I am grateful to Lesley Sawyers (CEO – @scdiCEO) and Jane Gotts (International Director – @janegotts) of SCDI for bringing to my attention a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review entitled ‘What Sells CEOs on Social Networking’ by Andrew McAfee of the MIT Centre for Digital Business.
Despite its title, the article is mainly about Enterprise 2.0 and is well worth a read. One of the main points made by the author is that the term ‘social’ often has negative connotations, especially for hard-headed, pragmatic managers. For many, Social = Time Wasting.
Social media will be a key focus of attention at SCDI’s Smart Scotland Annual Forum in March of this year. At a meeting yesterday, Lesley, Jane and I discussed whether this perception of Social = Time Wasting would be a major barrier to wider adoption by the Scottish business community.
To overcome this ‘Perception Gap’, it is important to be very clear on the potential business benefits of developing and implementing an effective Social Media Strategy. In the frequent workshops we deliver on this topic, a simplified Balanced Scorecard approach is used to explain why companies should engage with social media.
A key element of the Scorecard approach is the link between ‘Lag’ and ‘Lead’ measures. ‘Lag’ measures are your ultimate business goals and objectives. ‘Lead’ measures are the main drivers that help you to achieve your ultimate business goals. This distinction between ‘Lag’ and ‘Lead’ measures is a very important one in the context of social media. It helps to differentiate between the ‘social media is cool and funky’ school of thought, on the one hand, and the more hard-headed, pragmatic business-led approach on the other.
Given that we are firmly rooted in the latter of these camps, there are really only three reasons why companies should invest time, resource and effort in social media, in our view:
- To increase sales
- To reduce costs
- To build a quality customer base – a strong online network of high value, high growth potential customers. It is the quality of your customer base that provides your company with a strong foundation for achieving sustained growth and profitability. In a social media era, the quality of your online network becomes critical
To ensure that social media delivers real business benefits in the above areas, it is useful to categorise the main ‘Lead’ measures (drivers of change) under five main headings:
- Market/Customer Knowledge & Insight – the market knowledge, enhanced customer understanding and actionable insight derived from active Social Media Listening
- Engagement & Reputation Management – benefits derived from active engagement with quality customers and key influencers; enhanced reputation management
- Enhanced Customer Experience and Loyalty – use of social media to improve the customer experience; build brand loyalty, retention, repeat business and advocacy
- Sales/Marketing Effectiveness, Efficiency and ROI – used effectively, social media can deliver high ROI through maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of the sales and marketing effort. A related benefit could be rapid internationalisation by using social media to overcome traditional barriers to exporting
- Operations/ Internal Processes – for example, the use of social media to co-create new products; use of open source and hosted applications to reduce costs and improve internal operational efficiency
Key Questions to Address
Rather than hiding behind the Social = Time Wasting excuse for doing nothing, it would be more appropriate to address the following questions:
- What can social media contribute to your business?
- What are the main business/marketing communications objectives to be achieved?
- What are your SMART targets for each objective (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound)?
- How will progress towards achieving these targets be measured?
- What Return on Investment (ROI) is required to justify the time, resource and costs involved?
- How can you measure this?
One of the first steps is to agree the core business objectives to be achieved from social media; how these will be measured (Key Performance Indicators); and the specific targets to be achieved for each KPI. Unfortunately, this has become one of the most overlooked aspects of social media – WHY? Why are you doing it? Even when the question is addressed, many organisations find it difficult to document their social media objectives, targets and KPIs.
The Template attached below should help your thinking in this area.
Jim, Alan and Vincent