Archive for the ‘Marketing for CEOs’ Category

Not So Simple Definition of Social Market Leadership

As we have gone around the country speaking on Enterprise Social Strategy, we have struck upon a simple concept that seems to resonate with senior executives; social market leadership.

On the surface, it seems simple:

  • Thought Leadership – Stepping into the vacancy in the market
  • Market Offense – demonstrating market leadership via social media
  • Brand Defense – protecting brand reputation on social media
  • Associations – creating the forum for market best practices
  • Social Influence – building relationships with key market influencers
  • Social Marketing – influencing the market’s requirements for competitive products

However, ask we dig deeper, we realize that how you measure or even how you define what you measure is critical. We have been asking industry leaders “Who is the Social Market Leader in Your Industry?”. We get a lot of “We are…” then after we ask them “how do you know?”, we get “What do you mean?”. Then when we explain what social market leadership means to us, we get “We’re not sure…”

Our definition of Social Market Leadership… defining the thought leader in the social market with influence over public social networks like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, etc, as well as, industry communities, groups, forums, blogs hosted by vendors, associations, publications, enthusiasts, etc. In some industries, we do an audit and find over 100 unique platforms excluding the blogs.

How do you define thought leadership? Are you sharing your information with others? It isn’t what you say, it is what other say about you. How frequently do they interact with your information? Do they react positively? Do they tell everyone about what you say?

How do you define influence? Do you have credibility and reach? it isn’t about reaching everyone n the market. It would be nice, but for most businesses, that isn’t realistic. The brand icons already have a well established brand reach and they are considered a market “brand name” that define a standard. For the rest of the companies, there is a trade off between reaching everyone and reaching the right market cost effectively. Influencers are really about prioritization. Do the influencers have the “mojo”? Do they have the reach AND credibility? Can we hit the top 10% of the market and get them to evangelize on our behalf.

Market Leadership is not just Branding – There are algorithmic formulas out there that try to measure brand strength over social media. But, I think true long term social market leadership is really about creating a better customer experience through better engagement and interaction. With the transparancy that social media provides, companies are more and more realizing that architecting a better, holistic experience is critical to leveraging and maintaining brand equity and market share. If your social market share doesn’t represent your market share, might that be an indication of a problem in the market. If they don’t feel the same way about your company as you advertise, does that negate your market investment? Does your cost of customer acquisition go up because you don’t have brand evangelists and satisfied customers?

How do you measure Social Market Leadership? I think that this is the reason most organizations are struggling. There are simple measures from: simple Facebook fans, twitter followers, retweets, etc. To a little more sophisticated; social mention frequency benchmarking, sentiment scoring, number of influencer relationships, online community membership. To more complicated; taxonomy ownership, multi-criteria customer satisfaction, reputation management dashboarding, social lead scoring, share of customer voice, sentiment analysis benchmarking.

For those really pushing the limits of unstructured data analytics – the tools are rapidly moving towards ability to build a comparable, multi-dimensional dashboard to measure market perception differences between public social networks, online community members, and customer satisfaction surveying. Social media give such a dimensionality into buyer behavior, we think that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of behavior analysis leveraging structured data analysis to build deeper analysis of unstructured social interactions.

No so simple an answer, but potentially worth a market.

10 Recommendations for Socially Enabling the Customer Lifecycle

We have had a lot of discussions as of late around how to socially enable the customer lifecyle. Also, begs the question “What does that mean?”

First, we are talking about how you manage customers from awareness, through interest, purchase, delivery, support, repeat, and referral. Depending upon your market, how complicated your sales process, channels, etc. this will vary to a degree, but we are talking about managing a customer from cradle to grave ( hopefully “not” grave). Companies are paying a lot of money for business intelligence systems, CRM systems, contact center, marketing and sales technologies to try and address the challenges around the heightened customer expectations.

Customers do not want the disjointed, endless closed loop frustrations of trying to manage a relationship with a company who doesn’t understand that customers choose from whom they receive “service”. This customer experience is bleeding through into marketing and sales with the ability to mass distribute customer complaints. We have all seen the blogs, tweets, viral videos, etc.

The company that can enable a sustained and coherent engaged relationship with a customer from introduction through purchase and repeat purchases will see a decline in customer churn, increase in referrals, and a decrease in the cost of customer acquisition. Bottom line is that better engagement with your customers leads to a better bottom line. The “means to an end” in this is through social media, online communities, collaboration, web 2.0, etc. type technologies that enable individuals to engage and interact online. Huge wins in terms of brand equity, customer satisfaction, and understanding of buyer behavior, beyond streamlining the service and support processes.

To that end, we spend a lot of time working with companies to design this roadmap since many are still trying to figure out how to get started, let alone walk or run. As we do a good number of presentations on what a roadmap looks like, we thought that we would share the high-level framework in the spirit of “give to get”; which is the basis of social marketing. Here is our recommendations:

  1. Find out what your market is saying. If you aren’t, you have no idea literally.
  2. Have a plan to engage with them on social networks, blogs, video, etc
  3. Build a good “fishing program” for lead generation
  4. Identify the top places, people, and discussions that your market is engaging
  5. Build relationships online as you would a good PR or business development program
  6. Build engaging content that will educate, entertain, or influence your market
  7. Build an online community for your customers, prospects,  and partners
  8. Listen to what they have to say, measure it, and respond to it
  9. Build an online community for your organization to collaborate and to engage employees
  10. Integrate your applications, corporate content, processes, and data into the community

What We Know About the Social Enterprise for 2010

As we wind down 2009, I have had a few moments to think about where we are going with this whole enterprise social media, online communities, social marketing, etc. So, here are my “true-isms” for 2010:

1. Marketing via Social Media is becoming mainstream. Most of it is ad hoc  and mediocre, but there are some notable exceptions and that list is growing. Finding less people saying “why” and more people saying “how”.

2. Innovators are starting to change the rules. When you see a market disruption, the early indicators are the ability to gain market share at low cost by disrupting the status quo. Doesn’t mean that twitter is your end all strategy, but you are finding companies that are leveraging multiple web 2.0, social, community applications to streamline the way they do business; either gaining new customers or efficiencies in servicing the ones that they have.

3. Customer Experience is becoming transparent – if your service sux or is barely mediocre, you need to be concerned. Social media is optimized better that static websites. This means the ANGRY blogger who writes a scathing review of their poor customer experience will get ranked higher than all of the money you just spent on broadcasting to the market.

4. Social Marketing is a “downhill” spend versus some alternative marketing channels that are “uphill” – Means that you get the snowball effect from a $1 spent in social marketing because you get the target audience, influencers, and search benefits. Alternatively, if you are having to spend dollars at trade shows, etc. you have to spend to counter the social marketing of your competitors, it is to a limited audience, and it is gone once you spend it.

5. Social Marketing doesn’t work if you apply a traditional marketing approach to the social networks. You cannot just message and broadcast your advertising or PR messaging on social networks and expect people to engage. The analogy is word-of-mouth marketing in the offline world. Do you hire a street team and then have them drive up and down the block with speakers blanketing the neighborhood with a speech? You laugh at the analogy, but that is exactly what many “interactive” major brands are doing online.

6. Social Media, Marketing, etc will extend from the public networks into the enterprise. We are having conversations with partners and CIOs around business intelligence, lead generation and tracking, customer experience management, enterprise application integration into internal communities, information architecture, employee engagement, organizational productivity gains, integration of external and internal communities, contact center integration, supply chain enabled applications, business process integration, corporate governance and compliance, MBOs, cross-functional alignment, ROI, etc.

7. Social Media is following the same path into the organization that the original “website” did… in the process became web applications, processes, ecommerce, etc. The original web solved a problem for people in aggregating and distributing information. Social Media solves the opposite problem in that it helps people with context and filtering.

8. The “Social Enterprise” is growing up. The last three years have seen pockets of cottage industry level “consultants”… but, everyone claimed to be a social media consultant. Saw the same thing in mid-90’s as everyone was a web consultant, but the difference by the end of the decade was that the real consultants figured out how to map back to business strategy and tie the web to business objectives, ROI, and core business issues. The real consultants figured out that they needed standardized, repeatable methodologies that were scalable across the enterprise (and enterprises) and transferable to their clients. The applications they developed focused on “big” problems and the size required sophistication and strategic understanding. 2010 will be the breakout year for many consulting organizations as they move from tactical point applications to enterprise solutions.

9. Organizations that have embraced the new collaborative economy and all of the challenges and opportunities in 2010 will face hurdles in converting to the social enterprise, but the smart ones will understand that the risks are too high. Smaller companies, non market leaders are looking for an edge or opening to exploit and grab market share or enter new markets. In a down economy, you have to leverage what you have better. The larger companies that cannot adjust can find that market share is a trailing indicator of performance (how we did) versus social media which is a leading indicator (what people think).

10. From 1989 to 1999, 62 of the top 100 companies on the Fortune 100 list changed. 62 came off and 62 new ones entered the list. If you think about it, 62 of the top, most respected market leaders got caught from behind and eclipsed in one decade with the selective use of a new technology and widespread business process reengineering. 62 of those CEOs and other executives probably said, “web?”, not going to affect our business. I wonder how many of them retired early…. I wonder how many of the top companies and executives will still be on the list in 2020…

2010: The Perfect Social Marketing Storm

So, if you believe 2010 is the year of the return, forget the “u” shaped recovery, etc. We are talking the “V” shaped RETURN.” The tsunami of pent of demand, the rise of social marketing as a recognized marketing channel, and the competitive pressures to outperform the market to validate your company’s supreme dominance will be firece. No problem, finding budget for marketing will be the least of your problems. Having to justify social marketing doesn’t seem as daunting when you have budget and sales are coming in… “Cool, where do I sign-up?” If not sure about 2010 being the roaring recovery, read further….

We know that social marketing is becoming mainstream. I think in 2o1o it will become table stakes. If you don’t have a facebook page, twitter account, and linkedin profiles; you are so 2009…. In reality, we are seeing major brands begin to increase their budgets for social marketing by a factor of 20% – 30% of budgets. One major CPC brand is dictating that a percentage of product innovation come from ideas from their community. Increasingly, we are not having conversations about “Why should I do it?”, but “How do I use it for competitive advantage?”

We know that most companies have stabilized the bleeding even though they had a mediocre year. Sales are off from their height, profitability is down, budgets are constrained, probably a layoffs/backfill hires not made/new positions not budgeted. Entering into another year of a multi-year recession means most organizations now expect that you will figure out how to do more with less and will not accept “the economy” as justification for underperforming results. The expectation is that you will figure out how to outperform the market.

However,  the real question is not whether the economy will recover with pent up demand in 2010, but what if it doesn’t? What if the recovery is a real dud?  Will the corporate boards be simpathetic to another year of mediocre performance? Will CEOs be calm with back-to-back mediocre years? The average tenure of CEOs. CMOs, and other senior executives is what? Will anyone accept the excuse that it “the economy”? Will the pressure ratchet up even more?

What if the market fundamentally is shifting towards social media and away from advertising and even search engine marketing?,What if I don’t shift our sales, markmarketing and customer management to reflect the market? What if the market slightly improves but we don’t improve with it? What if our competitors find a way to add a lot of new customers and revenue and we don’t?

 The best estimate is that it takes 3 to 6 months to establish a baseline measurement program for social marketing. That means that I need to build a program and execute within the first half of  2010 to give me time to see if it will work. That means 2010 is ALREADY HALF OVER in terms of impact.

We are not talking about setting up a twitter account and adding followers. I am talking about getting legitimate lead generation, customer retention, brand reputation, product development feedback, and team productivity using these tools. Someone tells you that you need a branded twitter account, ask “Why?” If you don’t hear a crisp answer related to a strategic initiative, then you should realize your return is probably equated to the time and cost you invested to set it up… Free Twitter Account Does Not Equal  to a Gazillian Free Leads…

Here are the Major Questions that you need to ask to determine if you need to invest in a social Marketing Strategy…

We can’t hit the marketing performance numbers? Not Necessarily. Your competitors may be slower to adopt than you.

 Can we get predictable and measurable results out of just doing tactical social media participation like having a twitter account and a facebook page? I don’t know, can you? How is it working for you now? Getting the results that you want? Seeing the strategic impact on revenues or customers?

 Can we build a social marketing strategy on our own? Sure, always a factor of core competencies, time, resources, and money. Give anyone enough time and money and resources and they usually build a plan.

Can my team execute a social marketing program effectively? Are they doing it now? We find with a little coaching, a clear plan, and training that organizations are able to drive execution to meet their business objectives.

 Can you tell me if you can tell me the 2010 social media forecast for my market? No, we would have to do a Social Market Audit to get a better idea. We can tell you …

  • If the market is adopting social media
  • How big your company’s footprint
  • How effective is your marketing messaging
  • How well are you doing against your competitors
  • How you can compete over social marketing better
  • Provide you with strategic marketing plan for executing and integrating social marketing

We find that our best partners in this are the folks who are already toe-dipping into social media. They have seen what works and what doesn’t. They recognize a sophisticated program will lead to better, more predictable results.

Self-serving? You betcha…. but also true.

The Blatantly Obvious Three Gets of Social Media

As we meet and greet in the world as evangelists for a strategic management approach to incorporating social media into business, you readily identify other folks who “get it”. They describe themselves as “get it” people and they describe others as part of the club. The other two camps can be described as the “I think I get it” folks and the “I don’t get it” translated into the I don’t get it and really don’t care.

“Get it” – Already have prior experience in social media, probably understand digital marketing, it, software, etc. They have seen the power of social networking; may or may not play with twitter, but understand that social media must mature to satisfy the other camps. They are usually early adopters or visionaries, but definitely social media evangelists. They don’t need a business case to see how this applies to their jobs and their companies. Not a generational characteristic. We see more mature senior executives who are already there with their subordinates playing catch up. The younger generation gets the social media interaction thing much easier because they have entered the business world with these tools. Their challenge is that they do not have the business experience to craft corporate strategy so they tend to be focused on the tools and tactics. ROI gets mapped at the business functional and strategy level which is hard for them to develop the business case to sell the rest of their organizations.

“Think I Get It” – Generally more mature (not necessarily older) business executives who probably would “get it” if they had the time to research and play with it. We find this to be the case with mid to senior level executives who were laid off. They gravitate to it and are becoming proficient out of necessity and the luxury of free time. The employed people in this group are savvy business people, but are buried under with management and business responsibility. Probably have personal responsibilities so playing online if they are not naturally inclined to do so is pretty difficult with their schedules. Amazing how this group activates with a really tangible business case that applies to their company and market. They already have the business acumen and the web disruption experience so it becomes a translation exercise for them to “get it.” 

“Don’t Get It” – this group has probably thought briefly about it and then moved on as they haven’t seen the relavence of social media to them; either personally or professionally. We many times see the pride in this statement. We see the “my kids are on it” or “I played with it” or “I am on Linkedin, but don’t really use it.” In truth, it is generally due to indifference versus ability to get it. However, when we present the business case for a strategic approach to social media, they intuitively see the value. The skepticism turns to intuition as they map this back to their mid-90’s web experience. They then figure out that they need a proactive plan and delegate to someone in their organization or realize that they have no one and figure they will get to it when it reaches a level of criticality that forces them to react.

As you have surmised, I am describing any new technology adoption. Social media is not some exotic, weird “kid” thing. Social media will be a business disruption due to the simple fact that it is a reflection in the change of buyer behavior. Buyers are doing research by reaching out to other buyers and market influencers because they do not want to wade through the pages and pages of junk search engine results. Much easier to find an expert and see what they say. Simple, but extremely disruptive to traditional business; marketing, sales, customer support, service delivery, billing, employee relations. All of these functional areas are being impacted with this level of transparancy.

Whether you “get it”, “think you get it”, or “Don’t get it”; you had better believe that some portion of your market and customer base already does…

Why Social Media Really Matters to Business

Now that my email is finally working, I can continue a theme that started as my big “rant” about customer service and apply it more globally to why social media matters to business. Lost at the bottom of that long post was a case example of why my hosting company did not get the impact social media was having on it market. They are the market leader in domain registration, but they were losing the war on market perception. They are opening the door for competitors.

It doesn’t really matter how many people will join a “I hate XYZ brand” facebook group. Nor does it matter that one exists. It is almost a badge of honor to have a “I hate” group. The larger point was that they did not have a group of their own. They had more employees on linkedin than their facebook group. What does that say for a leading internet company?

Additionally, I put a major “rant” post out there that was pretty brutal in the describing the poor experience. I heard nothing back. You would expect that even a counter post, or a message back on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin, or something, but the silence was deafening. That is the major point. If you realize that for all of the money that your company spends on “branding” can be balanced by the broadcast messaging from your disgruntled customers, what does that mean for marketing? It is becoming more telling that customer testimonials, good or bad, are displacing and discrediting marketing. All of that advertising dollars now go to getting back to a nuetral position, forget about creating a positive. That I think is the underlying issues with social media for business.

Additionally, couple customer messages with the employee or ex-employee messages out there. The most damaging Anti-brand sites are run by disgruntled employees or ex-employees. Not only are they pissed off, they have insider knowledge about your organization’s warts. The ex-employees have an axe to grind and they are using it.

So, what does that look like. You spend a lot of money on advertising, your website, direct marketing, search engine marketing, etc. At the same time, your prospects do a search and see all of the negative opinion of your service. Doesn’t matter if it is actually true or not, perception is reality…. if you don’t counter it, enough of it will be taken as a sign of larger problems. If you are a public company, it is even harder to counter that because of the communication restrictions. You have seen instances of short sellers creating rumors to drive stock prices down, right?

Well, how do you counter the negative noise? First, assume transparancy in your customer experience. What happens will get out. I would be looking at ways to strengthen my processes, bring my employees closer to the customer experience, and making sure that we are using the web 2.0/social media collaboration tools internally.

Second, I would make sure that I am systematic in my social marketing participation. For those companies that ban social media sites from corporate networks, you are running a race with one leg tied behind your back and are even farther behind.

The point of social media is engagement. The good companies are empowering employees to become ambassadors for the brand out on the web. They are anyway… everytime you tell someone who you work for socially or professionally, it represents the company. If the guy is a schmuck or arrogant, it reflects on the company. It is hard for business leaders to realize that it isn’t about them… companies are made up of people, cultures, and relationships.

The best companies are trying to tap into that internally and externally. What if you could take your internal employee engagement and extend that to ex-employees. There are tons of corporate alumni networks. Many of them are proud of their experience and would love to advocate on your behalf. Probably for self-interest reasons in that if the company has a good brand, it translates into better marketability to be associated with a strong brand.

Also, the best way to prevent disgruntled employees and ex-employees is to improve engagement and communication. If you lay someone off via email and cut off their system access overnight before they know themselves, then you are probably going to get the same level of respect that you give out. If they don’t have a forum for communicating their emotions regarding a layoff, they will create their own.

Additionally, a layoff or a firing is a reflection of poor management. As business leaders, we have to realize that separating an employee from a company is on us. We made a poor decision that led to this situation. It may be the right decision to separate them now, but we made a bad one before. Same with business decisions. Giving a voice to that and receiving the feedback will actually difuse the situation. Hiding behind the corporate veil only compounds that situation.

As we do research into social marketing, we are seeing a pattern emerge. Companies that engage employees and treat them with respect are the ones who are winning the war in social perception. Companies that assumes that employees will behave badly or who ignore customer complaints as annoying distractions, are getting hammered online.

If you are a large player, you have a lot more to lose. Public companies get nailed for missing forecasts when they are growing market share, they get hammered when they lose it. The average tenure of a CMO is something like 2 years. Part of it is the pressure to perform, but a lot of it is the speed of market conditions are accelerating.

You see the same in College Football Coaching. You don’t get time to have a “rebuilding” year in either case. If you are doing the traditional market development and branding model, it takes a long time to turn negative brand perception around. You don’t have it. You have to figure out how to first address the fundamentals, then perceptions, and then focus on growth.

Not spend more money on flashy marketing campaigns and larger budgets to drive more customers. Not that you will get bigger budgets in this economy. You are fighting inertia in that the more you spend against negative perception, the more desperate that you look. People are intuitively discounting marketing messaging.

There is a great deal of cynacism in the market when it comes to corporate messaging. It is perceived as self serving. That is why buyers are craving social media; it is perceived as authentic. A complaint from a customer is perceived as a natural response to a poor customer experience. It isn’t seen as self-servicing, but rather a natural response to an impotent customer service interaction. Other customers can relate to that more than they can relate to a canned advertising message…

This isn’t going away.

Enterprise Social Media and Online Community Have a Long Way to Go

I get a lot of industry articles and reports emailed to me… a lot… I think it is a reflection of the interest that is being generated around the discussions that we have on how to apply social media to business. Some of this has been documented in this blog, but much has happened so fast and furious over the last few weeks that we haven’t been able to catch up. A couple of reports that are worthy of your review as stand-alone pieces of research, but taken together validate the conversations that we are having…

1. Deloitte’s Tribalization of Business Study on Online Communities – Really good metrics on community usage. Worth noting that many of their communities are smaller which also reflects their sampling business size. Additionally, very skewed to business-to-business which also is reflective of the state of the market. An analysis of the report finds that” 60% of communities are less than 1 year old & greater than 2/3’s of the communities have less than 1,000 members.”

2. 8 ways the American information worker remains a Luddite in ComputerWorld – October 10, Eric Lai – Quotes a Forrester Research Study around corporate technology usage. “Less than 20% of information workers said they visit social networking sites for work”

Take that into context around the amount of education that we have been doing with all size organizations on how to build effective social marketing programs, you can see that the market is just really beginning. We have been doing Social Marketing Assessments for companies to give a snapshot of how they are doing comparative to the market in terms of their social media presence. Really easy to play “gotcha” with most companies as they haven’t developed formalized blogger outreach and social media participation programs. As more companies realize that this will be a critical requirement for either maintaining market share and/or finding opportunities to reach potential buyers in a low cost way, you will see more companies do outreach on social media.

From there, the next logical step will be to build their own communities into their website to continue the conversation and begin the sales process within the confines of their websites. This gives more analytics, better influence over the conversation, and the ability to drive search engine optimization. Dynamic social media content is optimized better than static content pages.

Good news/bad news is that we have a long way to go & it may be a shorter process than many people expect….

Flashback to Web’s Impact on American Business

As part of the preparation for a recent presentation, I pulled together research on the Web’s impact to the Fortune 100. Our belief is that social media will be as disruptive as the web for a number of reasons; which will each have their own posts over the next several weeks;

  • Addresses some of the challenges with search engines
  • Represents a shift from intellectual driven purchase management to a more emotional model
  • Provides contextualization for  people to organize information based upon personal lenses
  • Represents the transition from static information management to a more dynamic model (only going to accelerate)
  • Evolving to enable people to address the challenges of information overload; ie. inbox, search, communications, etc. Social media will enable people to begin to sort through the morass of information. (Yes, it is contributing to the challenges today, but the tools are emerging to assist in attacking these problems in unique ways.)

So, as part of our research, we looked at the Fortune 100 lists from each decade going back 40 years. Amazing statistics… you can see the impact the personal computer had on business and then astoundingly, how much impact the web had… Over 60% of the largest companies in the US were eclipsed in one decade… some came back to the list, but I don’t think you could minimize the disruption to American business. And yes, if you had asked the business leaders of those businesses, who had just seen the PC revolution, on how the web would impact their business, most scoffed…. “fad, not useful, don’t get it, waste of time, etc…” sound familar?

Comparison of the Fortune 100 lists from 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009

§1969 to 1979 – 15 new companies entered the Fortune 100 list
§1979 to 1989 – 29 new companies
§1989 to 1999 – 62 new companies
§1999 to 2009 – 29 new companies

What Keeps You Up At Night

Probably not the same 7lb. mini-me like I have, but I suspect that how to make more money is probably on the minds of a good number of people. With the economy still down, even those who are doing well are insecure. For some, the challenges of how to compete in the future may weigh on their minds. If you have a lot of mouths to feed, employees and dependents of employees, you don’t take your responsibilities lightly.

To that end, you may have had to do lay-offs, surely cut costs, and constrained the world-domination plans (well, at least market domination). With the glimmer of hope that the recession will end, you and your team are starting to do planning for jumping on the recovery.

You are starting to look at product releases, eyeing markets that don’t seem as competitive, possible acquisitions, and even possibly, someday… large scale hiring. As the world recovers, what is different? Sounds like the last recovery….

Yes and no. Yes, the business factors are the same, no in that social media is going to fundamentally shift your business. Much like the web did in the last decade, this will be disruptive. Not a fad, not a maybe… I am here to tell you that it is coming.

Don’t see it? Well, pull up a copy of the Fortune 50 list from the late 80’s and compare the list to the late 90’s… a lot of seat changes… Social media represents social search which is really tapping into the emotional side of buying. Don’t think emotions play into your markets? Words like TRUST, VALUE, DECISION are emotional words… the market is discounting advertising messaging and weighing referential opinions and reviews much higher that the all of the marketing messaging. They are fact checking you, asking your customers, doing their own buyer reports…

Social media is disruptive. For those who can socially-enable their business, markets, communities, products, and organizations; change will allow you to grow much faster than the competitors, for the rest if will be an uphill battle….

Institutionalizing Social Media for Large Organizations

My friend, Jeff, made the observation that social media has the ability to change the rules for the little guy. Kind of like boxing, a good small man can be a larger man, but a good man can beat a good small man. Size still matters, but skill can also still be a game changer.

Same in social media, first mover advantage does allows small players to get traction, but that does not preclude secondary major entrants from catching up. It may cost them more, but unless the new entrant creates barriers to entry that are sufficiently difficult to overcome by entrants buying their way into a market, they better have a niche or market integration strategy to adjust.

Couple this with my recent conversations about the mix between developing intuition and validating assumptions in new product development. Same set of assumptions and market dynamics, but the mix that an entrepreneurial company will balance approach to the market versus a mature player is far different. The 80:20 rules still apply, but the entrepreneurial company will focus the 80% on intuition and the mature player will focus 80% on validating assumptions.

Hence the time to market and the difference in approach between small and large players in social media. Small companies can jump on participating online. See a unfulfilled opportunity, jump on it. Mature organizations have to weigh the impact on existing operations, customers, plans, budgets, etc. May see the same opportunity, but when you are moving a small army, it isn’t as easy as “picking up the tent”.

So how does this map to social media? Mature corporations have mature planning processes. Some are good, others bad, but the reality is that large organizations weigh risk management equally as important (and some cases more) as innovation. Small company fails, you lose a few bucks and you move on. Large company fails;  they can lose a lot of customers, money, jobs, and investor’s money. Stakes are higher, you gotta make sure that you cover the bases.

Social media represents more of the innovation side of the 80:20 rule analogy above – innovation. It has the ability to be disruptive. Social search taps into the emotional side while search engines & standard search tap into the intellectual side. If I trust person A’s opinion on a topic and follow their links to find a product, that is actually an emotional decision. Yes, I intellectualized the decision, but emotionalized the “trust”.

Social marketing, evangelism, social networking, social CRM, collaboration, and all of the related terminology are really about systematizing the human interactions that have been lacking on the web. Websites were about content. Now they are about content, relationships, sharing, collaborating, and communicating. It is what we do every day offline, just moving more online. Great opportunity to fix a lot of poor customer relationships from over-automation. Think every bad call center experience that you have had; voice prompt hell, untrained customer service reps, crappy scripts, and frustration.

Now, think about that one shining example of the customer service rep who actually could figure it out and saved the day. They were bright, articulate, knowledgeable, and had a real conversation about you. In a sea of bad interactions, the human element shines through. That is the beacon on the hill for social marketing. Think agile manufacturing for “customer relationships”. My mantra these days is that you cannot have a relationship with a system and transactions don’t make relationships. Relationships are built on interactions; good ones and bad ones, but your relationship is the sum of your interactions (online and off).

Put this together and you will see that large organizations need to build the business case and the strategy for “how to move the army”. They need to institutionalize planning around social media to incorporate the impact on the organization and to validate the planning assumptions. Many already understand the innovation, but getting consensus on the direction requires some assistance in translating the social media innovative vision into call-center, product management, operations, finance, sales, and senior management strategic planning.