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11/9/2012
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Social Media Game Plan Equals Higher Profits

Social media savvy has become a success indicator, says Mark Fidelman, author of the new book Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness The Power of Social. Fidelman shares social tips for businesses in a BYTE Q&A.

Social media is why some companies fail and others succeed, according to author Mark Fidelman. In his new book, Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness The Power of Social, due out Nov. 15, Fidelman writes about how successful companies use social media to grow their business.

Fidelman is a Forbes contributor and CEO of Evolved Capital, Inc. BYTE asked Fidelman which businesses are using social media to their advantage, and how BYOD and consumerization of IT is changing the nature of business relationships.

BYTE: How are businesses using social?

Mark Fidelman: Most businesses have a Facebook page or Twitter account and hire a social media intern to establish an external social "presence," and they believe that implementing an intranet transforms the organization into a "collaborative" enterprise.

The reality? Far from it. With the advent of social, communications have become a two-way street. Brands like Kodak, Zagats and Netflix that don't connect successfully with their customer and employee ecosystems risk bankruptcy.

BYTE: Why did you decide to write this book?

MF: While many senior executives are feeling the stinging sense of urgency that their businesses must adopt a true social business model if they are to remain relevant, sustainable and profitable, most simply don't know how to go about it.

I wrote Socialized! to give enterprises a roadmap for capturing the full power of social inside the organization and out.

BYTE: What's the future of social? How will BYOD and consumerization of IT play a role?

MF: The future of social connects people with people and people with information -- basically, getting the right person for the right opportunity at the right time to yield the right result.

IBM is an excellent example of where we're headed. The company encourages the use of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs to support their sales, communication, marketing and recruiting efforts. While employees' social interactions are not under a microscope, the experiments in social on a massive scale have led to a set of social business conduct guidelines that govern their employees' social interactions.

The IBM Social laboratory is also using gamification and crowdsourcing principles to reduce the cost of internal projects, and they use social analytics to make recommendations as to what an organization needs do to better its financial results. IBM also uses predictive analysts to predict social interactions and how people might change. No one wants an explosive reaction; people much prefer to anticipate and negate the negative reactions while promoting the positive.

BYOD and consumerization of IT speaks to the recognition that employees are no longer chained to their desks, and they expect that every important application and social resource will be available while walking around with an iPad or smartphone. Employees want a seamless collaborative and social experience across all devices. Without the same information, tools and software on their mobile devices as they have on their desktop, people may be connected but really remain involuntarily out of touch.

BYTE: What's the most successful use case of a business that has used social for its benefit?

MF: I write about how IBM has become a social business and as a result, has grown their market more than the total value of Hewlett Packard over the last two years. How's that for a social benefit?

BYTE: What's a good strategy for going social?

MF: In the book, I make several recommendations based on interviews with 150 of the world's most successful social businesses, as well as my own experience leading social business transformation.

Here are just a few:

Connect and empower thought leaders. The public relations soapbox doesn't cut it anymore; communications are now a two-way street. I can't say enough about the importance of working with the thought leaders in your industry. Your customers don't trust your advertising as much as they do the individuals they have been following for years, so make it a priority to build a reciprocal relationship with these influencers. Once you've connected with them, you can work together to educate your target customer about the pain they are experiencing, pain that your product can solve.

Build or join an external community. Building an external community around your brand is one of the most powerful things you can do to positively impact sales, create goodwill, and generate ideas. It's also an effective feedback vehicle. Imagine a community of thousands of people discussing topics related (and sometime unrelated) to your products every day. Your community is answering support questions, helping other members with career aspirations, or just networking.

If your brand or product does not yet have enough authority to build a community around it, and if there is already a robust and thriving community where your customers are hanging out, then by all means join it. If your competitor is running it, you'll need to create a community around another subject related to your product.

Build internal online communities. To support an adaptive organization, employees need to connect, share, and expand on ideas. This is a critical part of becoming a more social, adaptive organization. Your company's employees must have the ability to share insight with each other easily and visibly. Imagine a professional football team that doesn't practice or share information about the opposing team. Indeed, imagine a football team that doesn't review its game tape. How effective would they be long term?

BYTE: What are some mistakes businesses/or employees make?

MF: The number-one mistake made by businesses and employees is the failure to recognize the age of social business has already begun.

Businesses like Netflix that continue to rely on traditional arm's-length relationships with customers and who try to dictate the relationship rather than participate in it will find it increasingly difficult to succeed. The increased use of social technologies over the past few years has forever changed the relationship between customer and brand. Now, individuals can create viral videos that reach millions, blog posts that embarrass corporations, and Facebook pages that organize citizens to oust dictators. Businesses like Netflix are significantly hurt by social media's effects because they aren't listening to their customers.

For employees, ignoring the social trend is equivalent to career suicide. Let's imagine a scenario five years from now in which two company directors are competing for the same position. The first director has years of experience but lacks any social presence either internally or externally. She was "too busy" to deal with social networking or build an internal following. The second director, although less experienced, has taken the time to build an internal following. Whenever he communicates on the organization's internal social platform, hundreds of people read and respond to his messages. Externally, he has built a huge following on Twitter and Google+. He regularly puts out content that is considered valuable to the company's customers and partners. In fact, he has attained a thought leader status in the industry. Which director do you think the company will promote?

For me, the answer is obvious. The director who has taken the time to build a community around himself will be more influential and will be able to more easily accomplish his objectives both inside and outside the organization. His large networks will wield tremendous power, collective intelligence, and the ability to influence both employees and customers. In effect, his ability to obtain a large following demonstrates his ability to be an effective leader.

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