4 Key Steps for Implementing Social Business

Yesterday Our Social Times hosted a webinar featuring Jon Bird (American Airlines), Richard Hughes (Broadvision) and Philip Sheldrake (Euler Partners). Our panelists began by defining social business and...

Yesterday Our Social Times hosted a webinar featuring Jon Bird (American Airlines), Richard Hughes (Broadvision) and Philip Sheldrake (Euler Partners). Our panelists began by defining social business and then provided four very practical suggestions for getting started.


To kick the webinar off, Richard Hughes presented the challenge that many enterprises are facing today: organisations have their social media presence (on Facebook, Twitter etc.), then they might have a social extranet (i.e. customer community) and, for staff, a social intranet (or Enterprise Social Network, ESN) – but these are typically seen as separate entities.

His vision of the “social business” is one in which the barriers between these entities are porous, such that information, ideas and support flows through them in both directions. See his full presentation below, and related video here.

Philip Sheldrake added his views that the biggest challenge is that most large organisations were structured to meet 20th Century priorities – in which contact with customers was limited and interaction between staff was seen as downtime, and therefore to be avoided. His view of social business is one in which we need to re-build the structure of the organisation around our customers, staff, partners and suppliers – powered by social media.

Jon Bird explained how, similar to most large organisations, American Airlines got into social media through social media monitoring, mainly for brand and reputation management. They have since developed a sophisticated social CRM process to ensure that customers are responded to via any channel, 24/7 within 15 minutes. He conceded, though, that the airline is still working on breaking down the silos between internal and external audiences.

One point of agreement between our panelists was the need for change. As Jon Bird put it “There is only one company, so customers expect to have one relationship. Businesses need to rebuild around the needs of the customer”.

In terms of how to deliver on social business, our panelists had four practical suggestions:

  1. Understand the potential benefits – In Richard Hughes’ introduction he quoted a recent McKinsey Report“Two-thirds of this potential value lies in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises.” Being aware that two thirds of the benefits of social media are hidden within greater internal efficiencies should be a significant driver for change.
  2. Have a plan – The truth is that most organisations still don’t have a plan for systematically adopting social business processes. As with anything, without clear goals and targets, the chances of success are low.
  3. Develop a culture of measurement – The largest benefit from re-structuring and using social media more effectively within the organisation will come from greater efficiency, as information and ideas flow more effectively. If you aren’t measuring business processes now, so you can benchmark against those flows, you won’t recognise the benefits.
  4. Make mistakes – The most successful social business projects have failed several times, or were borne out of major challenges – such as a catastrophic failure of communication. Organisations should expect to fail and allow time and resources to do so.

You can listen to the full recording of the webinar here.

We will be highlighting best practices in social business at Social CRM 2013 London (8-9 July) and Brussels (26-27 November) with speakers from eBay, BskyB, Mothercare and EE, along with other leading brands.

Image credit: Zyncro

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