The #FutureOfBusiness Is Social: Adapt Or Die

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I spoke to someone the other day, who, like me, was trying to sell nascent technology/solutions to businesses who were less inclined to buy, let alone understand these new products and services. This gentleman described a conversation he had with a current client who was frustrated with the way things are today:

I remember when I could spend $60K on Yellow Pages alone and make $1MM in revenue.  Today, there are so many options, I can’t keep up. I am lucky if that same $60K will yield even 10% of that revenue.

Here’s the reality: Media consumption has changed. Traditional methods of getting in front of the consumer are becoming irrelevant. If you think acquisition is hard, customer retention has become much more difficult.

In my previous post, Will The #FutureOfBusiness Radically Change Everything As We Know It?, I referenced some catalysts forcing businesses get their head out of the sand, take notice and DO SOMETHING:

  • Unstable economy
  • Technology and social media
  • Reduced business spend
  • Increasing business accountability
  • The capricious consumer
  • The abating business influence

We have come to realize that these are not trends. Consumers will continue to experiment and will move with the evolution of technology. This will force business to become nimble in order to keep up with the consumer, and that is the underlying premise of Social Business.

This is the second in a three-part series of the #FutureOfBusiness. Here, we will focus on:

  • the impediments to organizational change
  • employees as the drivers of change
  • the new order that is sustainable

Change is NOT for the Faint of Heart

I have posted, 10 ways to Sunday, about the need for marketers to evolve, and about the impending death of traditional mediums. However, unless they are forced to do so, marketers’ will continue to fall back on practices that are comfortable with and have relied on in the past.

Change is dictated from the C-suite. The current business elite have not evolved with the times. They are resistant to change because of the risk to business performance. They are also reticent to disclose their ignorance of this emerging space and therefore unable to make informed decisions. From this perspective, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The old-dog new trick syndrome comes at a cost, especially in an environment that is constantly evolving.

Senior management is unwilling to relent to the strength and power of the consumer. It is surprising how many businesses still “think” they can control the message, despite the countless examples of organizations that have been humbled by this thing called social media. By preserving control at the top of the hierarchy, these same organizations are increasingly vulnerable to the volatility of the customer voice.

The customer is no longer owned by one or two departments. Marketing has traditionally held this responsibility, and the rise of social has kept the customer largely within the hands of this department. Social is just another channel right? No. Far from it. It is an entirely new type of channel that brings with it a new reality; it is changing the way business communicates. The reality is everyone in the organization has a responsibility to fight to keep the customer.  Customer service will take a more proactive role, whether they like it or not. Engagement at Scale can only work if all employees have a role to play in customer retention.

Let’s face it, any significant change within an organization, impacts a change in culture. The speed at which information travels external to the organization effects the company internally. Information must be processed and disseminated appropriately to accommodate the rising customer expectations for resolution. This cannot work within the current structure.

The rise of the transparency means that in a world where everything a business does is now scrutinized and judged, companies must walk the walk…. or else. No longer will organizations have the luxury of selective disclosure. Eventually, they will be found out.

Process and job descriptions will need some dismantling. The risk to the organization is to the precious culture that has been honed and nurtured overtime. The values that connect employees to an organization will also need some modification.

Up until now, business has side-stepped this inevitability. Not anymore. It’s time to acknowledge it.

Develop a More Human Organization

Maddie Grant and James Notter, who co-authored “Humanize” list the four core elements of being human. These principles also apply to how a business must also evolve.

  1. Open: Human beings need to be open to our inherent connection to the rest of the system to grow personally. Individuals who close themselves off from connections end up closing themselves off from responsibility and will stall in their development.
  2. Trustworthy: Human beings also need trust to develop. Without trust in our relationships, we divert energy and attention to basic self-preservation efforts, leaving nothing left for growth and advancement.
  3. Generative: We must be generative – building, creating, and growing new things and new relationships in our lives. Limiting our focus to maintain the status quo and just getting by is not a recipe for growth.
  4. Courageous: Nothing is more limiting to human beings than fear. Figuring out how to move forward in the presence of fear is the hallmark of the human development process.

First and foremost, a culture of accountability needs to revamp to also become a culture of trust. The strength and volume of the collective consumer voice can ONLY be managed by the collective voice of the employee.  Developing guidelines that allow employees to be front-line advocates creates  a more efficient system for servicing and resolution, and, in the process, instills a feeling of ownership at the individual level. Employees will be core in scaling customer solutions via social and all other touch points.

A culture of trust means that silos will eventually come down. Communication will be everywhere.  Knowledge will be rampant as improved sharing and learning begin to permeate internally.  This will be enabled by collaboration systems, improved listening and messaging technology. This will further fuel the strength of relationships within the organization and create a culture of growth.

What organizations will come to realize is that by leveraging the collective knowledge of its people, it reduces reliance on external resources, allowing the business to function much more efficiently. Ownership becomes much stronger as employees become more comfortable in this enriched sharing environment.

This decentralized approach puts more onus on employees and will, in the long run, foster a stronger culture where there is reduced churn,  increased inclusion and improved performance overall.

The New Normal is Sustainable

By responding to the dynamics of the marketplace, this new normal has put the customer, not the product, squarely at the centre of the organization. This focal point now allows the organization to prioritize the needs of the customer, not the sale of its products or services.

This new normal has the ability to capitalize on the abundance of data and allows business to analyze information and adapt services and solutions that respond to to these evolving customer needs.

The organization is now free from guesswork; instead it has the ability to learn and predict outcomes more than ever before. It becomes generative and open, giving rise to innovation and alternative ways of doing things. Embracing courage with continuous change becomes a common way of thinking.

In this new order, employees are happier. The organization has become inclusive. In this new order, this organization has become social.

Stay tuned for the next post on the #FutureOfBusiness that focuses on the impact on the Individual Contributor within the organization.

Photo credit: matthileo via photopin cc.

Founder at ArCompany, and Co-founder of Salsa AI, Hessie is a  seasoned digital strategist, and intelligence analyst having held senior positions for top ad agencies including Ogilvy, Rapp Collins, ONE and Isobar Digital. She also has extensive start-up experience in social tech, online publishing and artificial intelligence like Yahoo! Answers, Overlay.TV, Jugnoo and Cerebri AI. Hessie is the co-author of EVOLVE: Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed! She is also  an active writer for Cognitive World, Towards Data Science and Marketing Insider Group.

16 thoughts on “The #FutureOfBusiness Is Social: Adapt Or Die

  1. I agree with most of this. Had a discussion with Sprinklr yesterday discussing some of their case studies. They kind of fib using data they can’t prove. Meaning they are not calculating reach based on who actually saw something and claiming instead adding up follower counts etc. For business intelligence social is critical but with a caveat. People are not the real them on social. They are a rosey created for hollywood version and we share maybe 0.01% of our day (if you add up everything you experience each day that you could post and then divide that into your posts…and most people post only 3-5 out of 1000 things each day) so needs to be rolled into bigger picture data collection.
    Where I have a big issue is the blanket statement all businesses need social. Most actually do not. Most small businesses can use it to benefit but many don’t actually need it to thrive. I see so many every day that do nothing on social but their business is rocking out of control.

    For big companies depends. Sprinkr had a great set up for Starwood for customer service. But McDonalds and starbucks do not need to ever tweet or facebook or instagram. Neither does Coke or Pepsi. But they should be collecting data for trends with listening big time! McDonalds sells 25 million meals a day. Each one of those exchanges in person is worth about 1000x the value of a social media interaction. McDonalds should not invest in social (meaning community management) vs paying those point of sale people better. Starbucks the same. Social is very impersonal. In person…is well. Personal!

    So my rant is more about reducing the blanket statements and identifying who will benefit in what way and listening is really the only social tool I can say all businesses should use without also fibbing. And yes that means they need ARCompany Hessie! LOL

  2. AmyMccTobin says:

    Howie Goldfarb Hey there Howie – as a Salesman at heart I agree, wholeheartedly, that small biz can thrive WITHOUT social – for some, it’s actually detrimental because they open profiles, leaving themselves ‘open’ to requests and criticisms, but don’t man the channels. Worse than not being there.
    However, where I think you are a bit off is the McDonalds/Starbuscks point – if people are talking about your brand on Social, and they CERTAINLY are, you have to be there to hear them. And, sometimes you can nip a rumor in the bud by being in the conversation. I also disagree that all Social is not personal – I disagree wholeheartedly. I’ve been helped by Budget Car Rental and my local Cable Company via social recently. I also use it repeatedly to contact customer service, and have had PERSONAL exchanges because, at the end of the day, smart people have real people manning their accounts.
    I agree that not all businesses need social, but that wasn’t Hessie’s point.

  3. susansilver says:

    Howie Goldfarb AmyMccTobin T

    You mention Coke as not needing community. Interesting choice as they are the leading innovators in that space. They were the first company to use user generated content in their marketing campaigns. 

    http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/coca-cola-unveils-first-tv-ad-made-completely-user-generated-content-157857

    I think the value in their social presence is PR and it is also customer service. It is because Coke gets so many mentions that they have to be there. If something goes wrong it is going up on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. A very public and very viral complaint. If you don’t have a strong community built than you are not going to be able to stand up under that level of scrutiny.

    I think what you are saying here Howie is that customer experience is the primary consideration. That includes all customer touch points, in person experience and the online one. The website, store location (if brick and motor store exists), an app, a blog, customer service, management, sales etc. Absolutely. It needs to be a high quality experience that represents the brand’s values and commitment to customers.

    McDonald’s has very clear issues in their corporate culture and those issues have been amplified through social. Yes, they do need to pay their employees more because they deserve a living wage. But I think they can do that and still continue to manage a community program. I don’t think it is an either/or proposition for a company that does that much business. 

    I have a problem with this comment, ” Each one of those exchanges in person is worth about 1000x the value of a social media interaction.” 

    That is a blanket statement as well. I would like to see the figures that back up that assertion.  I don’t know you or I have the numbers on hand for that debate.

    I take issue with people who think social media cannot be personal. For some, it is easier to interact online than it might be in person. We need to acknowledge that customers use multiple modes of communication and that social is just as viable a medium as a phone call, letter, or personal compliant to a manger. It’s just newer. 

    I agree social data is buggy and I don’t like that social companies fib too. Facebook and Twitter are notorious for bumping up their figures for active accounts.  This is a problem that I am working on because I would like to see more rigorous research methods applied in the social space.

    I think the issue here is that measurement technology is still behind. Social Network Analysis is still in the early stages, but it is maturing rapidly.

  4. steve_dodd says:

    Howie Goldfarb Howie, I totally agree with your last statement. The key is to determine who needs what and why.  And, to your point, the Social Media Snake Oil Business is alive and well!

  5. hessiejones says:

    AmyMccTobin Howie Goldfarb So here’s my point. And I totally agree that business may not necessary need social (now). It takes time to scale social, as you know Howie. Mid-to-large size organizations have the benefit of being able to make this happen. 

    And I do disagree that McDonalds or Starbucks don’t need social. This is one thing I learned when I worked with big brands like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut: Despite the success they were experiencing, they also had tons of conversations out there questioning the quality of their products: Mystery Meat? 100% pure beef?  That’s the reason why McDonald’s ran a successful campaign in Canada called Our Food, Your Questions: http://www.mcdonalds.com/content/us/en/your_questions/our_food.html.  

    Amy’s right, it only takes on rumour to hurt a company. That’s why Starbucks transformed. That’s why Dell transformed. That’s why Sears and JC Penny may die. Borders already went this way. 

    And why wouldn’t ANY business, of any size NOT want to leverage social intelligence? Suddenly we have access to data that can make us do better. We understand what the market is saying? We understand the demand impact on our business. 

    If everyone has access to the same information, then it becomes part of a table stakes environment. Don’t you agree?

  6. hessiejones says:

    steve_dodd Howie Goldfarb And I apologized if I was generalizing. That was not the intent. 

    The tools and technology will enable business to capitalize on new capabilities. There’s no reason why companies shouldn’t figure out how it impacts their business.

  7. steve_dodd says:

    hessiejones AmyMccTobin Howie Goldfarb For the first time in history, businesses have access to the knowledge of what their customers and thinking, planning and doing.  Those who respect and leverage that will win, those who abuse or ignore it will get slaughtered. 

    Hessie, your examples provided are clear indications of this.

  8. steve_dodd says:

    hessiejones steve_dodd Howie Goldfarb Absolutely agreed!

  9. JoeCardillo says:

    steve_dodd hessiejones AmyMccTobin Howie Goldfarb The insights piece is huge. Look, I don’t trust any platform or technology that sells you the same metrics / goals as the rest of their customers (FTR impressions have been and continue to be useless).

    Not that they’re not useful to suggest where to look next, but there’s a difference between observation and insight (as nicely lined up by Gunther Sonnenfeld here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141125185331-5891280-insight-the-thing-that-makes-or-breaks-businesses) and the reality is that what’s important to one person, team, business, etc… may be worthless for another. So when people talk about doing social or not doing social, they’re engaging in a zero-sum-game. We’ve been sold this idea that you just get online, you start doing a bunch of things, you find the one-size fits all metrics and bam you’ll start making money. That’s madness. And that’s why, as you say Steve, that knowledge of the customer is the most important place to start and it’s why Hessie’s point about sustainability and evolving with customers is critical.

  10. AmyMccTobin I 100% agree with the listening. And I think all businesses SHOULD be using social media in every form possible. You are right about the rumor stuff. And I use twitter for customer service.

    I just feel that a lot of big US companies who rely on Government subsidies like Walmart and McDonalds to provide food, healthcare etc would be better investing in those poorly paid ‘I don’t give a F about this job’ employees who touch 1000x more people every day than social ever can. Or like McDonalds fix a bad outdated business model.

    BUT I will say Social by far blows away the old type of surveys and focus groups for R&D, new product ideas etc. If you mine the data provided naturally then there shouldnt be much fibbing or trying to please which is part of the reason 9 out of 10 new product launches fail.

    I also know hessiejones target is not all businesses but ones that can afford your services (big enough) and have the right culture fit.
    And just to be very clear here….I have very little respect for Altimeter, Edelman Digital and SideraWorks. I read their stuff and can’t believe anyone ever acts on their advice (granted I haven’t read a ton of their content but after a few reads of ‘WHAT?!!’ you give up. . Sidera I feel are scammers jumping on the ‘what is in vogue now’ like
    so many of our peers do. Makes my job so much harder (providing reliable
    advice and guidance).
     But you folks are all very sharp with nothing but what is best for the client at heart. And trust me if I ever have any clients big enough to afford you I won’t be shopping that work around 8)

  11. hessiejones says:

    Howie Goldfarb AmyMccTobin hessiejones Aww thanks Howie! We always start with what the data is saying. Only the client will be able to really understand the data’s impact on the business. Being social is not a knee-jerk reaction because everyone is on it. A business will hop on board only if they see value in it. Period.

  12. AmyMccTobin says:

    Howie Goldfarb AmyMccTobin hessiejones OK, I’m with you on the ‘invest in your employees’ ALL THE WAY – and Costco is proving that theory to be incredibly effective.
    But I don’t think you can just listen – you have to talk to them too. Re:  Facebook, unless you want to pay to play, sure, I’m with you. BUT, it’s not a one size fits all platform at all. I’m working with a smaller business (30 mil) in revenues that has a very active following on FB and a big chunk of those are Millennials.

  13. AmyMccTobin says:

    hessiejones Howie Goldfarb AmyMccTobin And why can’t if find YOU Howie, on FB?

  14. hessiejones says:

    AmyMccTobin hessiejones Howie Goldfarb Look under Howie Housemusic:)

  15. MeghanMBiro says:

    +1 MIL hessiejones: The #FutureOfBusiness Is Social: Adapt Or Die http://goo.gl/FyaTG8 via AmyMccTobin

  16. hessiejones says:

    MeghanMBiro AmyMccTobin thanks Meghan:))

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