One of the many interesting topics of discussion we get into in our Social Business Strategy workshops is around the social ecosystem. This is the name I have given the collection of business capabilities potentially enhanced by one or more social technologies.
First let me define social technologies. Note I’m using the word “technology” quite deliberately in place of the more common term “social media” because social media is too often associated with consumer-facing technology as deployed in support of marketing. In defining the entire social ecosystem I prefer the more generic “technology”. I define social technology as “any technology that enables one-to-many communications in a public forum (or semi-public if behind a security firewall)”.
We work with a lot of different types of marketers at Forrester, and we always customize the recommendations we deliver to different clients based upon their unique situations and needs. But over the past few years there's one piece of advice I've found myself giving nearly every company I work with: "Hire a listening vendor."
I love listening platforms and the social data they create; it's a powerful source of information that, used correctly, can make marketers and their programs more effective. But not enough marketers are taking advantage of these benefits.
Develop your messaging. If you want to create messages that resonate with your audience, you need to know what they care about. Many of our past Forrester Groundswell Award winners have used private listening communities to craft their marketing messages; increasingly, we're seeing companies use data from public social media to guide their messaging as well.
Source your creative. We know that consumers trust what they hear from other consumers more than any other source of information -- why not use listening platforms to identify positive social content that can be included in campaign creative? I've even seen a UK bank, First Direct, use social sentiment data in an outdoor advertising campaign.
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).
Cloud computing continues to be hyped. By now, almost every ICT hardware, software, and services company has some form of cloud strategy — even if it’s just a cloud label on a traditional hosting offering — to ride this wave. This misleading vendor “cloud washing” and the complex diversity of the cloud market in general make cloud one of the most popular and yet most misunderstood topics today (for a comprehensive taxonomy of the cloud computing market, see this Forrester blog post).
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is the largest and most strongly growing cloud computing market; its total market size in 2011 is $21.2 billion, and this will explode to $78.4 billion by the end of 2015, according to our recently published sizing of the cloud market. But SaaS consists of many different submarkets: Historically, customer relationship management (CRM), human capital management (HCM) — in the form of “lightweight” modules like talent management rather than payroll — eProcurement, and collaboration software have the highest SaaS adoption rates, but highly integrated software applications that process the most sensitive business data, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), are the lantern-bearers of SaaS adoption today.
Forrester recently published the “State Of Retailing Online 2011: Marketing, Social, and Mobile” report in conjunction with our friends at Shop.org. It is available on Shop.org (with a subscription) now.
Some highlights include:
Understanding which marketing tactics are still leading to growth.
Examining the investment in social and the returns retailers are seeing.
Analyzing mobile and tablet adoption and strategy.
Social technology is coming into every organization whether IT wants it or not. The adoption of social technologies to support business and customer needs has been fastest outside of IT — often with IT playing catch-up and struggling to provide value. CIOs are at a crossroads where they can either choose to lead IT toward social business maturity or sit back and watch as the rest of the organization pushes ahead, leaving IT in social business obscurity. The choice is easy, but the execution is difficult. A new report — Social Business Strategy: An IT Execution Plan — suggests CIOs should assess the organization’s current social maturity and implement a plan that positions IT to successfully support a social business strategy.
Organizations are broadly categorized as social laggards, internally mature, externally mature or enterprise mature. The approach recommended for CIOs differs based on the maturity level. For example, CIOs in organizations with strong internal maturity should focus on developing a partnership with marketing in order to extend the use of social strategy out to customers and business partners.
While very few organizations are already at the enterprise maturity level, CIOs in these organizations can take an active role in developing social business strategy by supporting the creation of a social business council and dedicating staff to support social strategy.
But saying that raises the question: If the number of fans or followers you have doesn’t tell us whether you’ve succeeded as a company, then what does it tell you? And if your CEO shouldn’t be worried about the number of wall posts you’ve generated, then who should be paying attention to this number?
Since last summer, I’ve been using a structured model to help my clients focus on delivering the right social media marketing data to various stakeholders inside their organization. Social media programs throw off so much data that the key to measuring and managing your programs well is focusing each stakeholder on just the pieces of data that are relevant to helping them do their jobs. If part of your job is measuring the success of your social media marketing programs, then you need to start segmenting the stakeholder groups you’re providing that data to and tailoring the type of metrics, the volume of metrics, and the frequency of reporting you provide them.
I just got back from Lotusphere after waiting out the sixth blizzard of this "snowmaggedon" Boston winter. The venerable Notes developer and administrator conference received an injection of business relevance on Monday when Lotus GM Alistair Rennie announced IBM's Social Business strategy. The conference motto was "Get Social. Do Business." In a private conversation, Rennie called Monday "day one" for social business.
The importance of Rennie's announcement was reinforced by the IBM brand presence and by presentations from IBM senior vice president Mike Rhodin and IBM senior vice president of marketing and communications, Jon Iwata. I believe that for IBM, social business is a strategy on par with its e-business strategy in importance and transformational potential. This will be clearer to everybody once IBM's advertising and product engines get cranking.
As for us, well, we're an easy sell on the strategy's transformational potential because what IBM calls social business, we call Empowered, and we wrote a book about it. Here are some charts to help make the connections clear.
The first picture is a diagram that captures the technology dynamic of the empowered era and indicates the organizational response that will be required. In a nutshell, companies will need to respond to the demands and expectations of empowered customers by:
Empowering employees to respond to the needs of empowered customers. (This is what our book Empowered is about.)
Listening to the market conversation using social listening platforms. (That's the subject of our book, Groundswell.)
Social technology is certainly a hot topic, but for many CIOs the emergence of islands of social technology across the enterprise feels like a touch of déjà vu.
IT has been here before, having to clean up islands of automation that left organizations unable to coordinate information and react rapidly to changing market dynamics. Many organizations are already pressing ahead with multiple social media initiatives aimed at solving business or customer challenges — and that's preferable to doing nothing. But should CIOs help their organization step back and take a more strategic perspective on social technologies? By doing so, I believe CIOs can help avoid integration challenges down the road.
I'm suggesting that the more mature organizations (where social technology is well-established) should begin to refocus social technology efforts in support of a broader business strategy. At the same time, IT needs to help ensure the technologies being deployed meet the technology architecture needs of the business of today and tomorrow.
This is the subject of a recent report called "Social Business Strategy." The research takes a strategic look at how organizations are using social technologies and reinforces the suggestion that CEOs need to establish a social business council. We need to think beyond point solutions in order to maximize competitive advantage.
If you are interested in learning more about how to apply social technologies for competitive advantage check out the new Social Business Strategy workshop.
What do you think? Does your organization have a social business council? Do you see one in your future?
Customers already use social technologies to wrest power away from large corporations. Now employees are adapting social technologies in pursuit of innovations to support these empowered customers; Forrester calls these employees HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives). By designing social technologies as part of their Innovation Networks, CIOs and their IT teams help establish new Social Innovation Networks — innovation ecosystems employing social technologies to enhance HEROes' innovations. These Social Innovation Networks help drive faster, more effective innovation across the enterprise. And CIOs must rise to the challenge of nurturing and developing these networks while structuring their IT teams to fully support them.