I’ve been wondering lately about what it means to “win at social”. Specifically, what it means for large organizations to be successful at big social”.
Most executives and social practitioners want to be successful at social for obvious reasons - not the least of which is recouping their investment and keeping their jobs. But few people - at least in my experience - can articulate what “success” means in social across the board. At best it’s one of those “it depends" or "we know it when we see it" kinds of exercise.
So I started wondering if I could come up with a more deterministic approach. A set of observations “normalized” across large brands that anyone could check [X] Yes or [X] No for, and in the end say: if all these attributes are observed, then chances are this company is successful at being social. No matter what industry.
Here’s what I came up with (no particular order):
1. Minimal internal damage - no permanent harm was brought to the organization while evolving from a traditional to a social business. It’s a “do no harm” principle.
2. Operational velocity increased - decision making - and associated action taking - has increased at least one order of magnitude across all facets of the business. Either top-down, or horizontally.
3. Dots are connected - internal siloes may not have vanished entirely, but clear, effective and quick communication lines have been established between them via key people who “get it”. It’s what I call the “organization graph”.
4. Employees are happier - surveys and activity show that employees are happier, more engaged, trained faster, more productive, and prouder of their brand outside the office. Hiring has become quicker and more efficient.
5. No holds barred - the organization has become confident and transparent enough to feel safe admitting errors or problems both internally and externally if needed. As a matter of fact, it’s become one of their strategic communication advantages if and when used judiciously.
6. Customers are happier - albeit a feel-good Kumbaya expression “happy customer” means lowered churn in a SaaS business, and is generally indexed on loyalty metrics. Actually, defining what “happy customers” means for most industries is far from easy.
7. Product (or service) cycles shrink - social drives much faster feedback loops when done right. So the effect should be observable whether you’re producing widgets, software, or providing services. Clearly related to #2 and #3 above of course.
8. Copycat effect - successful social businesses tend to motivate and scare peers by innovating. They’re also quick to try new things. Which sometimes causes competitors to copy then poorly execute similar social initiatives.
9. Publish or perish - successful social brands produce better, more engaging content. I can’t prove this correlation, but have never seen a successful social business produce crappy content - at least not consistently. Part of the reason is that in order to know what to produce, who to produce it for, and how to deploy it, it helps to genuinely be social.
10. KISS - successful social brands have very simple and clear strategies in place. Sometimes deceivingly so. In other words, if their strategy emanates from this site, chances are it’s not very successful at social.
So there you have it folks. Ten tell-tale signs your company might just be winning at social or at least well on its way to be! :)
"LET ME TALK TO YOUR MANAGER!!" - famous last words in traditional customer service channels.
There’s no equivalent on social channels because, quite simply, customers now expect to talk directly to brands on there. So it’s not like they’ll ask you to “escalate” the issue to your social media director or department head because, well, there is no such entity behind a Twitter or Facebook service account. There’s a brand, or a brand’s customer care division, and that’s about it.
If you don’t get satisfaction, you can make more noise, get nasty, rally the troops around a cause, even make a viral video - or buy negative ad placement on Twitter - and cause all sorts of PR problems for a brand. But you still can’t “talk to the manager”.
However, that’s not exactly true. Because in fact, some brands have a social CEO and people will - believe me - hit him or her up real fast if they have unresolved issues. That was the case at Autodesk with CEO Carl Bass. It’s also true at ING and a few other big logos. “Few” being the keyword unfortunately.
That’s a shame because I think brands are more humanized by having C-level folks on social networks. There’s a sense of authentic and genuine care by doing that - it’s like the whole “family” from top to bottom is out there in the fray listening and caring about what customers have to say.
Some folks will say “Well, you can’t have a C-exec on social. Their accounts will get hacked or abused or flooded”. Nonsense. In my experience, people are fair and reasonable about hitting up Top Honchos for stupid reasons.
And if they do, it probably means the brand’s mainstream social care channels have a problem. Happy loyal customers don’t typically ask for a manager. But if they do, they should have a pathway to appeal. In turn, you get a clue.
So if you want your brand to be perceived as more “human”, and if you want to really be social - as opposed to just doing the social jig - put your top dogs on the wire. It’s only fair to you and your customers.
Interesting article lately about the brand-to-brand interaction on Twitter we saw taking place during the recent Superbowl event. I don’t see why brands wouldn’t talk to each other in social since, after all, social is supposed to “humanize” brands. And if people interact 1:1 on social channels, then why shouldn’t brands?
And like H2H interaction, some of these brand-brand exchanges will be meaningful, and others complete #fails. The only thing I have a slight issue with is this quote from Newcastle brand manager Quinn Kilbury:
"This kind of interaction with other brands is good for everyone, the consumer included, as long as brands are smart about it and have fun with it…"
Because honestly, from what I’ve seen so far, these exchanges might be amusing - at best - but I don’t see how good it’s been for customers.
What I think would be good for customers is if brands started having each others’ backs on social. We did this at Autodesk several times and called it “passing the ball”.
So if brand A sees a brand B’s customer having a problem - even on a completely unrelated channel - and brand A realizes brand B somehow missed that post, then brand A notifies brand B either in public or via back-channels.
It’s good social citizenship, it’s supportive, and it builds relationships among social teams - even in completely unrelated industries. And you know how small a world it is out there.
Not only does this benefit both brands, but more importantly, it benefits customers. Social is all about caring - caring about peers, colleagues, and customers.
So the next time you strategize about inter-brand play on social channels, remember that being funny is okay. But being a good social citizen and helping customers - even other companies’ customers - is always money in the bank. Figuratively of course :)
So stay social my friends, and most importantly, stay warm and safe if anywhere on the East Coast these days!
Things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving 2013 besides the obvious fact that I’m still breathing and walking around the planet:
- my super smart, supportive and beautiful gal for whom I moved back to NJ eight months ago and who still hasn’t thrown my ass out of the house
- the chance to celebrate this oh-so American holiday while back in this nutty homeland (although Switzerland will forever be in my heart)
- the fact that my mom’s eye operations went so fast and so well that I’m still blown away by recent progress made in cataract surgery
- the chance I have to be part of and observe a tech startup actually reach escape velocity as opposed to petering out
- the latest addition to my really tiny (but growing) watch collection because when you’re a watch nut well…there’s little hope for cure :)
- last but not least, I’m grateful for all our friends - both in the flesh and digital - who support and entertain us on a continuous basis - you know who you are.