"To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others." - Tony Robbins, author, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker
One of the biggest challenges that social business and online community professionals face is communicating their strategy to their peers and leadership. Getting buy-in from the right people in your organization can clear the way for your online community.
Failing to develop understanding among your co-workers and executive backers can result in damage to your credibility on a personal level and competitive disadvantages and operational inefficiencies on a business level.
Using online communities to achieve business objectives is still an emerging strategy for many companies. While many social business initiatives are not yet meeting their intended goals, each week we hear of new success stories.
Some of this is due to the natural evolution of business technologies. However, many organizations are grabbing the reins and taking the necessary steps to make their online community strategies a measurable success.
Successful social business plans start with rallying the troops inside your organization. Unlike a lead management or email marketing system that is only used by specific departments within your company, online community software impact groups across your organization - from marketing to customer support to product development.
What is Social Business?
First, we have to get on the same page about what social business is. This infographic illustrates one of the most simple and widely-shared definitions.
Having implemented online customer and member communities for organizations of all sizes, from large nonprofits to Fortune 100 companies, Higher Logic has developed some simple guidelines for explaining social business to people inside your company.
Put Social Business In Terms Of Communities That They Work With Today
Try explaining social business without using the term, "social."
Social media and social networking have received so much attention over the past few years that people have preconceived ideas about where the conversation is going to go when they hear the word "social" in a business context.
Often, they either think they know everything about it and can't learn anything new OR they think that they know nothing and shut down for fear of being overwhelmed.
Frame your social business strategy as a way to improve communication, listening, and peer-to-peer collaboration to, from, and among existing communities that are important to your business. This could be employees, prospects, existing customers, or partners.
Starting with the audience gives your executives and colleagues an anchor, that they already have experience with, to help in their understanding of who and what you are talking about.
It's All About Relationships
Now that you have grounded your presentation of your social business strategy in communities that your internal audience understands, you can talk about how you'd like your businesses relationship with those communities to change.
- Would you like employees to be able to co-create solutions faster?
- Would you like your customers to become more successful with your products or services to the point where they can't operate without them?
- Would you like prospective customers to move through their buying process more quickly?
- Would you like partners to advocate for your products in the market more consistently?
- Would you like members to get value from each other, as well as from your organization?
The breadth and flexibility of online communities enable companies to develop and maintain closer relationships with the people that matter most to their business.
When explaining social business to senior management or co-workers, identify the relationships that are most important to the organization. Then, highlight what developing a strong, more informed bond with and among that community could do for your business (e.g. employee productivity, customer lifetime value, member retention. etc.)
Use Today's Metrics
With the emergence of online communities at the center of customer relationship management strategies comes a host of new metrics to track. They range from visit-to-contribution ratios to surveys measuring customers' sense of community.
However, you'd be well advised to stick that terminology in a drawer when getting buy-in for your social business strategy.
Even though customer communities or employee social networks offer opportunities to engage key audiences like never before, at the end of the day, your business goals and metrics remain the same. Profit is still profit. Growth is still growth. And having more happy customers is still better than having fewer happy customers.
When explain your online community plans to executives, keep the conversation focused on the metrics that they use and care about today. Avoid delving into minute, but important, social business metrics unless your audience takes you there.
Even then, it is important to tie your community's strategy and measures of success back to your organization's core business metrics.
Social Business Takeaway
Social business does not change your business. Using your communities to improve the performance of your organization must align with your organization's existing business-level goals.
This holds true throughout your online community's lifecycle—beginning with explaining your social business strategy to senior management and co-workers. Follow the three guidelines above to get faster buy-in and attract more supporters for your social business plans.