The doubts about the staying power of social media have begun to evaporate like the morning mist. The corporate purveyors of social media tools — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others — may be ephemeral. But the underlying technologies and functionality — data sharing, activity timelines, user profiles, news feeds, predictive analytics, gamification, microblogging, ideational tools etc. — are uprooting traditional means of communications both within enterprises and with their external facing customers.
Many of these social tools were launched with social utilities in mind: kids sharing music, pictures, scuttlebutt, and cool hangouts; but they have quickly evolved into replacements for the phone, email, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions. While adoption is still slow among large, multinational enterprises, it is nonetheless growing and will continue to do so as the functionality, customization, and scalability continue to improve.
Organizations that have been early adopters of “traditional” social media applications (Facebook, Twitter and the like) to communicate with customers and stakeholders are meeting with limited success because the experience is akin to trying to achieve business outcomes at a Las Vegas nightclub amidst the din of pulsating and seismic activity-inducing hip hop tunes. Sure, your stakeholders and customers might be at the party, but it is hardly the atmosphere to share information, collaborate on new initiatives, and respond to customer feedback and ideas.
Facebook is the virtual nightclub or block party, Twitter the virtual newsroom, and LinkedIn the virtual job fair or networking event, but to achieve business drivers and deliver value to your customers your enterprise demands a radically different environment. The user profiles innovated by Facebook, the newsfeeds and hash tagging of Twitter, and the video uploading and streaming of You Tube are critical business tools in the social media age but they scream for business relevance and utility.
The blueprint for a different, more relevant social business experience exists; it just needs an architect and builder that can create the environment befitting the personality and quirks of your particular enterprise.
Imagine a tailor-made social business experience that using predictive analytics can accurately predict that a product manager in Des Moines will benefit from a user guide developed by a content manager in Oakland. Or a social business community that provides a camping superstore customer with the functionality at his or her fingertips to identify a likeminded outdoor enthusiast based on a user profile and user generated content like photo sharing or microblogging. Thanks to the good folks at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, the technology and functionality exists. Now its up to businesses to take advantage of these tools and build a unique enterprise and stakeholder community that looks, feels, and sounds like their business, not just some noisy burger joint.
In a nutshell, this is the fledgling social business or enterprise level social business industry that has an opportunity to transform the way enterprises innovate, collaborate, and communicate in much the same way social media transformed the way people communicate and socialize.
Companies like Jive and Yammer have already started to make inroads into this space, but they approach it as purely a technology play when in reality it is a hybrid of technology and service. Social business platforms, tools, and predictive analytics are technologies, but they are like a body without a soul if not combined with a keen understanding of behavioral science, the art of communication, and the evolution of the modern day consumer.
The public relations industry, with its institutional knowledge of consumer behavior, the drivers and motivators of enterprise level communications and collaboration, and the expertise in building non-zero sum communities, is uniquely suited to leverage these social business tools to achieve business drivers while at the same time creating customer value.