In his long-celebrated article for Wired magazine, Chris Anderson described how online retailers were revolutionizing their business models by leveraging The Long Tail. Rather than simply relying on a few blockbusters, companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Google – unconstrained by the limitations of brick-and-mortar showrooms – generated far more revenue by giving consumers the power to purchase thousands of niche products and titles.
In a similar way, social networks have created a long tail for your online brand identity, which can be a huge benefit when leveraged using social business optimization (SBO) software, or a potential challenge if ignored. Virtually every employee in your organization has an online presence between the “Big 3” social networks – LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. When they identify themselves as your employees on these sites, they immediately become your brand ambassadors. They carry the company flag in a social-driven marketplace. They position and re-position your corporate identity on a daily basis.
While you may have made a huge investment in search engine optimization and hired the cream of the crop to leverage your SEM spend, your corporate website and the company profiles you control are only the head of your very large online presence. What have you done about the hundreds or thousands of employee-operated sites that represent you? Their online reach and influence is the long tail of your brand identity that you should be leveraging.
Rather than approaching this seemingly daunting task with fear or trepidation, the successful social enterprise recognizes the inherent value in this new dynamic. They realize that this shift in the marketplace is happening, and they seek ways to empower their employees with the tools and best practices that will benefit both the organization as a whole and support the individual goals of the professionals who comprise it.
Imagine the following common challenge, which can be turned into an opportunity using the right social business optimization (SBO) software: you understand the value of every employee in your organization having a consistent company description on his or her LinkedIn profile. One approach (one that many companies rely on) is to inform employees of the desired update, set a deadline, and then manually monitor compliance and send out reminders. If you have more than a handful of employees, you can see how this process will quickly tax precious resources; a few thousand employees makes it nearly impossible.
However, the successful organization puts SBO software to work, instantly bridging the gap between the enterprise and employees’ usage of social technologies, providing analytics and best practices while influencing the “default setting” of the social networks that represent the corporate brand at scale. SBO solutions provide employees with an easy-to-follow roadmap for optimizing their social presence – in this case, adding a consistent company description to their LinkedIn profile – explaining the pros and cons, and incentivizing them to get involved. These solutions are automated and can be gamified to increase employee motivation.
This is an over-simplification of how social business optimization works. It is not merely about listening or compliance, and it is should not be about dictating the brand message across thousands of employee websites. Effective social business solutions empower employees to achieve optimal performance by using the social networking tools they have at hand. They help employees better communicate messages to sales prospects and close deals faster, find and hire the right candidates, and more effectively manage internal and external relationships.
In short, social business is the ability for an organization to leverage its communities to improve performance. It becomes a game-changer in the social-driven marketplace. And, at its core, it will change the way you do business.
In our next entry, we’ll examine one of the keys to social business success: getting your employees to buy in. We’ll answer one very important question – the first one that will cross their minds when you introduce social business to them – “What’s in it for me?”