Lack of Cohesive Social Strategy Plan Prevents Firms from Fully Realizing the Benefits of Digital

Social Strategy and Plan for Digital to workA new research study by IBM on the customer-activated enterprise# outlines three major themes that underscore the importance of social for firms to fully realize the benefits of digital.

In reading the report, and from hundreds of interviews I conducted over the years with C-level stakeholders and their teams, the themes are not about technology itself, in fact many firms have more software and tools that gather dust in the underutilized pile. They are about market approach.

Digital at the core transforms a business fundamentally to support a different way to operate with partners upstream and downstream, and provides the construct to close the loop on being connected with customers throughout the give and take of the sales process.

Because of the ubiquity of tools, mobile habits, and availability of choices to get any one job done, both customers and businesses are now on a more broadly defined sell side” together.

We call this a new trend of collaboration and co-creation. When in fact it is the tools that look new and make it more visible.

CEOs put disruptive technologies on top of their agenda

The reason is three-fold:

  1. Customer influence
  2. Digital-physical innovation opportunities
  3. Experiences driving preference and advocacy

This should be the main reason that keeps marketers up at night.

Rather than just being a line item on a list of tactics, digital (and social, just not done how we see it today) has created opportunities for companies and
brands to go direct and, learning from the early examples of retail commerce, get to know their customers, in some
cases for the very first time.

CEOs are listening - are you?
Because of the broad adoption of smartphones and tablets by customers, behavior is blurring the line between digital and in store.
The direct nature of digital is blurring another line between media and
brands, affording preference for businesses that focus on creating

That means a brand becomes meaningful when the direct interaction
makes the customer's life more enjoyable, simpler, better, and so on. To
operate with digital at the core organizations will need to identify
what matters, what change is needed, and what to do first, second,
third, and so on.

Striking the balance between digital, social, physical

And all the other worlds we are worried about — or should be. Digital outperformers have figured out a way to combine people, process, and technology assets in a way that creates value for the business as measured by what matters.

Digital Outperformers
I wish I had better news on that front, because what matters ends up being behavior and whenever we start talking about people, we get into the complex zone.

If you've ever tried to manage” the relationship with your teenage daughter, you know what I'm talking about from experience. It is a balance, some of it predictable, most of it a reasonable combination of often evolving things: what are their circles doing? What's new? How big is their wallet? What are they thinking about?

Lack of a cohesive people plan is a big obstacle here. When looking at social integration maturity models, most organizations — I've seen numbers that draw that at 60% — are still somewhere between dabbling and testing the waters.

Social and digital are increasingly more strategic

Which is why CEOs are paying attention and smart marketers are working on coordinating resources to achieve a more centralized approach. Companies making inroads prototype, test, and iterate the social experience.

Workspace today is not longer a place to go, it's a thing you do — and it often starts as a digital space. A thing you do with colleagues, peers, and customers. Which is why digital and social affect relationships and culture. 

Technology and social are transforming how we do business. Corporations are starting to see the effects of collectively closing the gap on promises made and kept through the value customers assign to the brands and services on offer.

Value = I'm coming back, I'm telling my friends, I take the time to make a recommendation. And, for heavens' sake, do fix those Websites so I can shop from my mobile phone. Not one, two Pew studies (and many more) highlight the importance of getting location and mobile services right.

Increasingly, excelling at delivering a coherent
experience across multiple devices is crucial to customer acquisition and retention,
especially for organizations with complex products or many service offerings across
several delivery platforms.

Customer experience is a major component of the
brand. Marketing owns it, and now requires information like customer feedback,
analytics, and social activity to manage it well. Digital provides an advantage.

360 feedback loops

Eerily close to the 365-calendar-days of yesteryear, I am seeing more public mentions of a 360-degree view of the customer to provide appropriate experiences every step of the day.

Except for it's not really a race — I've been talking about this for the better part of a dozen years, and people smarter than I have before me/in synchronicity. Eventually, it becomes inevitable, which is why it feels like a race when you're not ready.

Social continues to be a strategic business driver, and digital at the core enables better collaboration by making it easier, more public, referenceable, and a double-edged sword when the resulting experience is lackluster.

Chances are, organizations are erring on the people-side of things. They are just not working together across divisions and job titles.

The soft stuff tends to take much longer to activate. The good news: it's never too late to rethink the value of humans in architecting experiences. After all, it is humans who are living them.

Pioneer Digital-Physical Innovation
Key action items:

  • identify where the gaps are in your organizational digital/social maturity — is it people? are the appropriate processes in place? does the technology integrate/enable you to do what you need to do?
  • focus on strategy and plan to define the value to business and barriers to next steps — look for counter-intuitive issues like, policies that are too restrictive, and we have no idea who our customers are (a good place to start, yet not the ONLY place)
  • become more adaptive and learn to work iteratively — that's how you do away with the idea you are throwing away half your money. Replace the anxiety of figuring out key metrics by doing the work to see what matters by prototyping, testing, optimizing. A word of caution, leave some room for the fuzziness of people
  • play well with peers — with all this talk of collaboration and co-creation, I am not seeing enough meeting of the minds among C-level teams (or boards for that matter). Actions speak louder than words, and the whole organizational behavior cascades from what the people at the top do, not what they say. Down the line, that also means customers

I have a ton more to say (obviously). It is not evidence we are seeking at this point, is it? 


[hat tip Scott Brinker for the report]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover
the value of promises and its effect on relationships and
. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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