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Over the last year of so, social business has matured to the point that the vast majority of organizations have some operational social media capability, ranging from the largely tactical to the highly strategic. While we recently highlighted some of the very best strategic stories in the dozens of high-impact case studies in Social Business By Design (John Wiley & Sons, 2012), the industry has not stood still. For many of us, social business has moved beyond having a few social media accounts and a social network (or two) within the firewall.
While the first five years of social business were largely dominated by discussions of how to gain meaningful levels of initial adoption, this is really not the problem any more for organizations that have made significant investments to date. Instead, they’re finding that customers and workers are indeed trying to connect with them in social channels and that getting value out of social media requires participating in the literally endless streams of conversation that ensue when companies become social businesses.
In fact, this is now the central challenge for companies that have gone beyond the initial phases of social business maturity. These days, I find that social business leaders are now grappling with this thought:
“The world is now trying to connect with us via social media. But there millions of them and only a few of us.”
While certainly, only a subset of the universe of social conversations that are happening at any given time truly impact a company, just sifting through the endless Twitter and Facebook posts to find them is a significant challenge. Never mind tracking the blogs, community forums, media sharing sites, and hundreds of other social channels, many of which are just as influential or more so than the major social networking services on a given subject.
Simply put, the problem with strategically engaging with social media today is one of scale. To get the ROI from social business that many are starting to report, it means activating a strategy that has a set of processes, supporting capabilities, and a clear set of goals, whether that is to cut costs for customer care, boost sales, or improve the company’s brand image. Yet the strategies realized in the early days of social business are often inadequate to today’s scale and scope.
As social business becomes a standard way of working for many functions inside of organizations today, there’s always the risk that newness of the discipline will hinder outcomes especially when successful approaches, best practices, and lessons learned are still fragmented in different parts of the organization. While we currently urge companies to become more holistic and better organized to proactively share information about what works (and what doesn’t), support social business ‘change champions’ at the department level with real resources, and provide formal structures to enable decentralized — yet highly aligned — action by workers, we also see a need for a playbook for something now being called engagement at scale.
Effective engagement at scale now appears to be the key capability that’s missing from most organizations’ social business efforts. Are you having difficulties handling all the questions and requests for help coming in from social media? Feeling overwhelmed at all your brand mentions and tracking your company’s influencers. Can’t identify the truly important social conversations for the company to engage in? Don’t know how to respond in a timely fashion to all the online discussions that matter to the organization? Don’t know who in the organization is best to dispatch to address important events in the social world? Then you are having challenges engaging at scale.
Fortunately, it’s become pretty clear what most companies need to do to ramp up their engagement in social media to an effective level. The list below is a good start, with an eight point set of capabilities that covers the basics. You’ll need to adapt it to the specifics of the organization of course. Applied well, it will help you cope with and harness the tremendous value inherent in having a sustained and useful connection with the world where value can be created and exchanged in a far greater manner than we could in less social channels. Also note that this framework holds true both for external social business efforts as well as internal Enterprise 2.0 ones, and some of the time the exact same tools and processes can be applied to both.
We hope this is a useful overview of what we see as the next phase of social business maturity: Engagement at scale. I’d be delighted to take your questions on this topic below in comments.
You may also find some of our other offerings useful in your efforts to lay a strong foundation to ramp up your processes and infrastructure for this signature challenge of the social media era. Please see below for additional Dachis Group resources to help you engage at scale: