Monday, February 8, 2010

Holistic Social

Holistic social, enterprise social… it’s the buzz of the future. Industry leaders and analysts watching the social media space continue to point organizations in this direction. This disruptive technology is forever changing the way businesses do business. But organizations are grappling with how to get on board. What does enterprise social really mean? And how does an entire organization begin to get socially calibrated?

Holistic by definition means the practice of addressing or healing the “whole". There are a million ways to skin a cat and in social media that statement is no different. There are marketing and brand tactics awaiting execution, salespersons eager to sell, customer service and CRM issues to address, PR and crisis response plans to put in place, and operational and legal challenges lurking in the wings all with an eye towards doing it in the social sphere. Each of these areas converse with a variety of audiences - customers, prospects, employees, bloggers and media who are then categorized into buckets as influencers, advocates and detractors. Layer on all the channels, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs and holistic social sounds evermore confusing and complicated. And the race to the finish line is going 900mph.

In order to become a whole and healthy organization in the social space, its important to develop a social media strategy anchored to its key business goals. The worst thing an organization can do is let every team or department go out into the social space as a silo - putting real focus to social strategy enables a company to get holistically calibrated.

But getting started is not an easy task. How do you organize around social? How can you get your organization to live socially? Where does social live in organization? Which tactics should your organization embrace? Which audience should you address first? How do you measure results? The first step to getting socially calibrated is to recognize that there are no easy answers or text book solutions. Each organization needs to define and chart its own course which aligns with its unique business goals and culture. While each organization is different and each ecosystem unique, I do believe there are some initial steps an organization can take to begin the journey:

1/ Build an Integrated Team
Develop a core team comprised of cross functional leaders to define social strategy. It’s a great idea to engage leaders from the marketing, communications, customer service, sales, operations and legal departments. Even better if you can have executive sponsorship. Do, though, make sure there are folks on the team who are socially savvy. Social media integration for many functional business leaders require they get socially educated and receive guidance from the folks in the field.

2/ Determine a Beacon

While the integrated team can help steer the strategy and ensure all leaders are engaged in policy and how the organization will move together, determine a beacon to help execute the plans. Many organizations are building social media teams and departments to help the organization manage through the programs. Where this team resides and how its structured is up to the organizational structure. At the end of the day everyone owns social in a holistic organization but initially you'll need the drive and support of a few key folks who get it and can move it.

3/ Embrace a Social Culture

Change for most is difficult, particularly if it means becoming more vulnerable. Yet that is exactly where companies need to stand today with the advent of social. Consumers expect and demand brands to be in the social space and to listen to their wants and needs. In order to survive and succeed in social, companies need more than ever to build an internal culture of transparency, engagement, responsiveness, and nimbleness. Some companies like IBM, Dell, Best Buy and Coca Cola have developed amazing strategies and policies to include the vast majority of their employees in the social media space. Company leaders now need to ask themselves tough questions, "How comfortable am I in giving employees access to information and engaging on line?" "If our consumers are asking us to change our product, will we able to execute on their requests?" "How comfortable am I in giving up some control of my brand?"

4/ Develop Strategy Based on Business Goals
In order to create a holistically social enterprise, it’s important that the tactics implemented all ladder up to the mission and strategy of the organization. Only in this way will the entire organization be able to successfully calibrate to embrace the new world order of holistic social media. Aligning with business goals also makes it easier to attribute and report out the effectiveness of social media.

To truly become a holistically social enterprise, I’m reminded of this mantra, “personal progress for the greatest number depends on unity”.