As Social Technologies Become Pervasive, Prepare Your Company

When I started this job a year and a half ago, my coverage was simply over social networks and community platform vendors. On occasion I would speak to brand monitoring companies, and of course pure play social media sites (blogging software, microblogging, etc)

But now, I spend talking to companies from a variety of spaces as social technologies creep into their space. It’s increasingly difficult to monitor as it spreads, but expected as the era of social colonization takes hold.  Social technologies become pervasive and spread throughout the entire company.

Vendors that are currently ramping into the social space:

  • CMS vendors are gearing up and offering social features, much to the chagrin of the community platform players.
  • Customer support departments are quickly moving outside their defined support domain to where customers are supporting each other.
  • CRM vendors are connecting to social networks, serving up social content in their dashboard. We’re discussing how far this will reach.
  • Web Analytics firms are starting to scan social sites and partner with others, they know influence has spread beyond server analytics alone.
  • Customer reference programs recognize that unfiltered customer opinions are happening beyond their control.
  • Agencies of all sorts.

Vendors that will become increasingly important in the social space:

  • Affiliate marketing will become an increasingly important as more brands start to act on word of mouth programs.
  • Email marketers are starting to recognize that the social network inbox is where eyeballs have shifted to.  Given Google’s evolved email platform looks more like a social network or operating system than an email ‘inbox’.
  • Advertisers want to think beyond banner and IAB ads to more engaging or social ads.
  • Large consulting firms are preparing to offer million dollar packages to enterprises for change management and social integration systems.

Companies as a whole –beyond marketing– must prepare as social cascades the enterprise
Social technologies are creeping into nearly every aspect of business, making this incredibly difficult for brands to manage as so many systems –and therefore stakeholders– are looped in willing or not. Having spoken to some brands that are tackling this change, here’s some practical advice that I learned the top firms are doing:

  • 1) Recognize the trend that social technologies are crossing over to all aspects of the business: If you’re responsible for social media leadership in your company, recognize that this technology is pervasive beyond corp comm and marketing as we saw in the last few years.
  • 2) Yet, as things start to get complicated, simplify: Rather than focus on the all of the distinct arenas that social crosses, focus on the trend that customers and their opinions will be part of nearly every aspect of your business –even if you don’t choose for them to be present.
  • 3) Start the culture change now with internal education: The internal culture change is the biggest hurdle for companies. I spoke to a traditional media company yesterday that is quickly migrating away from print to online, and is conducting internal ’show and tell brown bag sessions’ across the enterprises where people can come from any department.
  • 4) Rather than build a strategy focused on technologies, build around customers and employees: Above all, don’t focus on the technologies themselves, start to train yourself to start and end a discussion with customers (and/or employees) rather than “Twitter”.
  • 5) Organize your company for social: There’s an innovation curve here that your company must jump, but to be successful, you’ll need to change not technology (only 20%) but culture, strategy, process, roles, and how you measure (the other 80%). I’ll be publishing a report in the near future (with data from a recent survey to brands) that discusses how companies are organizing for social technologies, and what some best practices are in the near future.

There’s a lot of social media strategists that are reading this blog, and vendors who support them, I’d love to hear from you the changes in the last 12 months we’ve seen, as well as some practical advice to brands to be prepared.