Process: A Pragmatic Approach to Social Business

Companies Who Start With Implementation Are At Risk.
In a frantic hurry to catch up with customers, companies often jump into social media without having a plan, which is a classic “leap before you look” approach.  Soon, they find they are unable to scale as more customer adopt the tools, and are not ready for a long term engagement with customers even around negative conversations.  While companies feel compelled join the conversation now to respond to customers, they should not throw out business planning. To avoid this predicament companies should step back and approach social business like any other business program: with a plan.

Process: A Pragmatic Approach to Social Business

Instead, Follow A Pragmatic Process.
Start with gaining intelligence, by first getting educated about how business is changed, then develop a plan that aligns with the needed resources. While many of these phases are an ongoing effort, and have overlap to each other, this process is a designed to help corporations who don’t know where to start to use as a checklist.  Education, Research, Measurement should be ongoing efforts across the entire program, but in order to get started this pragmatic set of steps are an ideal way to start.   This process described below isn’t a new one, it’s a classic pattern found by most seasoned program and project managers, but I’ve added specific ‘social business’ questions to assist.

Process: A Pragmatic Approach to Social Business

Phase Description Questions to Answer Where to find resources
1) Education Become informed on the impacts of social technology to your customers, employees, and comapny How have customers changed their behaviors? How has business changed due to this power shift? Conferences, Books, Analyst Firms, Thought Leaders, Webinars
2) Research To document the changes in your specific market, and tools How do my customers and employees use social technology? How will they in the future? What tools are most used? What are my competitors doing? Socialgraphics studies, Research firms, Marketing Research departments
3) Strategy Defines specific goals of what is to be accomplished What are the business goals? How will we measure success? How does this support the company and customers mission? A combination of aligning to your executive leadership, agency partners, and your corporate social strategist
4) Planning Defines specific resources needed in what timeline How much money do we need? What skills are needed? How much time is needed? When will we complete this?  Which vendors do we need? Agency partners, project managers, community managers
5) Implementation Initiating the plan How will this be integrated into existing efforts? Community managers, developers, agency partners, technology vendors.
6) Management Ongoing support of efforts How will we keep this long term effort going forward? What resources and staff are needed for continual program growth? Community manager, agency partners, technology vendors
7) Measurement How effective was our effort? How well did we perform? What can we do better? What didn’t work, what worked and why? Analytics and measurement groups, brand monitoring vendors, agency partners, and business intelligence providers
8 Renewal Improving the effort after understanding how it has been deployed How can we improve this effort going forward? How can we integrate it? All teams, but most importantly expand beyond the social team into the rest of digital marketing, events, and real world experiences.

*Caveat: Many of these items such as education, research, and measurement should not be started then abandoned, but instead are an ongoing part of the overall program.

To get started, print this post out and use as a checklist for each of your social business initiatives: communities, blogs, Facebook pages, and beyond. Ensure that your strategy and plan has each of these elements in line as well as answers the resources required for each. In our recent webinar in Getting Your Company Ready for Social Business we discuss the importance of having a plan.

94 Replies to “Process: A Pragmatic Approach to Social Business”

  1. Jeremiah, this is a great process. I’ve developed a similar model around Identify, Strategize, Engage and Measure in a wheel with Listen in the middle

  2. Agreed. I am leveraging a similar, but more simplistic framework for many of my B2C clients who eventually want to foray into the B2C world using social technologies. It focuses on four phases (Plan, Build, Launch and Measure) and integrates many of the questions that you outline. I’ve found that this smaller approach works for clients who feel like scaling for social is like drinking from the firehose, have limited capacity and are going through some sort of change management initiative. For these brands, a strategically planned experiment serves well as an initial phase before launching into a more robust approach.

  3. Really like your post Jeremiah! It is all about identifying the business value and planning to achieve that through SMART, Integrated and Responsible Social Media….always remembering that the technology is about the how/what and not the why! ^MG

  4. Absolutely! Being pragmatic is mission critical in a world of folks suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS). Looking forward to testing out your well-defined approach as a next step!

  5. I’m a big fan of your writing and thinking, but here you have missed the mark. What you have provided is absolutely fine IF you believe change and transformation is a purely rational, logical set of actions. Every step in your process can have more sustainable impact if you focus on the heart as much as the head, on the dynamics of culture and competing values as much as operational planning for the desired initiatives.

    This is why so many people nod their heads when educated about change that is ‘good’ for them and their business, only to do absolutely nothing different from before. You can still maintain the 8-step process, but at every step also look for resistance, competing values and organizational dynamics that run counter to the desired change. It’s both a process of individual change and one of systemic change….at least if you want change to last.

  6. Absolutely spot on, thank you!

    I especially appreciate the fact that the process starts from education, and eventually returns to that same theme as well.

    If anything, one need for customers of social business (whether they acknowledge it or not) is indeed a better understanding (i.e. education) of what they are doing and why – when it comes to marketing/selling/servicing via social media platforms.

  7. Thanks for the permission to print this out. I have a sales call on Friday, and it’s just what I’m looking for. I will, of course, be leveraging Altimeter’s credibility and authority: “This is what the experts at Altimeter agree you ought to be doing, and here’s exactly how you can make the happen, &c.”

  8. Companies often just jump into social media without really knowing how to do it. They sign up and then think, “OK, what now?” Just like any marketing strategy a company should have a set plan for when they join the social media space. They should be prepared to commit to the time and resources that are necessary to make the medium work for business purposes.

  9. Great article! I think where we as marketers have a tendency to get bogged down is in research and strategy. Having a sound strategy based on research findings that revolve around your core business objectives is a vital component of seeing a valuable ROI in social.

    Just do social, but be strategic and smart about doing social.

  10. Its always important that a certain amount of researched has been done before a product is launched. However, Action should balance researched to avoid ( analysis paralysis ).

  11. Its always important that a certain amount of researched has been done before a product is launched. However, Action should balance researched to avoid ( analysis paralysis ).

  12. Its always important that a certain amount of researched has been done before a product is launched. However, Action should balance researched to avoid ( analysis paralysis ).

  13. Its always important that a certain amount of researched has been done before a product is launched. However, Action should balance researched to avoid ( analysis paralysis ).

  14. Its always important that a certain amount of researched has been done before a product is launched. However, Action should balance researched to avoid ( analysis paralysis ).

  15. Its always important that a certain amount of researched has been done before a product is launched. However, Action should balance researched to avoid ( analysis paralysis ).

  16. Its always important that a certain amount of researched has been done before a product is launched. However, Action should balance researched to avoid ( analysis paralysis ).

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  18. Great post, Jeremiah. What I find most interesting in my work is how many companies want to do a combined version of steps 1 and 2 but spend limited time on step 3 – the strategy part. Thinking through how social will support the company’s overall business objectives will have far greater impact that treating social as an project on a island within the company.

    There is no one definitive answer that experts can give that will be right to everyone. The approach must be tailored to the specific attributes, mission, and vision of the company as a whole. If there were a single answer for everyone, there really wouldn’t be much differentiation if the value proposition of social business – and we know that’s not true.

  19. Great post, Jeremiah. What I find most interesting in my work is how many companies want to do a combined version of steps 1 and 2 but spend limited time on step 3 – the strategy part. Thinking through how social will support the company’s overall business objectives will have far greater impact that treating social as an project on a island within the company.

    There is no one definitive answer that experts can give that will be right to everyone. The approach must be tailored to the specific attributes, mission, and vision of the company as a whole. If there were a single answer for everyone, there really wouldn’t be much differentiation if the value proposition of social business – and we know that’s not true.

  20. Great post, Jeremiah. What I find most interesting in my work is how many companies want to do a combined version of steps 1 and 2 but spend limited time on step 3 – the strategy part. Thinking through how social will support the company’s overall business objectives will have far greater impact that treating social as an project on a island within the company.

    There is no one definitive answer that experts can give that will be right to everyone. The approach must be tailored to the specific attributes, mission, and vision of the company as a whole. If there were a single answer for everyone, there really wouldn’t be much differentiation if the value proposition of social business – and we know that’s not true.

  21. I totally agree. For years now, I’ve been teaching 7-Things to know BEFORE Getting Started with social media… The audience is always amazed and appreciative when I share similar processes. Unfortunately, as humans, we’re like ‘Curious George’ – we just gotta try it out, then we ask “So Now, What Do I Do!”. Thanks for the post…and appreciate the processes…

  22. I like that graphic, but I would add “measurement” needs to be built into the deployment section as a line item, then add another “blue box” for Track & Measure… Just my 2 cents… thanks for the graphics…

  23. Love it! Nothing like the “just do it” philosophy… Nike still lives on!
    Just don’t forget to track and measure… without quantifying and qualifying activity we may loose momentum, forget “why” we started, or worst – get too far behind competition – if you’re a product or service based biz…

  24. Thanks Jeremiah for emphasizing the need to put pragmatic social media plans and processes in place – these are great steps for companies to implement. I think it’s also important to note that unlike traditional channels, companies need to take into account the need for risk and be willing to “fail fast-forward” as speed, informed risk and opportunism might just lead to an unrealized competitive advantage or opportunity to innovate. The ability to continually learn, test, refine and improve helps you not only be first to market but also the best.

    Best regards,

    Jennifer Rodriguez
    Director of Community Outreach, Visible Technologies

  25. I want an App, that’s where most of the customer calls start. It’s hard to sort all the things out not strategy based agencies promised and establish a step by step plan.

  26. Jeremiah, I love you work and generally agree with you… However, I think that you list here misses a few key parts to make an implementation outstandingly successful. I think “insight” is missing. You can have vision and intent to make the project work…education, research, strategy, planning, visioning etc. But without the proper intent, it just won’t work that well. I will quote Matt Taylor for the importance of INTENT: “Are you excited yet? Do you have the juice to live in the vision and do the work to bring as much of it it back to the present each day as you can? How long can you live with the ambiguity and paradox of working in two different worlds? Can you assume the mantle and the risks of the prophet and advocate? Intent is the well of energy that you’ll return to over and over while you’re working to bring your vision to the present. The greater the distance on the fitness landscape between the old and new system, the greater the challenge and the more energy you’ll need to succeed.”

  27. Jeremiah, I love you work and generally agree with you… However, I think that you list here misses a few key parts to make an implementation outstandingly successful. I think “insight” is missing. You can have vision and intent to make the project work…education, research, strategy, planning, visioning etc. But without the proper intent, it just won’t work that well. I will quote Matt Taylor for the importance of INTENT: “Are you excited yet? Do you have the juice to live in the vision and do the work to bring as much of it it back to the present each day as you can? How long can you live with the ambiguity and paradox of working in two different worlds? Can you assume the mantle and the risks of the prophet and advocate? Intent is the well of energy that you’ll return to over and over while you’re working to bring your vision to the present. The greater the distance on the fitness landscape between the old and new system, the greater the challenge and the more energy you’ll need to succeed.”

  28. Thanks for the info, its really great to know about our Internet world, You selection is one of the best.

  29. I like how you broke down the different compenents of running a Social Media Marketing business.  It’s impressive and well organized.

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