The imperative for companies to extend their thinking beyond social media into social business is gaining traction. The road from social media to social business is potentially long and arduous. Once the benefits of social business become clear, questions abound: What does social business mean to us specifically? Where exactly do we want to go? Where are we now?
With technology research business Altimeter, a Prophet company, we’ve defined social businesses as those that apply social technology, techniques and the insights derived from social media to a wide variety of business functions across the enterprise, impacting internal and external processes. And we use a model of six stages in the social business maturity model to help companies understand where they are on the journey and where they might go:
1. Planning: listen and learn
Many companies begin the journey in this phase, perhaps setting up initial social presence and engaging in social listening to understand where they’re currently positioned in the ecosystem. A cautious way to begin, and perhaps even to extract valuable and actionable customer insights, but without activity these benefits will be limited.
2. Presence: stake our claim
Here brands begin developing social content and social campaigns, perhaps implementing publishing processes and tools like content calendars, campaign guidelines, and social bibles. This is also where many companies will risk being distracted by the broad number of social channels available and the temptation to be in all of them, and where a strategic approach will be important to help identify the smartest moves.
3. Engagement: deepen dialogue
Another big step, this is where companies apply learning and begin to nurture the mechanisms for customers to connect. A common misstep here is mistaking the importance of helping customers engage with each other for hoping they’ll engage with the brand.
4. Formalised: organise for scale
An inflection point for many organisations, here “social” is declared a top leadership initiative and sees teams and processes formed around it. The organisation establishes a center of excellence and social infrastructure and internal social collaboration begins in earnest.
5. Strategic: becoming social
These are the kinds of companies that start to apply shared KPIs and efficiencies across silos for measurable ROI. Here a company might start correlating social advocacy with uptake in its CRM programme, for example, or be able to attribute sales to its Twitter activities. It also might understand how social media customer service directly affects its NPS.
6. Converged: business is social
These are companies who have achieved sophisticated levels of thinking and doing. They may have advanced social commerce platforms, or may be using social insights to create a unified view of customers, for example. Imagine a company that uses social technologies to connect their sales and product teams to bring customer requirements to market quicker. Or a hospital that makes its knowledge available to medical students and caregivers giving them access to a socially connected community of experts for guidance and best practice. This exalted stage of social business maturity will look different at different companies.
That final stage of maturity might seem a lofty goal, but it’s important to keep in mind that companies can find business value at any stage in the model. In fact, some may be perfectly content with the results they’re achieving at step four and look no further. As with so many digital transformation initiatives, social business needs to be seen as a journey rather than as a discrete destination.
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