Social Media and the power of integration

Mark Stanley

Posted by Mark Stanley

 

At salesforce.com, we’ve been evangelising the idea of the social-powered business for some time – and working hard to turn ourselves into one.

It’s been an invigorating journey and has taken us to places we never would have predicted. On the way, we’ve worked with thousands of companies on a similar journey, as they change from ‘broadcast’ mode to engagement mode.

One of the things that has become clear is that the value of social media increases dramatically with its degree of integration into and across the enterprise. Being socially-powered is so much more than just having a Facebook and Twitter account.

Most companies start with social media activity confined to a silo – usually a silo labelled ‘marketing’ or ‘PR’. They start posting sales and marketing messages on a few channels (Facebook and Twitter are often among the first) with social media handled by a few people as a new part of their day jobs.

The next step might be to build presences in these channels and begin engaging with other users. And to get more people involved. As things grow, a social media team starts to emerge. A few people now do it full time.

At this point, two interesting things start to happen:

  • Social media starts to change the way you work – if marketing does most of the social activity, you start to see the marketing department actually becoming socialised. Social activity starts to weave itself into the fabric of marketing instead of being an afterthought or independent process. And internal collaboration starts to become social-powered, too.
  • Social starts to spread across the organisation – no matter who started the social media experiment; it inevitably spreads to other departments and disciplines. Customer service is always one of the earliest adopters (sometimes the first). Sales are never far behind. Then HR, product management, partner relations and all kinds of project teams looking for a better (more social) way to collaborate.

We’ve seen these two effects over and over in a wide range of companies and private sector organisations. Social media changes the way we work; and it propagates across disciplines. So social media is not just something that happens ‘out there’, it’s also something that happens internally, with social collaboration platforms and intranets.

As companies move up this maturity curve, the returns on social media activities invariably rise as well. Not just for the smartest social players – for everyone.

Because another curious feature of social media involvement is that it teaches participants how to use it. Someone who tries to apply old-school thinking in social channels (for example, by spamming Facebook groups with overtly promotional messages) soon learn there’s a better way.

It’s as if social media is a seed that gets planted in your company culture and soon becomes an essential part of your ecosystem, popping up everywhere and changing every niche it touches.

The power of social integration

Like most people, I started out as a social media sceptic. I could see its value for teenagers but wasn’t convinced it would have any value as a driver of business growth.

Today, I couldn’t be more convinced. On the way, I’ve also become something of an evangelist for social media integration – for letting social out of its box and working into the warp and weft of your company.

Here’s how the very best social media cultures do it:

  • Process integration
    Get all salespeople to track prospects’ social activities.
    Make sure your helpdesk can monitor and interact in social channels.
    Make sure product innovators are out there listening.
  • Technology integration
    Pull social activity into your CRM to create complete social profiles.
    Integrate social with web content management and email platforms.
    Turn your call centre into a social-powered contact centre.
  • People integration
    Encourage people to get involved.
    Establish clear, simple policies to guide them.
    Use social tools to help find the best people and motivate them.
  • Collaboration integration
    Make your own intranets and collaboration platforms social.
    Let people ‘follow’ issues or conversations.
    Let people post, share, like, comment and set up their own groups.
  • Metrics integration
    Automate and integrate your social media monitoring.
    Build social metrics into your traditional metrics and KPIs.
  • Management integration
    Get the management teams involved in social channels.
    Include social behaviour in performance reviews and job descriptions.

The integration dividend

Every company is on a learning curve when it comes to social media. So wherever your company or your team is now, the important thing is to move in the right direction: towards wider social adoption and deeper integration.

The benefits for the companies that lead the way are hugely compelling:

  • Increased responsiveness to customers
  • Better ability to respond to change and seize opportunities
  • More efficient processes
  • Happier people and more collaborative teams
  • Increased market traction and a healthier revenue pipeline
  • Products that meet customer needs better
  • Service that delights instead of disappoints

This isn’t empty hype. These are the real benefits that social-powered businesses are enjoying today by harnessing the power of social.

We know, because we’re one of them.

Go forth and integrate!

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