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Social Enterprise How to Become a Social Enterprise

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By Chuck Schaeffer

Why All Businesses Should Become Social Businesses

The nonstop rise of social media has created a digital divide whereby most customers and employees are social, but most businesses are not. The days of sales prospects reaching out to vendors in order to get the information needed for purchase evaluation are behind us. Customers now complete about two-thirds of their purchase cycles online — asking social circles for their opinions and recommendations, consuming unbiased customer opinions of their vendors, reading independent product reviews and scanning customer complaints — all of which factor into the buyers decision of whether any particular vendor will make their short list. Every company’s customers are talking with and about the company far more on social networks than any communication or support channel managed by the company.

In a similar fashion, attracting the best talent to the business and retaining those staff requires a culture of communication, collaboration and transparency. Organizations that fail this social mandate are simply less appealing to the best and brightest.

Companies that wish to meet prospects, customers, recruits and employees where they gather, and better engage those constituents must themselves become more social, and to that end many are becoming social businesses for strategic reasons and benefits which include sustainable financial outcomes.

A social business is simply an enterprise that leverages social media for communication and collaboration. But even with such a simple description, becoming social is often quite difficult and prone to error for businesses.

For example, many organizations view social media as just another communication channel to broadcast marketing messages which nobody really wants to receive. Distributing unwanted content is spam, and pretty much the opposite of becoming social. Remember, social media is about advancing from push-based monologue broadcasts to two-way dialogues and conversations. If your social strategy isn’t orchestrated to generate engagement, feedback and conversation, it’s not going to work.

Business leaders also have a difficult time justifying social strategies, projects and investments with an ROI. Generally the problem is that they try to calculate an all-encompassing and overarching “social media ROI” which is extremely difficult and unwise. Instead, you're better served to determine the business processes that most benefit from social facilitation and calculate the ROI for those use cases using tight scopes and more defined boundaries. Becoming a social enterprise isn’t a big bang or watershed event, it’s a series of iterative use cases driven by people who know how to be social and apply social strategies for mutual benefits.

A Social Enterprise Framework

Once you recognize your sales prospects, customers, recruits and employees are taking to social channels, which is excluding you from the conversations, and thereby negatively impacting your business performance, it’s time to become a social business. Here’s a simple operational framework with some practical steps to become a social enterprise.

  1. First, get social with your recruits and employees. To engage recruits, consider a blog as your first move if you don’t already have one. A good blog personalizes the company, demonstrates culture, democratizes participation to anybody that’s willing to share their thoughts and renders the company more transparent to recruits – all factors that collectively impress recruits. From there, meet recruits where they gather online, be it social networks such as LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages, Google+ communities or follow them on Twitter.

    To get social with employees, consider tools that facilitate your existing business processes in a social way. Create an internal (secure) social network to communicate, collaborate, promote cross-departmental business processes and connect staff with the best information and experts in the company. There are many tools for this purpose including standalone product’s such as Microsoft Yammer, Jive, Lithium, Podio and SocialCast as well as business application-integrated solutions such as Chatter or the Oracle Social Network. When reviewing these communication tools, consider the push-based technologies that offer flexible subscription management for members, inline approval processing to decrease cycle times, APIs for tighter integration with legacy systems, external participants with granular security permissions, simple search navigation and work across the enterprise in order to prevent creating even more islands of disparate data.

  2. Then get social with prospects and customers. Consider social monitoring (aka social listening) tools to discover where your customers congregate online. Listen first, learn each group’s norms and protocols, and then engage in a way that contributes to the conversation. When contributing to social conversations about your company or products, disclose that you work for the company and don’t come across as defensive or trying to sell something.

    Append your existing CRM, ERP or MDM customer records with your customers’ social attributes so that you can leverage their social personas to find their interests, identify their personal motivations and learn what it takes to engage and delight them. Don’t just create links from the customer record to their social persona destinations, but instead integrate the customer record to filter and retrieve select social data in a way that will keep your customer record current with the right data that can be used to facilitate new information analysis or business process automation.

  3. Once you're engaged with the prior two social constituents, it’s not hard to see how to get social with your vendors and supply chain. This may or may not make sense based on your movement of materials or goods.

  4. Organizations who advance their business success with the prior social strategies may want to consider making their products social. Is there a material benefit if your products deliver operating updates, maintenance messages, performance measures, renewals or other activity updates to your customers, suppliers or other parties in a social way or over a social network? Toyota has created its Cloud Car, also known as the Toyota Friend, which uses the Chatter internal network to deliver car maintenance and other updates to its owner's dashboard, cell phone or social network. Enterasys delivers a switch which similarly forwards maintenance and performance updates to online portals. Coke machines leverage mobile geo data to interact with proximate consumers and their mobile devices over social networks. These are advanced social business examples, but each is engaging customers and delivering competitive differentiation and substantive financial benefits to the company.

When preceded with a social strategy and integrated to stakeholder interests, this social enterprise framework offers an operational perspective that can be backed with measurable objectives and progress based milestones to deliver valuable engagement with both internal and external constituents.

And becoming a social business can achieve strategic benefits for the company, including:

  • Improved brand recognition — being social allows you to influence how your brand is discussed and perceived among a very large audience, and respond quickly for events related to reputation management.
  • Increased sales — many sales pros now routinely use social listening tools to harvest new sales opportunities as well as unhappy customers of competitors who are ripe for conversion.
  • Lower marketing costs — social marketing can be extremely cost effective and yield high conversions when properly created with personal, relevant and contextual messaging.
  • Faster time to market – Focus groups are falling by the wayside in favor of crowdsourcing, social ideation and other customer polling which can be achieved with near finite customer segmentation and in a fraction of the time.
  • Improved customer affinity and retention – customers prefer their social channels over your company's networks. Delivering customer service on social networks and communicating with them on their turf is proven to improve the Customer Experience (CX), increase customer share and lower customer churn.

Customers are increasingly social, connected, informed and plugged-in 24x7 – a trend that shows no signs of abating. Companies that become social enterprises and meet customers in their preferred channels will clearly increase their customer engagement for both mutual benefits and company objectives. Companies that sit the sidelines and render social media as something for Gen Y will just as clearly lessen communications with all their customers, and lose market share to the competitors that engage and convert those customers. End

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Comments (4) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest MemphisWoman
  We’re considering a social business trial. What problems should we anticipate before diving in?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    I see many social adopters move forward with pilot projects that never seem to make it out of the pilot phase (and ultimately get cancelled as they go nowhere) or social initiatives that look like perpetual "experimentation" projects. IMHO, no business strategy or supporting technology should begin as a luke warm effort just to see what happens. More often than not, in the absence of strategy, objectives and a deliberate plan the social project is rendered a failure – mistakenly interpreting the social strategy or opportunity as the culprit instead of the half-baked deployment. Also, Gartner reported that for 2012 only 50% of Fortune 1000 companies realized a worthwhile ROI from their social media investments. The lack of success was most attributed to a lack of specific objectives according to the analyst firm. Something to consider before you move ahead.

Guest Jillian Roman
  I've gone through the process of looking at internal social network tools. If it helps anybody else, here's a list of internal social network products: Asana, Blogtronix/Sharetronix, Bloomfire,, Brainpark,, Campfire, Cisco Pulse/Quad, Clearvale, CloudSandwich, Co-op (, Communote, Cubetree (SuccessFactors),, Elgg, EurekaStreams, GetMoot, Glasscubes, Grouply,, Hashwork, HipChat, IBM Connections, Ididwork, injoos, Jive, Jointcontact, Jouzz, Lithium, MangoSpring, ManyMoon, Microsoft OfficeTalk, Microsoft Sharepoint, Microsoft Yammer, moxiesoft, Novell Vibe, Obayoo, Opzi, Oracle Oratweet, PBWorks, Podio,, Producteev, Prologue (, Qontext, Regroup, SAP StreamWork, Shoutem, Socialcast (VMWare), SocialText, Tibco Tibbr, Chatter, Rypple, Sazneo, Socialwok, Snipia,, Teambox, Trillr, Wiggio, Wizehive, Yackstar and YooLinkPro.

Guest Kevin Corniellon
  Really helpful in explaining why every business must become a social business. If you're looking for some social CRM and social business software products to achieve these types of objectives, I suggest looking at Bantam Live, InsideView, Jive, Lithium and Mzinga.



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Once you recognize your sales prospects, customers, recruits and employees are taking to social channels, which is excluding you from the conversations, and thereby negatively impacting your business performance, it’s time to become a social business.







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