11 Ways To Explain Social Business Benefits - InformationWeek
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Rachel Happe
Rachel Happe
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11 Ways To Explain Social Business Benefits

Consider these strategies to explain social tools to people without drowning them in social speak or meaningless jargon.

Simon Sinek's TED talk on leadership made the point that the part of our brain that controls language is not the same part of our brain that controls decision-making and emotion. This is where social business initiatives often fall down. We start throwing language at people--words like blogs, wikis, microblogging, even the term social business itself. None of those things really matter. They're tools and methods that enable us to do things that matter.

What are the things that do matter?

  • Making sure we get the most out of the resources we invest in by making them visible and available to all the people in our ecosystem that value them.
  • Making customers feel that they're valued by giving them experiences--with our products, services, support, and billing--that are seamless and easy to use.
  • Making employees feel like their contributions matter by caring enough to promote their ideas and connect them to resources.
  • Building up the comfort level and knowledge of new connections so that they proactively want to get involved with our companies.
  • Creating strong relationships by having ambassadors in more places than any one person could ever be.

Ultimately, what matters most is ensuring that everyone in our ecosystem feels valued and recognized in proportion to their contributions because that drives revenue, profitability, and happiness. A business model that promotes happiness and personal satisfaction will always win out over one that doesn't.

People unfamiliar with the tools of this new social business space almost always react poorly to initial messages that focus on the tools and how they will "revolutionize" business. They freeze in their tracks, because they don't understand the language and the technology. Often they're people with years of expertise, who are knowledgeable about their work and aren't accustomed to feeling uninformed.

It's like asking someone who has never sailed to put in the battens and hoist. They don't understand the terms and don't have the motivation to learn them because they've never sailed. Instead, it's better to ask them if they'd like to cool off, relax, and enjoy the beautiful view from the harbor.

You must motivate people in language that they understand before introducing new ways of doing business. Here are some approaches you can take to help people who are new to social tools understand them:

Social technologies and processes for internal use
Social Tool Use Case Translation Value
Blog for executives and subject matter experts Be more productive, interact with a lot more people, and repeat yourself less. Cuts duplicate effort, improves personal relationships, and provides faster action and reaction times.
Discussion board for project status updates Reduce email clutter and time lost managing it; centralize information so it's easy to find even after employees leave. Saves up to 2 hours per day per person not having to manage project-related email, and increases knowledge capture and visibility.
Wiki for review cycles Cut down on time wasted finding the current version of documents and editing the wrong versions. Provides faster feedback and ensures you're always contributing to the most current information. Cuts wasted effort.
Microblog for work updates among teams Reduce or eliminate project status meetings while staying more aware of project status. Saves up to four hours per person per week in time previously spent in meetings.
Internal social network that centralizes employee profiles and includes tags and expertise fields. More easily find subject experts in your organization. Reduces duplicate work, increases innovation, and cuts time spent looking for information.
Online chat tool that lets employees ask HR questions Lets you easily locate policies, documents, and other HR info Centralizes more of the HR team and reduces time spent looking for HR information.

Social technologies and processes for external use
Social Tool Use Case Translation Value
Customer support forums Give customers a place where they can connect, create niche support documentation, and help each other Decreases time to answers to questions, cuts number of support queries, and encourages innovative uses of products and services.
Drive word of mouth by sharing blogs, videos, podcasts, and other content on social networks Educate the market about your product by encouraging people to share content with their connections. Reduces cost of sales and customer churn because customer is educated before sale.
Engage influencers Provide those most likely to drive positive results for your company with access and value. Provides market credibility, positive market impression, and sales.
Co-innovate and crowdsource ideas Solicit and vet ideas from and assess risks with a broader audience then you could in person. Increases the percentage of successful new products and features, and reduces risks.
Use a community to extend the value of an event Reach 10 times the number of attendees by enabling participants to share and discuss event content before and after. Increases the relevance and audience for your event investment.

There are hundreds of small-use cases that could benefit from using networked communications environments. Start looking for ones that either result in a lot of lost productivity (overloaded email in-boxes, meetings, travel) or where the company spends a lot of money (support, marketing content, events, advertising, healthcare benefits, training).

You can treat social business initiatives like landscaping and use them to redesign your communications ecosystem. Or you can view them as weeding exercise and change one communications habit at a time.

Which you choose will depend on how much executive support you have, how culturally ready your company is, and how much budget is available. There are benefits and risks to both, but regardless of your approach, the more specific you are about how these tools and processes will help people do their work, the more successful you'll be.

Rachel Happe (@rhappe) is a co-founder and principal at the Community Roundtable, a peer network for social media, community, and social business leaders. You can reach her at rachel@community-roundtable.com or 617-271-4574.

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/6/2011 | 3:59:32 AM
re: 11 Ways To Explain Social Business Benefits
Rachel, great summary of explaining the value of social business tools. For any technology to be successful in an organization, explaining the business benefits and value in simple metrics and terms is key to success. In the world social business, this is more critical for better adoption and use.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/10/2011 | 1:45:17 AM
re: 11 Ways To Explain Social Business Benefits
Hi Rachel - Great post:) We also find from an internal workforce perspective, and sure it applies to external communities and social media users, that value needs to be specific to the user or group of users, by job role, project, account type, to help create a sense of urgency and embed use of social media tools within for every day work activities. Still trying to convince our senior leadership on the value of joining the round table:) Hope that day will come soon. Thanks again for the post.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/9/2011 | 8:40:44 PM
re: 11 Ways To Explain Social Business Benefits
Thank you for the insightful article. Appreciate the visual Use Case / Translation / Value perspective and its ability to frame social media subset through process and, ultimately, core purpose. As someone who interviews Simon Sinek each year for Capture Your Flag (CYF), I also think it was nice that you brought that purpose - that Why - out front in the conversation and worked your way through ending there as well. Additionally, as someone who has built a company with underlying positive psychology dynamics, I hear you on the Happiness or Fulfillment element to each endeavor.

From an Effective Communication angle, I think you do a great job laying out the elements in the social media spectrum. To take it one step further, one thing I have learned from CYF interviewee Mike Germano - co-founder and President of Carrot Creative - is the importance of carrying that communication process through a social media project cycle. Here is a link to an short interview video where Germano explains his approach to helping brands innovation with social media:


Be well. Capture Your Flag.

Erik Michielsen
Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/9/2011 | 10:17:37 AM
re: 11 Ways To Explain Social Business Benefits
Rachel, I don't think I've ever seen social media tools, their applications and their practical value explained more clearly and concisely. This post should be hung on the metaphorical refrigerators of technology decision makers at companies of all types.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
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