More business leaders report that they believe in the power of social behaviors and technologies to add value to their business. A new study from the Economist Intelligence Unit and PulsePoint Group seems to confirm that business leaders are seeing the value while still be held up by barriers to expanding their use of social across the enterprise.
The survey of 329 US and Canadian executives painted a clear picture of the positive expectations and beliefs of executives. Social engagement can deliver big gains in growing market share, improved marketing and sales effectiveness, improved product and service quality and more. But something still gets in the way of actually executing at scale on this belief.
A particular set of data points from a 2009 McKinsey study starts to hint at the dynamic:
Most of the companies reporting true results are those who are really thoroughly applying social solutions to their business. They are the ones who have gone deepest fastest. Dabblers are left scratching their head as to whether they are reaping a benefit.
In the new study, we hear business executives citing of 9 key barriers:
I would group these in 4 categories that business leaders are working to overcome:
Defining Clear Value
Both “Inability to prove ROI” and “Lack of budget” speak to the need for defining clear value. ROI specifically demands the data to compare investments in social engagement with whatever businesses are doing today to meet business goals. Lack of budget is a smokescreen for “lack of clarity and confidence in the value delivered and, therefore, lack of willingness to allocate budget.”
Remove this roadblock: I know overcoming these barriers is not easy so don’t let my seemingly simple answers suggest otherwise. On the other hand, each is somewhat under our control as business leaders and I would encourage us all to take steps.
Establish a 'pretty good' measurement model today. Many major brands have created evaluation models for their social media efforts in marketing and communications. A few of the big consumer package goods companies that we work with have created measurement frameworks that roll KPIs up under 3-4 measurement categories like relevant awareness, advocacy, engagement and action. Advocacy is the new kid on the block and is obviously a metric driven by the adoption of social media. We have started to log all of the performance data of marcom programs that we work on into a database. Other big brands are doing the same. With enough data we will be able to compare the efficacy of different programs and an understanding of ROI. It’s complex and takes a lot of work. But it’s the right way to go.
Create BIG, meaningful goals. Some brands are setting big hairy audacious goals around the marketing mix. One of teh by products of brands embracing the "paid, owned and earned' concept is the desire to make marketing more effective and efficient. CMO's are declaring that they will reduce the paid component to 60% of teh mix (from 80%) or simply saying they want to reduce TV spend by $200 million and achieve the same or better results. These are motivational goals for an organization.
Don't let ROI hunger kill innovation. ROI and budget are also a leadership issue. While arriving at ROI measures are important to managing business, they are hard to do in a space where we are all still innovating and proving models valid. Leaders need to guide organizations to be responsible about value without being too ruthless on ROI in the near term lest they kill innovation.
Reducing Organizational Friction
Legal concerns, unclear strategy, complexity of organization, and poor collaboration are all indicative of organization friction. They arise out of the conflict of how we are organized and motivated today with the behaviors necessary to create value via social (see this outline of social business behaviors).
Remove this roadblock: Every business should have legal and/or regulatory concerns. The new behaviors implicit in social media can threaten IP protection, confidentiality and privacy, and customer protections.
Engage the legal team differently. The path forward is to aggressively educate the legal and regulatory team and charge them with guidance on how to use social in all areas of the business. That is a very different mandate than asking same group to protect us from social media. I have seen some top lawyers in brands really turn into social advocates. They are energized by the challenge. I am a big proponent of brands creating a social business strategy that thoughtfully articulates what they should and shouldn’t do.
Make collaboration a priority. The biggest challenge is the need for horizontal collaboration within the company to get this done. If no single department “owns” social business, then powerful leaders within the business have to voluntarily come together to define this strategy. This cannot be delegated to the token “social strategist(s).” Leaders who have budget and staff authority and hard business metrics guiding them must work together. This type of cross-function collaboration is hard. Or at least it’s harder than just doing business the way we all learned over the past decade. We literally need to find new ways to work together. Form a working council of folks who lead marketing, communications, customer service, product development, HR, legal and more to create a social business strategy within 90 days. Get some outside help if necessary (just don’t fully delegate it outside lest the strategy be rejected by the organism).
Revitalize how you run meetings and especially brainstorms. Great moderation techniques matter even more as we bring disparate groups together. Just think about the new creative team in marketing anc communications. We are no longer talking about writing a creative brief and handing off ideation to a visual designer and a copywriter. We are talking about inviting a new team to the table to create strategy, a big idea (a platform idea?) and then actual ‘executions’.
Mastering New Skills
There is a renaissance in training going on. Between new skills necessary to master digital and social media to new techniques to manipulate the flood of business data at our fingertips into something actionable, we need training and education. The myth that Gen Y employees walk in with an intuitive ability to use digital and social media is just that, a myth. Sure, they are native to Facebook, but applying all of these new platforms and behaviors to business outcomes is no more familiar to Gen Y as it is to the Boomers who dominate senior leadership.
Remove this roadblock:
Establish a real, sustained training program. Create a clear set of learning objectives for different job functions. Determine what you want staff to be able to ‘do’ and what you want them to know to succeed. Develop a training program that you can sustain and one that can be scaled. That means embracing some type of e-learning to reach people across the workforce and across the world and to provide the fresh trainings as skills in the marketplace evolve (e.g. your community management training from last year probably didn’t include instructions for managing paid media in FB at any sophisticated level. That had been left to the media agency/entity. Well, this year the CM 3.0 needs that skill set to make the most out of the platform)
Applying Effective Leadership
You can only get so far in promoting change within an organization without pressure from leadership above. It used to be that the C-suite would hear about digital and social media from media, peers in the board room or discover it in some other personal way. They would want to know more. We could deliver a 2-3 hour executive training about the 411 of digital and social media. Now business executives need to know a lot more about how to use digital and social media to increase revenue, profitability, operations and innovation gains and more. They also need to know how they can behave as digital leaders to promote change within their organization.
Remove this roadblock: it’s time for a new, more robust training for executives that goes beyond delivering informational knowledge about how Facebook or Google+ works. A proper digital and social training program for executives ties everything back to business outcomes. The hardest part is to balance the importance of hands-on exercises to make concepts and behavior real with the legitimate time pressures of today’s business leaders. Full day immersion programs are hard to schedule. Not everything can be neatly condensed into a 30 minute briefing.
This year will see many business leaders taking on the hard tasks of driving change. That means training, setting big goals, paying attention to new behaviors like collaboartion and, generally, taking responsibilty to spark change.