking differently or thinking the same? And what will this lead to?

A complicated question.

Rare is the product or idea that is perpetual. Our digitized world has shrunk space and time. We are accelerating. Even the speed of light no longer seems beyond us.

The challenge of challengers

Challengers are generating ideas, products and services. Forming relationships. They’re innovating. Somewhere amongst those challengers is the next monster product or idea, waiting to be born.

Partnerships create value. Considering biases is part of the value partnerships create.

Think or be out-thought.

We need to continue to listen to those who criticize the present – not because they are difficult, but for the potential to see the unseen, to hear the unheard. We need to listen to those who are looking toward the future rather than fixating on the present, or worse, the past.

Will we?

Killing creativity: Is everyone thinking the same thing?

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What kills creativity?

Group think.

Patton said:

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

The leaden wings of group think

What is it about human nature that makes us want to be the same?

The first thing we do when a company, product, or idea becomes popular is jump on the bandwagon. Everyone has to have the same product. Some will stand in line. This is, of course, very profitable for any company selling that same product or idea.

Many companies thrive by creating this “need” we didn’t know we “needed”. But often the “need” we didn’t know we “needed” was actually an extension of something we do need everyday. For example, tools for communication.

How often have we reinvented pen and paper? The tools change, but the end result is the ability to create, to communicate.

Success, right? Success can be when the problem starts.

Think about the future!

While we can learn a lot from past successes, we can learn from manias also. Facebook’s IPO is a case in point. (It was valued at 100 times earnings!) It’s easier, in retrospect, to wonder how an IPO is worth 100 hundred times current earnings. It’s easier to look at a stock chart and say, yeah, it was overvalued after a big decline.

No wonder IPOs so seldom live up to the hype.

It’s easier to look at a product everybody had, and announce that the market had been saturated, after saturation.

It’s hard to do the same thing early. You have to go against opinion. You might be ridiculed. You might be ostracized.

Some of these voices demanding you conform will be shrill.

They might even tell you that if you stop thinking, you’ll start thinking.

But it’s diversity in thinking that truly creates.

And relationships don’t need to be adversarial. They can be focused on growth. For all parties. But that doesn’t mean you have to agree.

We fear creativity and often reject it.

But nobody will admit to it.

It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon of a current winner.  It’s much harder to pick the next winner.

It’s easy to pick a winner due to sheer momentum. Momentum will carry you forward for awhile. This is true whether you’re talking about a stock, a company or a product.

But in assessing now and moving into tomorrow, consider:

  • The rapidity of change in an environment or sector
  • The difficulty of maintaining leadership if you are one of the leaders
  • Increasing competition
  • Increasing negative feedback from consumers or users

The listening tree

Creative thinking demands the discussion of threats as much as it does strengths or opportunities. Rather than being ridiculed, people presenting reasons they think a company, product or idea won’t maintain its momentum are often the best opportunity to understand how to improve a product, service or idea.

And then, of course, there’s listening to your customers. Strategic listening is an art in itself.

Rather than plucking the last fruit from the tree, we need to grow new fruit.

We need seeds — and to plant new trees.

Related:

Collectivism and size drive unethical behaviour: The diffusion problem

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