I have seen business change and lived through many of its ups, downs, trials and tribulations during my career. I even wrote a book about it in 2010 (Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media in Your Organization). It was my eyewitness account of living through the chaos while working for large brands like Hewlett Packard, Yahoo and Intel as we tried to navigate social media. In the book, I pleaded the case that all businesses, large and small, must evolve into social businesses just for the sake of being social businesses.
That's where I got it wrong. I didn't continue the story.
The idea that companies that want to become a social business for the sake of "becoming a social business" doesn't make sense. Deploying enterprise collaboration tools just because it sounds cool is silly. Launching internal communities using software platforms like IBM or Jive just because your competitors are doing so is a complete waste a time, money and resources.
There has to be a strategic initiative as to why you want to change your business -- one that makes sense.
[ Want to make the cash register ring? Read Social Collaboration's Big Payoff: Increased Sales. ]
Even before my first book, I talked about the need for companies to start thinking about socializing their business. But the question I often get is "why?" Why is it important for my business to deploy internal communities, tear down silos, coordinate go-to-market plans or get my butt out of my cubicle and have a conversation with my colleagues down the hall? These are all great questions. Becoming a social business with no vision for where it's going to take you is like investing thousands of dollars building your first dream home and never moving in to enjoy it. It's a waste of time otherwise.
I look at social business strategy as an enabler. Let me explain.
Now, I am a marketing guy by trade, so many of the business challenges I help my clients with are the ones that help them improve the way they communicate externally (yes, marketing) and internally. Sometimes it's about operationalizing their content marketing strategy. Other times, it's about building processes and workflows that can help scale social media globally. And many times, it's fixing disjointed content and community management practices. I also make technology recommendations for internal collaboration, internal community building, social analytics and content publishing; again, with the end goal of improving brand communications.
In other words, in order to fix many of these challenges, you need a social business strategy that can stand the test of time and one that enables a better content strategy, smarter marketing, integrated communities and more effective customer relationships. My next book, Your Brand: The Next Media Company, is a framework on how to use social business strategies and methodologies for brand and business enablement. It's about tackling a real-world marketing problem (or better yet, an opportunity) and using a social business strategy to solve it.
So what is this real-world business problem?
It's actually pretty simple. Brands today needs to start thinking, acting and operating like a media company. And the reason why is right in plain sight.
-- There is a content surplus in the market today.
-- Consumers have an attention deficit.
-- Consumers' daily habits of content consumption are dynamic and unpredictable.
-- All consumers are influential, regardless of how big their communities are or what their Klout score is.
The key takeaway here is that the external marketplace isn't going to change, slow down and let you catch up just because you aren't ready for it. Your business is the one that has to change. In order for you to reach consumers with your value message, you need to manufacture a content organization where you are creating, curating and aggregating relevant content -- at the right time, in the right channel and to the right customer. And your brand story must be consistent everywhere.
Unfortunately, it's not like we can turn on the "media company" button and change operations and behavior overnight. It requires a change in attitude, behavior and leadership coupled with processes and governance models, as well as technology platforms that can help facilitate the transformation. This is also know as a social business strategy.