We’ve been examining how businesses can use the social web to unleash the “power” of relationships while reducing expenses. In our examination we’ve read studies of different industries using blogs, social networks and social media in general to accomplish business objectives.
We’ve also interviewed business executives charged with developing strategies to use the social web for strategic advantages aimed around marketing, sales and branding. To date our conclusion is a sad one. With exception of a few the majority of corporations simply don’t get it!
What they don’t get
Facilitating any and all business transactions requires communications. Whether with customers, suppliers, shareholders, employees or entire markets the fundamental process that influences all outcomes is communications. While the need for effective communications has not changed the methods have and the social web offers rich and robust methods waiting to be tapped. Today’s social tools offer not only improved marketing and public relations methods but even more to facilitating operating processes seamlessly. Just consider what the how customers can better be served via wikis’ micro-blogging, service blogs, custom social networks, video’s etc etc. Use of these tools can reduce operating cost and improve relations across the entire spectrum of relationships.
Internally employees can leverage creativity and knowledge by using social tools to share experiences or brainstorm to solve new problems. Employees can also participate in the development of new products or services, consider what Best Buy has done. Sales and marketing resources can get equipped with tools that create greater reach and richness aimed at creating and sustaining relationships and do so without flying to any one location. The virtual world is a canvas for people to draw on, create, engage and collaborate at speeds never before experienced.
Besides facilitating existing resources business can also tap into virtual resources at lower cost. John Jantsch writes in the Amex Open Forum: One of the ways small businesses are dealing with shifting economic fortunes is finding ways to keep expenses flexible. If you are trying to carve out a new market niche, create a new product line or simply remake your business into something entirely new, fixed costs such as a lease or full time staff can make charting a new course a bit trickier.
Though virtual outsourced labor and flexible office arrangements have been around for a while, these two industries as a whole are experiencing an entirely new round of interest.
Using a virtual assistant to create marketing materials, update websites and even handle customer service calls is a very smart way to keep fixed expenses down. While this arrangement still involves training and monitoring, costs for services can be attributed almost on an as-needed basis.
In many cases, organizations find they can tap into pools of assistants with very high levels of expertise in very specialized areas – something that may be difficult to find or afford in a full-time position. One virtual resource highlighted in this article was Davinici Virtual.
Will Business Optimize?
To optimize something usually it requires redesign to make things more efficient. Given the economic downturn most businesses will be forced to look at ways to optimize just to stay in business. This means to examine alternative ways to produce more with less for the purposes of optimizing performance.
The social web provides many valuable attributes that businesses can use to optimize performance. Business adoption of the social web tools is gaining traction within numerous industries. There even seems to be a rush to understand the medium and how to use it to gain strategic advantages which fuel economic gains, whether expense reduction or revenue growth. There is even a movement to outsourcing the task required to maximize use of the social web.
The social web provides all the tools that enable business optimization. With the President Elect highlighting the use of social media and the demand for more efficiency 2009 will likely see a significant surge in businesses using social technologies..
A transformation of thinking is required to effectively realize the true power of the social web. The transformation required is learning “how to” engage and optimization of the tools”. Learning to engage and optimize is a relational activity so first build relations with those that know. “Get it”.
Added: There is an interesting post which adds to this subject matter titled Social Computing In Organizations … Interesting Study
What say you?