Let's face it, there are plenty of examples emerging of organizations doing great things with social technologies -- but just how many are having a measurable impact on their organization's goals?
If you think your organization is already doing great things with social technology you may be right. If you are seeing measurable results, I encourage you to nominate your organization for a Groundswell award.
What's a Groundswell award? Josh Bernoff, one of the authors of Groundswell, explains the history of the award in his blog here. Each year we review multiple nominations across various categories of social technology use; we identify the examples we believe best demonstrate the criteria for winning each award. We have categories that include internal and external uses of social technologies, and we're especially interested to see examples of strong collaboration between IT and Marketing. This is the fifth year we are running these awards (you can see past winners here and a full list of award categories below).
What is it that you think makes one tech company stand out from another? “My product is better than your product”? Not anymore. “My salespeople are better than your salespeople”? Possibly. “My channel is better than your channel”. You’re getting warmer. How about, “My marketing machine is better than your marketing machine”?
For example, 41% of customers identify “the vendor’s (not including its salespeople’s) ability to understand our business problem”, compared with only 21% who identified “the vendor’s salesperson’s ability to understand our business problem” as the most important vendor action factor when selecting a tech vendor. Marketing is clearly the difference-maker.
But cloud computing changes everything. The implications of cloud computing go far beyond its technology delivery/consumption model. It seems I get questions from tech marketers about all things cloud these days. A few examples:
“How can I use the cloud more effectively to market our solutions?” (Answer: It’s not what you read in USA Today about Facebook and Twitter. According to the results of our 2011 B2B Social Technographics® survey, discussion forums and professional social networking sites (read: not consumer social sites) outpace Facebook and Twitter ten-fold as information sources for informing businesses’ technology purchase decisions.)
Just when you were getting your mind around Social Computing, Forrester has concluded that Social Computing is a steppingstone along the path to the empowered era. At least that’s one of the findings you’ll discover in the new book Empowered, co-authored by Groundswell author Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, published today by Harvard Business Review Press.
It’s not that Social Computing has ceased to be relevant, far from it — it’s just that we are now evolving rapidly into a new era of commerce, the empowered era. A perfect storm of evolving technologies — smart mobile devices, pervasive video, cloud computing, and social technology — has kick-started this new era to empower customers and employees. Empowered is more than a claim to a new technology paradigm. In the empowered era, customers and employees are tapping into technology in new ways and learning how to deliver value (and demand service) with game-changing potential. Forrester identifies these innovative employees as HEROes: highly empowered and resourceful operatives.
From an IT perspective, CIOs are firmly in the driver's seat at one of the three corners of what Forrester defines as the HERO compact. In this role CIOs must build an empowered IT strategy to pursue business opportunities and solve business and customer problems. CIOs and the IT team can find HEROes, help HEROes, and be HEROes.
Groundswell technology comes to consumers first. At home, we get social, mobile, video, and cloud services pitched to us 24x7. Facebook, Android, iPad, Foursquare, Google, YouTube, Office Web Apps, Twitter. The list is endless and growing every single day. Empowering technologies like these will always come to consumers first. Why? Because it's a wide-open market. A single developer can build an application that changes the world from their broadband-connected bedroom.
All this technology puts tremendous power directly into the hands of your customers. Your customers often have more information than your sales team — or medical staff — does. They can also whack your brand from their smartphone, with video even, while waiting impatiently in line. They can get a recommendation from someone in their business network while listening to your pitch. Customers are empowered by information and connections. You'd better make sure you give customers better information than they can get elsewhere.
The only way to do that is to empower your employees to directly engage the needs and expectations of empowered customers. Only empowered employees can solve the problems of empowered customers.
Fortunately, your employees are not standing still. People are problem solvers. Left alone, your innovative employees (we call them HEROes — highly empowered and resourceful operatives) are building new solutions using these same groundswell technologies — and many others besides — to solve customer problems.
In fact, 37% of US information workers — employees that use computers for work — use do-it-yourself technology to get work done. Personal mobile devices. Unsanctioned Web sites like Skype or Google Docs or LinkedIn or Smartsheet.com. Unsanctioned software downloaded to a work computer.
Each year we conduct a search for the best examples of social media/social communities as part of our search for winners of the prestigious Forrester Groundswell Awards. This year we have added a new category of award aimed at internal communities designed to help management with innovation and/or collaboration across the organization — communities that empower employees.
In the fall I’ll be helping my colleague, Ted Schadler — co-author of the upcoming book Empowered — to judge the winners of the management category. So if you have a social community or social media success story please consider nominating your firm for one or more categories in this year’s awards.
On Friday, Forrester published new research on one of the most active groups of people ever seen when it comes to social participation -- buyers of technology products in the business-to-business (B2B) sector.
I teamed up with Oliver Young to write the report, "The Social Technographics of Business Buyers," based on a survey conducted online between December 2008 and January 2009; you can access the full report if you're a Forrester client, or arrange to buy it if you are not. You can also register to download the slides or hear the replay of our Webinar on the topic.