Opportunities for Business to Build Better Business…and Lead.

There are immense opportunities arising from social media and the related technological “disruptions” for any business that decides to think different and become more “social”. possibilities

Last week, I was thinking about how wide open the running room is and thought I’d share some of those little “happy dances”, especially since several of the people who gave rise to those big smiles are on my friends page and they taught me so much along the way.  It’s always fun and nice to celebrate others too.

Backstory: The first five years of my career I spent as a political staffer and that also involved helping or running various political campaigns.   I learned a lot and still recall some formative lessons from that time.  In politics, the numbers I became familiar with were public opinion polls. They often help underpin a complex multivariate combination for success.  It’s why I don’t believe in a single ROI for social media, rather I believe in various business values (more another time).

In politics a decision to buy, the transaction, your vote is a complex science and art.  And that transaction is often based on a relationship or leads to one, of sorts.  The political formula, as well as the day-to-day work of politics and governing is really about people, information, connection and understanding and “the public interest.”

Throughout my time in politics, I saw what I considered to be some misguided examples of business communication and/or lobbying.  That led me to where I am today, and has always been the underpinning of my personal belief in business, and a belief that business can and should always lead and do better, with the public (that’s customers too).

On to the Exciting Opportunities for Business: One of the little “happy dances” last week was about the wide open road of opportunities for business to be more connected with its customers, indeed any and all of its’ stakeholders. Brian Solis at Altimeter posted this: He talks about getting back to basics, but look at the actual link title….”brands are still broadcasting in social media.”  He goes on to say “we force social media to conform to traditional business rather than adapting.”  Wow.  There is a big opportunity for change.

The opportunity Brian outlines is this: “start thinking about how social media becomes a means toward triggering meaningful activities or outcomes that align with business priorities or objectives and customer expectations.”  One way to do that is to focus social media efforts on the people of your business connecting with the people who are your customers in the most meaningful, real and relevant ways.  Social media offers business the chance to do more than target audiences with traditional push messaging — and  hoping that the social “push” gets a little “pull” along the way from some fans.

The practices of mass media applied to the social context are ripe for change. Your social efforts can be about much more, and of much more fundamental value to your business.  Sure,  mass media/advertising was a path to bigger reach and demand for business.  Social media is not about replicating that, it is a chance to build upon that and do more.  Social media works best if applied to your business in 2 ways. In fact, social media is tremendous opportunity to do what business has always been about, creating a stronger (or larger) intersection between:

  1. value for your customer
  2. value for your business.

A small intersection of customer and business value gets you started and surviving, or alternatively it means your business is a commodity.  A larger intersection of customer and business value is where your business and customers really thrive.  More value for the customer and more value for your business.  Have you thought about those competitive opportunities using social media?  Have you organized around those kinds of goals when you take a look at social media efforts?

This brings us to the second “happy dance” last week because of Mitch Joel and Geoff Livingston, two more on the friends list. Geoff and Mitch have a discussion related to Mitch’s new book, Ctrl, Alt Delete. Over on Geoff’s blog, Mitch drives home the fact that the digital world is the real world.  We have passed the point of “separate” online and offline experiences, it has melded to be one.  To Mitch’s point, and a little side story, I feel like I have known Mitch forever and have a real relationship with him.  We have met once in real life. Sort of fits with his thinking about melding.

Back to the issue at hand, Mitch talks of how the digital data can infom and move business transformation forward, as well as how new professional skill sets are emerging. Mitch explains that CTRL ALT Delete is about how we have entered a “world where the very fabric of business has changed forever (he breaks these out into five major movements in the book), but brands are still not doing much about it.”  Ive just bought CTRL, ALT Delete and am digging in and enjoying. Likely more to come about his book.  But, in the meantime, think of the possibilities.

Amid all this change, there are exciting opportunities to examine and explore for every business.  As a simple starter, try thinking about what new value you can bring to your business and your customer through social efforts — something different and not just using it as another channel to do more of the same by force fitting social efforts into the traditional corporate scheme of things.  Here are a few random thoughts that came to mind:

  • customer enablement and empowerment (B2B and B2C) —is a great sort of democratization and leveling of “power” in so many ways; it’s also all about interacting and connecting.  It may pose your business some challenges but think of the opportunities arising from the new information and new opportunities to interact.
    • we have marketing departments focused on the brand in “channels”; sales bring home the exchange and nurture customer relationships; and, customer support fixes things.  So who “manages” fans?  Need some help getting your thoughts around those opportunities: Mack Collier is talking about connecting with your customer fans like a rockstar; Jackie Huba has some great insight for you about taking this wild wild west openness, and like Lady Gaga, getting fanatical loyalty from all your own little monsters;  Paul Gillin nails it when talking about the “attacks that may come” need not be disastrous — and that requires moving customer support beyond “resolution.” How do you move your business from merely “fix the issue” to caring about long term customer loyalty (and I don’t mean frequent flyer bonus points….I can get those at a grocery store now).
  • The global, 24 hour a day/7 day a week online world is always on.  It tests our understandings about information digestion and perceptions.  Your business’ brand or corporate reputation might be negatively or positively hit tomorrow and you would have no warning…unlike the good old days.  While your corporate reputation and brand is being constantly tested against what you say it is and what people think of it, these are also the opportunities to come out of the office and interact, engage and let people know more about you and your business.
    • Exposure works both ways. The value of a brand or corporate reputation is less and less what you think it is and more whatever everyone else determines it is (actually always has been).   Your connections and sharing with others matter – even if it to simply say, “Ill have to get back to you after we solve that issue and I have some answers” – but keep your word and do get back.   Don’t destroy human trust.  Get out their and connect.  Build more good will and trust.
  • Our understandings and assumptions about “matrix” organizations, hierarchies and “management” are being tested by employees and customers as they find new ways to interact and collaborate with each other and among themselves. So open up your organization and explore these emerging opportunities to connect and do more.  As Charlene Li points out:

 “Employees are already bringing their own devices into their workplaces, but now they are increasingly bringing their own services as well…Employees expect to work differently, with tools that feel more modern and connected, but are also reflective of how they interact in their personal lives. Enterprise social represents a new way to work, and organizations embracing these tools are improving collaboration, speeding customer responses and creating competitive advantages.

  • And then there are the technology disruptions just under the surface.  Over on Jeremiah Owyang’s blog he had this dear Brands letter about even more changes to relationships with brands from buy to rent and loan, as well as the post about innovation coming out of the maker movement.  While Jeremiah is at the front of the curve (that’s his job) he outlines really interesting possibilities that could encourage any business leader to, at least, pause and think.

The time is ripe for any business to break-out and go beyond traditional thinking.  The options are immense for how your business can connect and increase that intersection between business and customer value. Experiment. Know what you are going after. Fail fast if you have to, but keep an eye on increasing that intersection between customer and business value.

The running room for your business is wide open and it is up to you to make real connections with people – to constantly learn more and be a better business.  Done properly, social media enables you to do this at tremendous scale — all from your “connected devices.”

When you stop and think, there are great possibilities for your business to thrive and lead with a focus on people and connections. As the old sayings go: “think different” and “just do it”

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