A rippling undercurrent of chatter
With primary social channels agreed to include (at the time of writing in 2016) Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube there is always a rippling undercurrent of social chatter on the ‘other usual suspects’ that might also encompass Snapchat, Yik Yak, Instagram, Tumblr and the somewhat ‘flaky’ adoption enjoyed by Google + and perhaps Pinterest.
But social can be so much more than chatter today. Research indicates that socially empowered organisations are better prepared to take advantage of big data analytics and other digital technologies.
“When organisations digitise a process’s workflow (which happens most often with customer-facing processes), respondents say that using social tools in that same process has enabled their companies’ overall digital efforts,” according to McKinsey.
Or to put McKinsey’s clinical assessment into slightly more human terms: when a company starts to put social discussion, integration and collaboration tools into its new digital business processes, the firm’s staff base starts to work even better and customer-facing success increases, so the business makes more money.
A window into social sentiment
Firms who use social streams (of all kinds) productively today can start to engage with their user base (and their partners, supply chain and even their competitors) in a new and more vibrantly interpersonal way than ever before.
Knowing what customers are ‘expressing’ in terms of their ‘sentiment’ on social media is an invaluable way of understanding what your customer base wants, feels and thinks – and, essentially, these are elements of demand that were previously almost impossible to gauge.
Human salespeople always used to be able to talk to customers yes, but this is an example of customers talking out loud in a free and liberated way like never before. The responsibility lies with the vendor/producer firms themselves to a) listen and b) record, classify, analyse and process this information, so that it can be acted upon.
The secret to adding social value
The secret to social business is ‘adding value’. But this is very easy to say and often quite tough to do. Social broadcasting (in the sense of Twitter and LinkedIn, for example) relies upon ‘giving’ something to the audience, being entertaining, informative, sometimes amusing and engaging.
The answer here lies in not being ‘self-serving’, i.e. understanding that customers don’t just want to hear about your brand and your products and services. They want to hear about the world, life, love and happiness. Next door to this social stream you can position the information you wish to disseminate about your firm’s commercial proposition, but being socially engaging in the first instance is an imperative.
The best example of this ever might possibly be Starbucks tweeting barbecue recipes during the summer. Now, the coffee chain doesn’t sell BBQ food, sauces, buns, steak knives, hamburger relish or indeed barbecues themselves, but it has become a ‘trusted social friend’ among its user base that is capable of talking about things other than coffee and biscotti. In this way it subliminally sells more coffee paraphernalia, almost inevitably.
Companies that use social streams in this way become so-called ‘social leaders’ and stand to gain greater market share.
Social on the inside
Social technologies as a whole can also include, by some definitions at least, connected collaboration tools that are dedicated to project management. These software packages will generally also feature their own ‘chat’ channels, but will structure discussion based around a defined project scope where roles, responsibilities and goals are set to an agreed level by management.
Using the intelligent automation advantages offered by these packages in line with (and possibly dovetailed and connected to) the more mainstream notions of social platforms as outlined at the start allows firms to complete the circle and become connected, collaborative and socially active businesses.
A modern contemporary business without a website is not a modern contemporary business and the same core truism now stands for social. Use of tools internally, externally and within agreed private networks is part of our total digital transformation.
Now is the time to talk about social business, which is good, because we just have.
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Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance technology journalist with a specialist focus on the development and management of enterprise software applications and services. He has spent the last twenty years in a variety of technology-focused media roles and as such is fully conversant with the wider technology.