The more businesses become engaged with social networks the more evidence emerges indicating little or no structured plan for businesses to use as to the “how and why” of the social web.
The Social Web is evolving rapidly and new advancements opens doors for businesses to use the medium for systemic strategic advantages.
With the announcements about most platforms moving to “open API’s” applications and related processes will accelerate business opportunities never before envisioned. Social networks are ripe ground for businesses to engage their employee’s, their customers and their suppliers and subsequently enable strategic competitive advantages from all that can be learned and applied..
Besides using the medium for sales and marketing purposes there are additional benefits for businesses to use the medium for internal operational processes. When one looks at the medium systemically it can be applied to numerous business objectives and strategies.
Marc Canter, founder and CEO of Broadband Mechanics. In 1984, he co-founded MacroMind, which became Macromedia in 1991, and since then the company has continued to pioneer multimedia authoring and standards says “Historically, organizations see this as a marketing expense. At EMI, one of the biggest record companies in the
”The moral of the story is there is money to be made in social networking. And also those who embrace the technology early will be the leaders while the rest will be the followers. And remember there is always a difference between leaders and followers. The fact that companies like Oracle and Saleforce have embraced social networking proves their potential.”
”Also, I believe that all software are social. As a vendor you need to be a parent. You need to know when to hold on and when to let go, as well as not only to talk but to listen also.”
“Social networking features need to be everywhere; whether as a productivity suite or as an e-commerce tool. There is a lot of money to be made in social networking. I believe the company who embraces it in the beginning will be the leader. “
Doing Things Right
Businesses are organizations of people, products/services and processes. Every business is constantly challenged to improve processes, communications, relations and service. These challenges require a coordinated effort aimed at improving the organizations effectiveness at serving the needs of multiple customer segments, internally and externally, by optimizing people, processes and technology. Some of the never ending targets of continuous improvement in every business include:
- Branding within specific channels
- Customer Relationship Management
- Supplier integrations and communications
- Employee orientation, training and communications
- One to One Marketing
- Media Relations
- Market Relations
- and a lot more….
Doing the Right Things
Many businesses will spend thousands and even millions of dollars rushing into social networks without a full comprehension of the medium or a systemic plan to maximize the value proposition. As a result we’ve developed “7 Steps to Business Planning for Social Networks“.
Step 1: Current Situation: Organizational Assessment
This step involves an assessment of the organizations readiness for social networks. Numerous areas need to be examined, analyzed and the subsequent findings will enable the organization to focus on key improvements which influence successful usage of the social networking medium. Organizational readiness, cultural barriers, security constraints, education and technology are just a few of the critical business elements that need to be assessed before any business “jumps in”.
Step 2: Problem/Opportunity Identification: Leveraging the Vital Few
From step one the data collected and subsequent analysis should be aimed at the vital few issues that provide the greatest leverage for improvement and fulfillment of opportunities identified. Should your business engage in existing networks or establish your own? What would be the primary purposes of having your business engaged and actively using the social web? What strategic leverage or market differential could be obtained? Etc. etc.
Step 3: Possible Solutions and Gains: The How and Why
Once step 1 & 2 have been completed correctly then the data should reveal a view of possible solutions aimed at maximizing the use of social networks for specific strategic purposes. Understanding the how and why is a critical step that can prevent false starts and poor performance in the future.
Step 4: Cost/Benefit Analysis
Many business have and will continue to react to the emergence of social networks. Reactions usually create costly actions that are not well thought out relative to the previous three steps mentioned. Thus many businesses abandon new efforts because a thorough cost/benefit analysis was not conducted prior to launching a new initiative nor were actions designed with strategic intent.
Step 5: Measures of Success
Steps 1 – 4 layout the framework of critical elements which are required for any business to have a purposeful objective for engaging within the medium of social networks. Any plan of any sort needs to have measures in place to assure that the assumptions of a new initiatives perceived value is actually producing the stated purposes.
Step 6: Implementation Planning: Organization 1 -5
Steps 1-5 in of themselves can bring a clear path to “what needs to be done” but it is the “doing” that fulfills the envisioned results. Planning for implementation of what is discovered in steps 1-5 is critical to achievement of the stated objectives of the plan. Not planning for implementation is like buying a brand new car but never putting in any gas so you can drive it.
Step 7: Execution and Adjustment Process: PDCA
Once implementation begins you can always expect new learning, new discoveries and new constraints not foreseen when the plan was developed. Planning for adjustments to any plan insures periodic reviews of the unexpected and provides the means for adjusting to the ever changing market dynamic of social mediums.
These seven steps are an outline for any business to follow. However, each business may be at different levels of preparedness and knowledge of the emerging opportunities of the social web. While the seven steps remain consistent, the speed and processes of each step will vary for every organization.
What say you?