Kathie Melocco - Health Activism

Blog dedicated to Social Justice and Health and Wellbeing Activism

December 08, 2010

Does your company leadership ‘get the business case’ for digital word of mouth (aka social media)?

Social Media Workshops

According to futurist Dr James Canton the top 10 workforce trends necessitate employees commit to continuous learning particularly  up skilling their technological skills if they are to attract the cream of the crop positions in a global workforce.
As the global war for talent heats up, new key skills will be required of the C Suite. ‘Smart Talent’ has been identified as the top driver of competitive advantage. Highly educated, skilled and experienced employees will be in demand.
Finding, training and retaining high-tech skilled employees from a global talent pool will be the greatest challenge for every organization. And that is the dilemma; many C Suites are failing to embrace the fundamental shift in stakeholder collaboration that has dramatically turned our customers into our collaborators with the rise of Web 2. We no longer communicate outside our office walls with linear messages and just the ‘old media’ as the commentator. Our customers are now commentating on our every corporate move, many with powerful followings who can literally make or break a product such as a bad review that can in a split second resonate with their followers and go massively viral.

Learning this lesson the hard way has cost some companies dearly while some savvy CEO’s have identified the business shift that is not an option but, an imperative holistically within the organisation similar to the days when the first PC’s were introduced to all employees desks adding the benefit to the bottom line of improved productivity and labour cost controls.

That same paradigm shift is now once again required of business.

Just as businesses in 2010 are  having to adapt to a rapidly changing world and are embedding innovation into the organizational DNA as a key driver of future competitive advantage, so too is the imperative upon organizations to commit to employee development, continual education and   training in the social media arena, returning to the organisation new skills and new competencies.

The philosophy is very simple, if your customers are in this new social media space and populate it with ever increasing daily time habits, then why too aren’t you?

This business process transformation can’t be delegated to low level functional roles if the company is to reap the true benefit of active engagement with your customers and stakeholders. It must be owned at leadership level. Social media affects the entire business, and should be looked at Board Room and CEO level.

So what exactly is this ‘thing’ called social media? Firstly I like to refer to social media as digital word of mouth. It is easier for C Suites to get their head around that definition and takes away from the often confused recreational image of Facebook and other social networks.

Fact is many C Suites are missing the point entirely about social media and are lagging far behind many innovative small businesses and competitors. I will go as far as saying many of the larger enterprise organisations don’t even allow employees to access their emails using Smart phones. Only yesterday I heard of the frustrations of one young savvy product manager who was frustrated with her organisation’s leadership and understanding of where and how their customers are ‘hanging out’ as she said to me rightly about the 18-35 market. “They are online, not listening to drive time radio.”

To ‘get it’, you must understand, social media is NOT just a marketing activity, it is a fundamental shift in almost every purchase or conversion process. It is the next generation of business engagement. Whether consumer facing, B2B, for profit or non profit, people are turning to people like themselves for the information they need to make smart choices and are talking about products, causes and activities BEFORE they will even consider the purchase process. They form opinions, talk with their communities, share news and more.
The advent of Web 2.0 and the social web is clearly a game changer, on numerous fronts. It is most effective when it is applied in a holistic manner – take the Zappos case study as an example a company growing from Zero - $1.2 billion using social media strategically rather than simply operationally. To illustrate this let’s take a look at the role of Chief Operating Officer which of course differs from industry to industry and from organisation to organisation. However in most cases the COO is responsible for the daily operations of the company.

As we know many COO’s have worked their way through the company holding different positions of responsibility and are now being groomed to take over the CEO position.

Key functions of the COO often include:
1.        Organise resources as set by the CEO with the aim of creating maximum value for the company’s stakeholders
2.       Lead by developing and cascading the organisational strategy and mission statement and aligning personnel with company goals
3.       Plan by prioritising customer, employee and organisational requirements
4.       Maintain and monitor staffing levels and key knowledge requirements that align the organisational goals
5.       Drive performance indicators for the measurement of the organisations results.

Need convincing then consider the following hypothetical meeting.
Here are some thought provokers:
CEO – Is this a PR function OR whole of organisation function? What’s the business case, what are our competitors doing?
CFO –Will this strategy increase revenues and what about costs?
CIO –Network security will be an issue.... all these desktop social applications downloaded by every employee is a nightmare to manage.
Legal – Our risk exposure could be huge. We’ll need to consider procedures, standards, workplace law requirements around social media. Definitely a social media policy is needed.
HR – Are we giving all employees access? Who’s training the whole organisation? Can this be used for recruiting?
CSO – Is this going to generate sales leads or is it just about customer service. Do I need to involve the call centre for customer complaints resolution. How are we going to monitor this?

What are your views? Do you think social media discussions need to take place in the boardroom and with company leadership?

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