Social Media Week Shines a Light on Social Business

This week the digerati and the everyday netizen alike will look up for a moment from their laptops and smart phones to focus their eyes on Social Media Week, a worldwide series of interconnected events and activities about emerging trends in social and mobile media across all major industries.

The people who shape the future of our digital lives will share ideas, strategies and insights with an eye towards improving digital experiences for the people and organizations they care about most. While social media has significantly shaped how we communicate and connect in our personal lives, there’s a related trend that the most sophisticated enterprises have already begun to embrace: social business. Engaging in social media through Facebook,  YouTube and the like represent just one element businesses can explore, but business is more than media – so how can businesses apply the principles of “social” to other dimensions of their organizations to improve outcomes?

In today’s business environment, organizations must become more agile, creative and innovative in order to compete. Forward-looking organizations amplify the benefit of human interactions in just about any business process by making them social (as opposed to trying to engineer the human interactions out of the business process, which is the unfortunate legacy of many enterprise systems.) For example, interacting with the sales team of a social business might include benefiting from digital artifacts of human interactions reaching deep into that company’s supply chain or research division. A really sophisticated social business might have friendly and easily navigable visualizations of these artifacts of interactions. So this is to say that social business is a superset of interactions that includes social media — since media is just one dimension of interaction with an organization.

According to Forrester Research, the market opportunity for social enterprise apps is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016, reaching $6.4 billion, compared with $600 million last year (“Social Enterprise Apps Redefine Collaboration,” Forrester Research, Inc., November 30, 2011). Ignore this emerging market and you choose to lose.

Social Media Week is the perfect time for organizations to think about how they can get social and do business at the same time.

Consider just a few of the possibilities of becoming a social business:

Global Collaboration: Extending beyond just document collaboration, social business tools enable organizations to build a team based off their skills, rather than location. Unified communications capabilities allow global teams to collaborate even if they aren’t in the same room (or on the same continent). Actively-managed digital communities of practice provide an opportunity for teams to collaborate and learn on the fly, fostering a greater sense of belonging.  Social organizations can expect to retain more of their best employees as they feel part of a common goal and have a voice in the decision making process.

Mobility: I’ve personally been a mobile employee for nearly a decade – and I’m not alone.  With the mobile workforce expected to reach more than 1.19 billion by 2013, according to research firm IDC, nearly 1 trillion Internet-connected devices will be in market in 2012, generating 20 times more mobile data by 2015. Equipping these employees with social connectivity to collaborate and innovate on the fly has become a major requirement for many organizations. Mobile capabilities for workers that extend beyond email, calendar and voice will be imperative. Document editing, access to enterprise social networking tools, feature-rich data and IM on the go are becoming the new norm. Imagine the opportunities for productivity, innovation and responsiveness when you are part of a team with mobile devices and tablets equipped with social enterprise capabilities.

Social Analytics: Organizations can now integrate and analyze massive amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors and align these insights to business processes to make faster, more accurate decisions. By gaining deeper insights into customer and market trends and employees’ sentiment over social networking platforms both internally and externally, businesses can uncover critical patterns to not only react swiftly to market shifts, but predict the effect of future actions.

The Currency of Social: People and culture are the drivers for social business success. As consumers have become accustomed to social practices in their personal lives, they are seeking the same capabilities in their workplace. People form networks based on trust and transparency. With social business technology at their finger tips, employees can tap into the creativity, intelligence, and community of their organization to accomplish business goals faster and more efficiently.

The opportunity for social business to transform how we connect people and processes, and increase the speed and flexibility of business is limitless. A successful social business breaks down collaboration barriers and puts social networking in the context of everyday work, from the mobile device or delivery vehicle of your choice, to improve productivity and speed decision-making.

The critical turning point for social business is the realization that the collective knowledge of networks of people can provide businesses with a unique competitive advantage. Social tools are building the next generation of competitive and profitable businesses – and if you’re not latching on to the social movement – you may be doing business with blinders on.

(Originally published in Social business News)

People are people, right? Actually, not so much.

Constituency, audience, persona @ethanmccSocial business marketing — and, well, marketing and communications in general, really — starts with people.  As in, who are you trying to reach? What do you know about them?  What do they want to do?  What do you want them to do/believe/understand/buy?

Since the point of departure is understanding selected groups of people, we often start our marketing and communications plans with some kind of description of the people we’d like to engage.  And recently, there’s been a lot of discussion in my world about three different ways of describing people — audiences, constituencies and personas.  I’d like to offer my understanding of these three terms and see what others think.  Again, this is all in the context of marketing and communications, but I’d be interested as well to know if other disciplines or industries have attached other meanings to these words (or words like them).

Audience: An audience is a group of people who may have nothing in common with one another other than the fact that they are all consuming the same piece of content.  I like to think of this as a fairly passive grouping of people since they may not know each other or want to know each other at all.  Just like when you see a movie — thousands of other people may see the same movie (some of them may even be in the same room with you) but you may have little in common with them beyond some demographic similarities.  These similarities can be, however, very powerful for the marketer — the simple fact that you are sitting in front of that particular piece of content can say a lot about you, for example some of your interests, your approximate income level, the language you speak and the region you live in etc.

Constituency: A constituency is an activated group of people with shared ambitions, objectives and/or pain points – they self-identify with a cause or a shared belief and seek change.  While they may have certain demographic similarities among them, these similarities are not a constituency’s defining characteristic.  Instead, it is a psychographic profile that unites a constituency.  The term constituency  is, of course, borrowed from democratic representative politics where elected representatives go to congress or parliament to represent the needs and desires of the people back home who share a common need to see certain things about their lives changed through legislation.  In the world of increasingly personalized and intimate marketing and communications, it can be incredibly powerful to understand which constituencies will most likely affect your organization.  I find it helpful to think of audiences as leaning back & receiving compared to constituencies leaning forward & acting.

Persona:  Personae are useful when planning a marketing and communications program because they allow you to extrapolate from a representative example how you think groups of people might believe.  A persona is essentially a composite of an audience or a constituency wrapped up in one or two people.  So you can create a fictional representative of a certain audience or constituency to run through various scenarios.  It’s helpful to use personae to test your thinking — would a gum-chewing, Facebook’ing, metal-head teenager actually want to learn more about how your Enterprise CRM can transform society?  Um, maybe not.  My colleague, Priya Varadachary, helpfully describes personae this way, “Personae align the content and experiences with key needs and digital behaviors to build a customer model. This means learning and documenting how our targets behave in the digital context (which should then influence usage data, lifestyle need states, device penetration, personas, usability, multivariate testing etc).”

So, as you can see, I don’t view these three terms as mutually exclusive or in competition.  They are just three different ways to think about groups of people when doing your marketing and communications planning.  I’d be interested to hear if you have other ways of thinking about groups of people or if there are nuances here that could be better unpacked or described.