This post is inspired by someone I met the other week who was seeking a role with @iGo2. We would have hired this person if we had an opening and will as soon as we do.

The reason they wanted out from their current role at a well known agency around town was that the agency was giving clients poor advice and was not working strategically with clients. The person felt that the agency would take any task in social for the client; whether it was a good idea or not. And they could see that sooner or later the lack of a social business strategy was going to damage the relationship with the client.

The person came to us because they were aware of some of the work we are doing and our insistence on making a strategic approach the heart  of being a successful social business. And the conversation got me thinking about what we see as the sure signs in an organisation that they have not grasped the broader implications of being a social business.

Here are five warning signs:

  1. Community management is completely outsourced to an agency;
  2. No linkage to your business goals / objectives;
  3. No social metrics beyond fans, followers and friends;
  4. You are not monitoring more than brand mentions;
  5. Social is a word connected only with those outside your organisation.

1. Community management is completely outsourced to an agency

Now, I understand you are busy. So outsourcing the set up of your social presence – check. Outsourcing the monitoring and the intelligence – yip, probably more cost effective than doing it in house; plus good insights across the data – and advice – can assist the business. Having an agency manage your ‘community’ by posting on your behalf?

What, you are too busy to communicate with your customers, prospects, members, followers, supporters, employee’s?

Run that by me again – as an executive of a company communication should be your number one priority. And we can tell – the stilted posts, twice a day, done to a schedule and a calendar agreed a month ahead. If someone actually asks a question, there is a yawning gap whilst the agency checks with the company as to the correct answer. No engagement, no spontaneity, no passion, no YOU.

If you do this you are not a social business and the agency that recommends or offers this to you – you should think seriously about the advice you are paying for!

2. No linkage to your business goals / objectives

The use of social media should be bound to an organisations goals and objectives – just like any other initiative. What are you trying to achieve – increased brand health, improved customer engagement, revenue growth, increased marketing effectiveness, operational efficiency or greater product innovation? Or likely, a combination of two or more of these objectives.

If you cannot link your social initiatives and programs to one or more business goals then it’s a sure sign you don’t have an effective social business strategy. And at best, you will remain a social brand rather than becoming a social business. For example, we are a relatively young and small company. Our primary goals are revenue growth and increased marketing effectiveness. Our strategy to get to these goals is to only focus on doing three things as a business – social strategy consulting, social business intelligence offerings and social platforms. And everything we do in social is designed to grow revenue or improve marketing effectiveness in one of these key offerings.

Think about the things you need to achieve in your business – leverage your network more effectively, deliver good customer service, get your clients published and generate qualified leads your sales team could work on. These are the more effective links and measures (see point #3 below) of success.

And even better, how about focusing on outcomes that “friends and followers” want, need or desire as a business objective? Businesses often come across as self serving when it comes to using social media – how about “simply serving” as Jay Deragon would say.

The development of metrics to measure the return on the use of social media, in support of business outcomes, is not something particularly mysterious, although it still generates enormous debate and  emotion. Olivier Blanchard calls this out and makes the point that understanding social media as one component of activity supporting the KPIs of a broader business strategy or activity is the key to measurement.

If you can’t make an immediate connection from your social initiatives to your strategy and business goals then you are not yet a social business.

3. No social metrics beyond fans, followers and friends

Don’t misunderstand me – these are valid metrics, but they are not enough. As Jeremiah Owyang said recently Number of Fans and Followers is NOT a Business Metric – What You Do With Them Is, which links out point #2 above with this point #3.

Here we enter the realm of ‘So What’ and ‘Who Cares’.

We had an organisation come to us with a request for proposal. They wanted a proposal to get to 10,000 Facebook fans as quickly as possible. They already had two proposals from agencies and wondered if we would also like to propose. We asked why on earth you would focus a proposal on a meaningless metric like this – why did they want them in Facebook and what would they do with them once they had them? They replied that some of their competitors had this many fans. We politely replied that we did not wish to propose to their business requirement.

We have also had occasion to have a client tell us; very strongly, that they have more than 500,000 fans on a particular facebook page. And we said – so what? Which is an interesting conversation stopper, let me tell you. We explained that we would rather have 10,000 really engaged fans on a community platform collaborating on a specific goal and why that would provide them a better business result.

Here at iGo2 we all come out of operational roles – sales, development, operations, presales and understand the value and need to have linkage of all investments to true business metrics. If you are going to invest in social (generally at the cost of investing elsewhere) then it better be measurable in business terms.

For example, according to the Chief Marketing Officer Council in “The Variance in the Social Brand Experience”, their latest 2011 report:

Social consumers indicate they are looking for exclusive experiences, savings, and perks from the brands they like. But marketers still believe that content and connection to peers are the primary drivers to likes and follows.

The social business has moved beyond “likes and follows”, and in fact beyond the “social brand”, to business KPIs and business linkages.

Yes, it’s ok to have non financial metrics (improved sentiment for one) but you have to be able to answer the ‘So what’ and ‘Who Cares’. If not, you are not yet a social business.

4. You are not monitoring more than brand mentions

We will assume you understand the importance of monitoring (listening). But it’s a long way from social media monitoring to social business intelligence. And social businesses don’t just monitor. And they don’t just monitor for mentions of their brand and then put some artificial ‘value’ on it – for example “this is how much it would have cost you if this was advertising space“!?

What? Don’t start me on this one – you wouldn’t pay for most of this copy anyway so why kid yourself.

In our own analysis work for clients we find that around 80% of mentions that interest you never contain your brand name.

If you wish to apply social business intelligence, you have to work at it, for example:

  • You must track key terms that are of interest to people who may need your products or services;
  • You must continually refine this;
  • You must track competitors; and,
  • Key partners if they are a large part of your value chain; and,
  • Key customers: and,
  • Location data if you are a brick and mortar retailer; and,
  • Then sift through the data, piece by piece:
    • Correcting sentiment;
    • Adding tags; and,
    • Refining searches in the context of your region/country/language/culture/market/segment;
  • Continually!

And then you look for the gold by seeking trends, opportunities to engage, subtle shifts in channels.

This is what social businesses do. Social brands just focus on brand mentions and sentiment.

5. Social is a word connected only with those outside your organisation

If your organisation is only focused on how to utilise social to connect with customers, markets, prospects and partners and not with employees – then it’s not a social business. If it is not equally focused on how to make internal processes more collaborative; if it is not seeking to unlock productivity internally through social initiatives then it’s not a social business.

See for example our recent post 360 Social Business Engagement Consumer AND Employee

And if the organisation blocks your access to social networks at work – what do you think – is it a social business? Do you feel trusted? Empowered? Included?

Many others have said it better than me, but you can’t be an effective social brand and engage with your customers in today’s world if you do not have an equal focus on becoming a social enterprise internally. It shows, in the great gaping holes in the process or the communications when a response is required and it has to go into the organisation – which is acting in the same old ways.

You need to enable what Jay Deragon calls the Voice of the System: “The voice of the system is the people who work within the system and expressing how well the system enables them to serve the customer“. He adds,

If people within the company cannot speak to the issues that constrain their ability to serve the end customers then management cannot hear what needs to improve. If you’re not listening then how can you hear the issues of critical importance to the people? …If your system is designed to not enable voices to speak the truth how do you really know what is going on?

Every organisation that we know who is on the journey to becoming a social business is equally focused on their employees and their internal process, and the “voice of the system”, as much as their customer-facing ones.

Summary

An organisation on the positive journey to becoming a social business will be addressing the following positive issues:

  1. Ensuring that community engagement is an internal activity;
  2. Creating linkages from social media activities to their business goals / objectives;
  3. Measuring or at least establishing social metrics beyond fans, followers and friends;
  4. Monitoring more than brand mentions;
  5. Connected through social with those inside their organisation.

What about you? What do you think are sure signs you are not a social business?