Charlene Li’s Blueprint for Becoming a Truly Social Business

Feb 18, 2014 admin

Photo Credit: Hans Watson via Flickr

What makes a business truly social? A lively twitter presence? Thousands of likes on Facebook? Pinterest? According to Charlene Li, best-selling author and founder of the Altimeter Group and Erika Brookes, Oracle’s VP of Product Strategy, a truly social business is one that has fully converged social into their company strategy and culture. It’s a company that eats, sleeps, and breaths social, where all its employees are mobilized and empowered as social marketers in their own right.

On Thursday, February 13th, Li and Brooks conducted a webinar to discuss their latest e-book “Delivering on the Promise of Social Business.”  The thrust of their conversation revolved around the importance of getting social media buy-in from all levels and all verticals of a company. It’s not enough for marketing to believe that social media is important for the company’s goals, but everyone from the CEO, CIO, Head of HR and sales team needs to believe it as well. Easier said than done, right? As with any transformation, becoming a social business takes considerable time and vision. In order to break up the process, Li shared a six-step blueprint for shifting a company’s culture towards social.

1. Listen & Plan:  Set clear expectations for what you are trying to accomplish, whom you are trying to reach and what they want to talk about.  This is the point where getting buy in from the executive suite becomes paramount. Work with executives to identify the company’s key three to five goals, and pick one or two to focus on socially. The goal: help executives see how social media can help the company accomplish its long-term strategic vision. Li advocates moving discussions about ROI and metrics up a level – think of social less as a numbers game and more about driving value through relationships and understanding how and why these relationships can help you achieve your business goals.

Also, implement monitoring systems (we like to call them “listening posts” at InkHouse) so you can better understand what is happening in your eco-system, what’s being said about you and what needs to be said moving forward. Develop content calendars to plan the kinds of stories you need to be telling in order to reach all of your different audiences – meet with different teams HR, IT, Customer Service, Sales to understand what they need to communicate, and determine what channels will best meet their needs.

2.  Presence: Step two is about staking a claim, establishing your social media channels and starting to broadcast your message. The key to this step is making sure that everything you are saying is aligned with the rest of your company’s messaging and goals.  This goes back to the importance of the planning phase. Now you can work on developing and testing the best ways to share that message through each channel.

3.  Engagement:  Start embracing dialogue. Many companies stay at the presence phase, focusing on broadcasting their messages as if their social media channels where simply digital billboards or 140 character commercials. But social media is about building relationships, and the engagement phase is about starting conversations, soliciting feedback and identifying and fostering your brand advocates. The key to successful engagement is the implementation of guidelines around how and when you engage with consumers, the media and other brands on social media.

4. Formalized:  Train all employees on how and when to use social media tools, aligning the messaging and clarifying the statement of purpose. One of the best examples of formalized social media is the now-famous “war rooms” that brands like Oreo have had for the Super Bowl and other major events. They know that they want to react in real time, and therefore have implemented a formal process for getting all the decision makers in one room to approve a piece of content immediately.

Interestingly, Li says this is the phase where most brands get stuck. Formalization means trading in some independence, and spending time clarifying the chain of command, but without a formalized system, there is no way to scale the program.

5. Integrating:  Formalization enables scaling, but scale only comes from full integration of social media throughout the company. At this phase, executives should be fully bought in to the system. They should be able to articulate the strategy, and understand how social media is helping them achieve their business goals.  Li shared an example of one (surprising!) company that made it to the integration phase in just eighteen months (the fastest she’s seen it done). Food services company Aramark decided in 2009 to use social media to drive business transformation. The vision was driven from the top down – and in eighteen months, all employees were trained in social media and enabled to manage relationships through more than 400 sites!

6. Converged:  This is the last phase on the road to social business, a phase that very few companies have come close to reaching (Li sited Zappos as a brand that comes closest). A fully social business  is one where every member of the company is trained in social media, understands WHY they need to use social tools to communicate with customers, HOW they should represent the company in social media and WHAT the company wants to accomplish is building these relationships. This unified vision is a game changer, and empowers everyone in the company to be a marketer and amplify the brand’s value.

So, there you have it, a six-step path to making your company a social business. Where do you stand now? What will it take for you to reach convergence?

Topics: InkHouse

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