6 Social Business Trends

Before firing off some trends at you, let me explain to you why Social Business is important. Social Business is important because we are leaving the era of industrialisation in which we closely rely on technology to create large scale manufacturing solutions that consisted of mainly routine tasks. As you might have experienced yourself and what researchers have uncovered more clearly: work is becoming more non routine. Take that combined with a more equal playing field in publishing, since in the past you used to have either the money or sources to publish via a printing press or it successors, and the world has changed. What not has changed over the last few years is organizations. And you cannot blame them for it, all them are, as my colleague Gopal Padinjaruveetil puts it (to quote him freely):

We have a situation where the Business Users are in the 21st century, the Enterprise IT Department is in the 20th century and IT – Business Processes are in the 19th century.

And the result of it is that organisations that are using social media, aren’t using it for business purposes. They try to catch up with their business users, their customers, however they forget that in every organisations some things are limited: resources and time. They are just copying their old processes on the new platforms and still have the illusion that things are going fine. Therefore one of the oldest business mantras is still in place: if you spend money you should make money, or at least spend less money than you would had to do in the baseline scenario. Or more concise: it has to serve a business goal. The presentation below will give you and idea on what to do next. Since images is just one part of the story I’ve written out the voiceover I’ve used during this presentation below the slides.

The slides

The sweet spots of Social Business

There are four sweet spots in Social Business and keep those in mind when we go to the six social business trends:

  1. Increase employee productivity. The traditional do more with less approach. Since most knowledge workers are stuck for 28 hours a week in either their inbox or in meetings, you can imagine that there is tons of productivity we can gain by reducing this. However there is also a big opportunity in reducing duplicate work, improving communication and by removing decentralised or hidden communication at all.
  2. Increase customer satisfaction. At the same time you can reduce the cost to serve. Which might seem to be a contradiction, however if you think of something like peer 2 peer support in which customers support other customers it might become more clear. By having customers picking up the support role, you can reduce your service costs and if you provide the right incentives customers become more satisfied, have to wait less time to get an answer and become more loyal to the brand since they can make a difference themselves by helping their peers.
  3. Increase lead generation and up sell opportunities. And reduce your marketing spend, since marketing is not the only driver for your sales efforts. You can bolster your sales team by having more information available for them to base their decisions on, but also create a better view of your customer and therefore better tailor your offer to their real needs.
  4. Increase employee satisfaction. Satisfied employees tend to stay longer and that alone already reduces your recruitment costs. However bonding with talents early on and hire the right people early on can be a great benefit as well, since the War on Talent is going on right now. Also maintaining a successful alumni community can help your business with a good network and also for re-hiring purposes.

The six trends

The six trends I am going to describe to you are all trends to you can apply right now, perhaps some fo them you are already doing or experiencing, though overall these are practical trends, nothing long-term or really futuristic. Just realistic trends of today and trends that all fit the four sweet spots I described to you before.

1. Privacy as a Currency

Imagine that you can go to a hotel and get a room without paying any money. The only thing in return is a 24/7 broadcast of you in your hotel room. Everything you do is broadcasted to the world. Might sound scary, however in a way we are already exchanging our privacy for things we want to have or want to use. By using services such as Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare your exchanging part of your privacy for functionality. In some cases you might to do same with companies. They ask you for certain information and you are providing it to them to get for example better service or better offers in return. Basically as soon as you are authorising a social platform with a platform from a business (such as a retailer), you are giving a bit of your privacy to the company, since they can get access to your information. Privacy as a currency would fit in the sweet spot of lead generation and up sell opportunities.

2. Insights are the new oil

Often it is stated that data is the new oil, however oil is scarce and one thing isn’t scarce anymore it is data. However insights are very scarce. Though you can use the social data that is already available for you to create insights for your customers. For example C&A is using the number of likes to show popularity of a certain item of clothing directly on its hanger. You can use social data to do predictions on what the next step can be for your customer or what kind of need he really has. Or you can use social proof to persuade customers to buy a product they normally don’t buy instead of trying to persuade them with a discount (which basically just costs you money). Insights are the new oil basically fits across all the aforementioned sweet spots since these insights help you to excel in all areas.

3. Frictionless sharing

If you are regular reader of my site, you probably have read a lot about frictionless sharing and you can read the collection of articles on this matter on this page. Frictionless sharing is the approach that the user sets up sharing permissions just once and after that content is shared automatically based on other behaviours  For example in Spotify the default behaviour is that all of the music you play is automatically shared with your friends. Imagine if you could do that with your products or services, what would be the meaningful experiences that could be shared with friends and could in the end drive a higher awareness of your products and services and to have more customers in general. Frictionless sharing would fit in the sweet spot of employee productivity, since if they have to think less of when to share, they can focus more on doing things, also it fits in the upsell and lead generation sweet spot.

4. Task completion

People are not using a search engine to search, nobody wants to do searching, people want task completion. Most social media efforts by companies are gimmicks, campaigns that just waste time and doesn’t help anybody in completing a certain goal. If you can design your social business solution that it helps task completion for either your customers or your employees the adoption rate is a lot higher. Elements of Gamification can help to get to task completion in a different way. If you are interested in gamification I would suggest to read the site of Andrzej Marczewski. Also keep in mind that you are not your product. You might sell shovels, though you are basically selling the opportunity to make holes in your backyard. Focus on task completion and focus on what you are actually doing, not on the thing you sell. Task completion of course is obvious to fit in the employee productivity and employee satisfaction sweet spot, also it fits in the increase of customer satisfaction since your customers will get things done quicker.

 5. Death by Marketing

One of the most concerning trends is basically marketeers getting on Social Media using as a new platform to get their message out. Basically the are just using it as a mechanism to shout to their customers how great they are and why you should buy their product. Even worse they are asking you to do the same. They offer a relatively small incentive and asking you (in different words) to spam your friends with their offers. It is a sad state of affairs and it is basically what Hugh Macleod already said in 2006: “if you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face”. Now with Social Media: people do punch in the face and the best thing of it: everybody sees it happening. Death by marketing is a trend, however not one you should adopt but one you should avoid. If you don’t avoid it your customer satisfaction will decrease as well as the opportunities for lead generation and up sell will diminish.

6. Don’t do it yourself

Being a Social Business means that you don’t put yourself into the center of the ecosystem. It is no about you, which also implies that you don’t have to do everything for everybody. It is a common pitfall in web care that companies think that they are the ones that should answer all questions that are out there. Please don’t. Think of your business goals, think of what your product actually is and think on how you could empower your customers and future customers to help you in making you scale while you can focus more on your core activities at the same time. Don’t do it yourself is just as insights are the new oil a trend that fits across all the aforementioned sweet spots.

What will you do on Monday?

After reading more than 1600 words of this article, what will you do with it. What is your next step now? Do you already have your business goals defined, do you know what the ROI could be, or are you just great on Facebook and will you start your next like+win action in a few hours? If you want to know how to make your social media efforts worth doing, please read this article.