The editors of The BrainYard picked companies large and small that are exploring the potential of a unified social business strategy.
What makes a social business leader? While more and more organizations are recognizing the value of integrating social products and practices, many are still only dipping their toes into social waters -- if they are in the water at all. But there are organizations that have not only dived in but are swimming like Michael Phelps.
We set out to identify businesses and business leaders who are making the most productive use of social strategies and could articulate return seen on the integration of all things social.
In September, we put out a call for nominations. Were we inundated with credible success stories? Not quite. Many organizations put forth as leaders are just scratching the surface of what social networking and social software can do. We filtered out a few likely suspects: IBM, for example, is widely recognized as a leader in setting social media policies for employee use of social media and creating systems to support social networking within the corporation. But because IBM is also a major social software vendor, we thought it more useful to see how well its customers (and those of its competitors) are mastering social business. We also inserted a few nominations of our own.
After originally looking for a top 10, we settled on seven social business leaders:
Laping is actually as much a business leader as a CIO, holding the additional title of Senior Vice President of Business Transformation, and he attracted our notice for the way he is using social collaboration to drive business transformation.
Cemex impressed us with the global reach of its enterprise social network.
These are social businesses of all types and sizes, and they impressed us in different ways. For example, Red Robin seemed to be out ahead in terms of integrating social technology with its day-to-day operations. On the other hand, Ford is still honing its social business strategy and evaluating technology choices (like whether to stick with Yammer for enterprise social networking) -- but even so its social initiatives operate on a very large scale.
On the following pages, we will introduce you to these stories and the people behind them. You also can read our related story on 7 Lessons In Social Business as it appeared in InformationWeek.
When Red Robin introduced a new Tavern Burger product line in April, social collaboration technology Yammer proved to be an important part of refining the product and its delivery.
Using store manager discussions on the enterprise social network, internally branded Yummer, Red Robin was able to refine the recipes and the operational processes in the restaurants in about four weeks -- a process Laping estimates would have taken six to 18 months in the past. Without it, operations leaders would have been "scratching their heads" wondering why the product wasn't performing as expected, he said.
"Social is the biggest tool in our toolbox around effecting change in our organization," Laping said. In adopting Yammer, "part of the argument I made was 'I need this tool, my team needs this tool. I need a tool that will let me get out a message and get feedback immediately if assumptions aren't playing out right and we need to make modifications.'"
Cemex launched its enterprise social network, called Shift, in 2010. Shift is based on the IBM Connections social software platform -- one element of a much broader commitment to IBM, which secured a $1 billion technology and business process outsourcing deal with Cemex in July. Shift allows Cemex employees to communicate in many different languages, using Connections' translation feature, bridging what were significant gaps in employees' ability to share ideas and expertise across different countries and cultures.
Shift drew 5,000 users the first month and is now up to 25,000 members and hundreds of communities, or groups of users formed around a specific topic or project. Within these Shift communities, users share files, ideas and best practices. Cemex Innovation Director Gilberto Garcia said Shift will be opened up to some external users when the Cemex implements the newest version of IBM Connections, a rollout slated to start in January.
Scott Monty, global director of social media at Ford, is best known for his role in formulating the company's social media marketing programs and as the editor of the Social Media Marketing Blog. He is also user #1 on Ford's Yammer enterprise social network, which has grown to have about 17,000 registered users (about 10% of them active participants).
Since joining Ford in 2008, Monty has been seeking out opportunities to use social media to distinguish Ford from the competition. One milestone: when Ford introduced a redesigned edition of the Ford Explorer in 2010, it skipped the usual auto show and auto journalist briefings route in favor of a simultaneous announcements in eight cities -- and on Facebook. The Facebook campaign, created using tools from Buddy Media (now part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud), prominently featured videos about the vehicle from product managers and engineers, as well as CEO Mulally and celebrity spokesman Mike Rowe. The Explorer "reveal" campaign attracted 99 million social media impressions, became the #1 trending topic on Twitter, and the #2 search for the day on Google.
"We took that as indicator we could be successful in social at the scale we were used to in traditional media," Monty said.
IT architect Ed Krebs is part of an advanced technologies group that oversees the Yammer implementation at Ford. While Ford employees have access to lots of other collaboration tools, an enterprise social network adds a different dimension, Krebs said. "It's much more cross-organizational as a way of identifying issues and allows people who otherwise might not have been engaged to bring in new solutions."
While the Yammer network has racked up success stories, Krebs said IT is in the midst of evaluating whether it is the right long term solution. One hesitation: Yammer's lack of support for standards like OpenSocial.
Gloria Burke, director of knowledge and collaboration strategy and governance at Unisys, said social collaboration has been successful for the technology services firm partly because of role-specific education that showed employees how the system would help them in their jobs.
Unisys has adopted NewsGator Social Sites, layering the social network atop an existing SharePoint-based knowledge management initiative. Sales teams use Salesforce.com's Chatter, which makes sense because it dovetails so well with the CRM system, but they also have access to NewsGator when they need to reach out to the broader organization.
One of the things that really matters to the sales team is "market agility," Burke said, and the kind of ready access to experts provided by the social communities is paying off now that they can use a mobile device such as a tablet to get answers to customer questions. In the old days, they'd have to go back to the office, figure out who to ask, and then wait for an answer, she said. "Now they can often find out who the subject matter expert is, pose the question, and get the answer before they even leave the office. That's impressive to the client."
"We realized that social was going to be a game changer for the organization, especially after a number of large acquisitions with many employees spanning vast geographies," said TD Bank's Wendy Arnott, VP of social media and digital communications. "We basically totally buy into the idea of social business. Every part of the business will eventually use social" to do whatever it does better, she said.
That means embracing social on multiple levels, both internally and externally. After early experiments with a simple comment board, TD Bank graduated to IBM Connections, a broad and flexible social platform that for example provides wikis where branch managers solicit and organize ideas for better customer service.
Meanwhile, TD Bank has 20 social customer service representatives divided equally between Toronto and Mt. Laurel, N.J., using Radian6 (now part of the Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud) for social media monitoring and response. In addition, the bank recently introduced TD Helps, a community section of its website where customers can ask questions and get answers. TD Helps launched in June, and as of October the staff had answered more than 14,000 questions.
"Actively listening to our customers and being there to respond to them wherever they are has helped us learn how to be even more responsive," Arnott said.
McKesson sees specific gains as a result of making purposeful use of social networking technologies and measuring the impact. The pharmaceutical distributor and healthcare information technology company is using social business technology to unify support for its software products in the electronic medical record and practice management markets. McKesson's Physicians Practice Solutions had acquired several products in recent years and needed to consolidate support, services, documentation, account management, product development and product management.
McKesson is using SocialText's social intranet platform to enable communication among employees in its various channels, including those dealing directly with customers or with value added resellers and those providing policy and product content. McKesson measures the success of its social initiatives using key performance indicators. For example, since implementing social technology and practices the average speed to answer customer calls has decreased 66% and same-day resolution of customer concerns has improved by 12%, said Timothy Kelly, executive director of customer support.
Men's online fashion retailer Bonobos found that using Twitter and Facebook has led to interaction with customers with whom they have never had an email exchange or call. Once they engage on social media, however, they'll not only interact but also bring friends into product discussions.
"Turns out there are a lot of people for whom the bar to engagement is pretty low for social media," sais John Rote, VP of Bonobos customer service. "They're really happy to become excited brand advocates. You just have to meet them on their own terms -- which, for a lot of people, are Twitter and Facebook." People who interact with customer service using Facebook and Twitter also are more open to social promotions and marketing, Bonobos finds. "The more engagement we had from a service point of view, the more participation we had from a promotions and marketing point of view, and it was just this reinforcing kind of cycle where we have people come in and do referrals over social media," Rote said.
Bonobos uses online software from Desk.com (owned by Salesforce.com) to route service inquiries and customer cases to make sure they get addressed by the right people at the company, said Rote. Bonobos also created a Twitter handle for service inquiries: @bonobosninjas.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.