Top Social Business Topics from Customer Dinner

While new topics continue to arise, the fundamental questions stay the same

I recently attended and helped host a wonderful vendor-sponsored dinner. There were some great guests from a variety of interesting companies. Although roles also varied, most were directly involved with social business in some way – content, community management, etc. Mostly, this was an opportunity for them to learn from one another, and for us to learn from them. Everyone had questions about specific topics, but below I captured a few in particular that came up several times (and added a few related notes). What’s particularly interesting is that, although many new and more specific questions related to social media continue to arise, the fundamental questions have remained pretty much the same.

All enterprises using social media require some form of governance. Regulated companies in particular, like FinServ, Auto, and Pharma have to contend with more stringent regulations on what they can say. Technology can help address some governance issues, but there are numerous organizational and procedural elements involved as well: Who “owns” social? How are key decisions made? How should your organization be structured for social business?
Altimeter Group has worked with many Global 1000 companies on social governance issues, and today Ed Terpening and Charlene Li published a new report on the topic (as usual, the report is freely available under creative commons).

Getting buy-in for social business investment is a bit if a chicken-and-egg problem: it’s hard to get funding when there are questions about ROI. But to prove value, you need to start somewhere. For the majority of companies, social listening is a critical starting point to demonstrate A) that customers are talking about you, whether you are involved or not and B) quick insights or trends from social media can have real impacts on messaging and content across channels, driving greater efficiency (of ad click-throughs, open rates, subscriptions, downloads, etc.)
Listening also serves as a foundation for Social Identity, and the ability to ultimately get better insights at the individual level: whether it’s for sales leads, support needs, influencer relationships, etc.

Another topic that got mentioned a few times was social influence, which is touched on in the Social Identity report. Influencers can be identified based on keywords and topics, their connections or “social graph,” and/or their audiences. They can then be engaged to reach more prospects via WOM. Formal influencer programs exist in a variety of formats, with notable examples including Walmart Moms, Fisker’s Fiskateers, Microsoft MVPs, Oracle Aces, Salesforce MVPs. Formal programs require investment for community manager(s) at least, but informal outreach can be effective as well. Increasingly, companies are tapping employees as internal advocates as well, and a number of new startups aim to help enterprises do so.

An element of governance, most companies develop workflow processes as well as, more tactically, a triage map. These include who is involved at each step of social engagement, how to deal with detractors, when legal gets involved, when PR is involved, etc. Examples of triage maps, at least, can be found online; see H&R Block’s or ARAMARK’s, for example.