• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • Duo Consulting
    Michael Silverman on October 15, 2014

    4 Reasons Drupal Is the Best Social CMS

    It turns out Drupal and Social Media are a match made in heaven. Because of Drupal’s system of modules, integration with external websites can be as easy as installing a module that fits your site’s needs. And once these modules are installed, you will have a central place to manage profile information and plug-in modules, such as follow and share buttons.
  • There are two types of business owners in the corporate world. There is the business owner who focuses on building his individual brand, and there is the owner who focuses on building his business’s brand, entirely separate from himself. In this post, we explore which branding method is better to display on social media for small business owners.

    There are two types of business owners in the corporate world. There is the business owner who focuses on building his individual brand, and there is the owner who focuses on building his business’s brand, entirely separate from himself.

    Let’s look at two very different examples: Kim Kardashian and Muhtar Kent. When you hear the name Kim Kardashian, an abundance of information about the woman comes to mind. You’ve seen countless examples of her brand’s marketing, from her personal Instagram, to every episode of ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ being available at the click of a button on YouTube. She is recognized for her socialite status, appearance in various commercials, and endorsements of assorted fashion entities- all regularly displayed in a manner that clearly states that the Kim Kardashian brand is, indeed, about Kim Kardashian. With every appearance she makes, Kardashian is steadily building her personal brand by the day, only causing her empire to grow.

    Then we have Muhtar Kent. Never heard of him? Maybe you’ve heard of his company: Coca Cola. Kent is of the CEO variety to focus on the brand of his company, rather than on his personal brand.  When you think of Coca Cola, a different set of ideas come to mind. You think of the target words the Coca Cola marketing zeroes in on: family, tradition, togetherness, nostalgia, friendship, etc. Watching any viral Coca Cola video, there is a clear absence of the brand’s heads. Coca Cola has become its own entity.  

    Two very large presences, Kardashian and Coca Cola, run very different ways to gain the success they have attained.

    So how does this translate to marketing for small business owners?

    Should you be marketing your business as its own brand, or as a part of yours? As you can see by looking at the two above examples, both work for different reasons. Although becoming successful purely off of a personal brand can be extremely challenging when starting from the bottom. Most successful personal brands spring into life after some initial success, such as with a prominent career as a fitness guru (Jillian Michaels) or chef (Gordon Ramsay). From both of their given professions, Michaels and Ramsay were able to spin their success into huge, personal empires.

    Though, as is the case for most small business owners, it is uncommon to start a new small business with any sort of fame to get things moving, thereby making it difficult to gain success purely as a personal brand. Applied to small business owners, branding is all about attaining the perfect balance between personal and business.

    How to implement the perfect balance and showcase it on social media:

    This isn’t to say that there should be no personal branding done. If people are searching your name on the internet, they’ll most likely end up at your website- and that’s the whole point of branding! You want to label yourself as an industry expert. Seek out interviews to participate in, get in on webinars, write press releases about events you’re speaking at, blog, blog, blog, and showcase them all on your company’s social outlets. If your customers see you being showcased as an expert everywhere they look on the internet, they’ll know they’ve chosen the right company to give their business to.

    Though showcasing interviews and articles you’ve been featured in is great for your personal brand (and therefore your business’s brand) that should be the extent of your personal branding. Leave the pictures of your family’s latest vacation off of the company’s Instagram. Showing a human side to your business is important, but it’s also important to draw a line of professionalism that’s appropriate for your individual business. Pictures of you and your employees on Facebook enjoying a catered lunch in honor of a birthday, graduation, or baby shower is a great way to show off the faces of your business without getting too personal. When posting a picture, video, status update, or tweet, ask yourself, “Will this gain me business?”  

    LinkedIn Company Pages once held a lot of promise, but their value has becoming increasingly limited over time. Most organizations can now probably either live without them or restrict their usage to a simple organizational profile. This article assesses the past and current state of the feature and offers guidance on the most practical ways to leverage it.

    Just about three years ago I extolled the virtues and potential value of LinkedIn Company Pages, referring to them as “an undervalued gem for organizations of all types.” I began that piece by writing:

    LinkedIn’s “company” management capability is an amazingly powerful and surprisingly underutilized feature of the platform. Other than the Careers functionality, the feature is free. And even though LinkedIn uses the term “company,” it’s a feature that can be used by organizations of all types, as well as organizations of any size (including solopreneurs).

    I went on to highlight some of the benefits of LinkedIn Company Pages, including how they enable organizations to:

    • Connect all employees on LinkedIn under a single employer identity
    • Promote the organizational brand, products and services
    • Communicate the employment brand and enhance recruiting efforts
    • Facilitate business development and other efforts to garner support from outside parties
    • Provide an easier mechanism for externally facing employees (e.g., business development, recruiting) to be found via LinkedIn
    • Connect LinkedIn users to their website and other internet presences

    Even as recently as a year ago, I heard a representative from LinkedIn promoting LinkedIn Company Pages in a Social Media Week presentation (see slides 17-23 in this deck).

    But much has changed in the past year, and the LinkedIn Company Pages feature has gotten stripped down to a few essential elements that don’t offer a lot of potential value for most organizations.

    What’s Gone from LinkedIn Company Pages

    Probably the biggest element that has been removed from LinkedIn Company Pages is the Products and Services tab, which was deactivated in April 2014. Organizations used to be able to create sub-pages for each of  their key offerings. These sub-pages included a description of each featured product or service (with or without a disclaimer), a related image and web page link, a designated contact, a YouTube video, and a special offer or promotion (which also appeared on the main page). The feature also enabled clients and other stakeholders to provide endorsements for specific products and services (via a virtual “thumbs up”), as well as testimonials. All of that is now gone.

    A number of related features on the main company page have been eliminated as well, including the ability to:

    • Create multiple versions of the page for different audiences and/or market segments
    • Add up to three linkable banners that will rotate through the page
    • Link to a YouTube video
    • Feature specific products and services
    • Include an RSS feed from a company blog
    • Incorporate a general disclaimer

    LinkedIn Company Pages: What Remains?

    Free Features. The basic profile aspect of LinkedIn Company Pages remains essentially unchanged. Organizations can provide a brief overview of who they are and what they do, identify specialties, link to a website, and share simple demographics like industry and company size. They can also list up to three featured LinkedIn groups on their profile.

    Group administrators can also use the company status update feature to link to blog posts, YouTube videos, SlideShare documents, and other created  and curated content. The feature can also be used to promote products and services, provide special offers, feature employees and clients, etc.

    In place of the Products and Services feature, LinkedIn enables organizations to create up to 10 showcase pages. Although these pages are “children” of the main parent page, they are treated as independent, which means they have their own profiles, followings and updates.

    And of course it’s still possible to have employees and contractors their individual profiles to the company page so visitors can see at a glance who’s currently affiliated with the organization and what their roles are.

    Premium Features. Any organization can post a job for 30 days (the rate I was just quoted for Chicago was $395) and have that job linked to their company profile. They can also pay for sponsored updates, which is effectively targeted advertising, using either a pay-per-click or pay-per-view pricing model. And of course it’s possible to add a Careers page to the company profile.

    LinkedIn Company Pages: What’s an Organization To Do?

    In addition to the fact that the features of LinkedIn Company Pages have been stripped down, gaining page followers (for both the main and showcase pages) requires a lot of effort. And even if an organization is able to acquire them, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to reach – let alone engage – them by providing status updates (at least not organically). Although The Denovati Group provides a status update almost daily, for example, our average organic reach is less than 30% and our average engagement is close to zero. I expect those results are typical.

    If an organization wants to reach and engage more people, from either a business development or a hiring perspective, it’s going to have to pay. That’s certainly fair – LinkedIn is, after all, a for-profit company – but it does raise important ROI questions.

    All things considered, are LinkedIn Company Pages still worthwhile? Perhaps, to an extent. Here are my thoughts for organizations of different sizes.

    Tiny: For sole proprietors, small partnerships, and organizations with fewer than 10 employees, a company page may not be worth the effort to try to maintain, and may even undermine the brand and the company’s goals and objectives. Leaders and other individuals in small organizations are probably better off developing robust LinkedIn profiles and using their individual status updates and the blog feature to promote their expertise, thought leadership, and brand(s), as well as their products and services.

    Kathy Caprino, the Founder of Ellia Communications, is a good case in point. Her company page has only 108 followers, but over 24,000 people follow her as an individual. Although she seems to have wisely put her energy into maintaining a strong individual presence on LinkedIn, and only has a basic company page, the anemic nature of that page may be doing her more harm than good. I would advise her to consider getting rid of it.

    Small to Medium: As an organization grows in size, there could be some value in having a basic company page, if for no other reason than to connect the individual profiles of employees. And if the resources are available, providing regular – or even occasional – status updates can be worthwhile. Although the reach and engagement may be low when the messages are posted, there can be some value in having these updates available to people who visit the page.

    Examples of small to medium organizations that take this approach include ViaForensics, YouEarnedIt, RightPoint, SWC Technology Partners and Varsity Tutors. Although they all provide (semi)regular status updates, none of them have either showcase pages or career pages, and only some of them have posted jobs.

    A word of caution: With a small amount of additional effort, you can customize status updates for LinkedIn Company Pages so they don’t look like bastardized tweets (e.g., by including hashtags and unnecessary abbreviations) or show a lack of care (e.g., not deleting the url for a link after the image and excerpt render).

    Large: LinkedIn Company Pages make the most sense for organizations that have both large employee populations and large followings. And of course they have the resources to both support and effectively leverage showcase pages, as well as premium features like job postings, sponsored updates, and careers pages. They are also able to connect the pages of various subsidiaries (e.g., Microsoft’s Yammer, Ford’s credit division).

    I looked at a number of LinkedIn Company Pages for large organizations, like Google, IBM, Microsoft, Waste Management, and the U.S. Department of State. Interestingly, although they had relatively large followings and used many of the advanced features of company pages, none of them provided frequent status updates. Curious…

    Also interesting is the fact that many large public sector organizations, like the cities of New York and Chicago, still have anemic LinkedIn Company Pages. Granted, there are also pages for specific units like the fire and health departments, but none of these pages are linked.

    Final Thoughts

    I’ve been thinking about the value of LinkedIn Company Pages ever since a recent digital coaching session in which I advised a “single-shingle” professional that it probably wasn’t worth her time or effort to create and maintain one. After giving her that advice, I’m still trying to decide whether we should continue to have one. We get almost no return on it, but our additional investment at this point is minimal (less than a minute per day to share an update), so for now I’ll stick with it.

    As always, I welcome your feedback. What questions has this piece raised for you? What would you add to, change, or delete from my assessments and recommendations?

    The big data privacy discussion is subtle, complex and complicated – and we each have a role to play. What’s yours going to be? This is my adapted version of the popular "Feathers in the Wind" tale attributed to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev.

    The big data privacy discussion is subtle, complex and complicated – and we each have a role to play. What’s yours going to be?

    It was 9:53 AM. Sarah was racing against the clock: she wanted to finish a long overdue email to a Canadian colleague before her team’s weekly 10:00 AM meeting. Just as she clicked the ‘Send’ button, her manager, Mason, appeared outside her cubicle. 

    “Are you headed to the meeting?” he asked her.

    “Yep, I was just heading over.”

    “Great. I’ll walk with you. I was wondering if you had time after the meeting to go talk with Angie in HR. I got a call from her this morning, and a situation has developed that she wants to talk to us about.”

    “What’s going on?” Sarah asked.

    “I don’t know. She wouldn’t tell me. She said she wanted to discuss it with the both of us at our earliest convenience.”

    “Well, I hope everything’s okay,” Sarah replied, trying not to think too much about it.

    It was 11:05 AM. Mason and Sarah sat down in the two chairs across from Angie in her office. “Thank you for meeting with me on such short notice,” Angie began. “I wanted to talk to you about the summer picnic your department had a week and a half ago.”

    Sarah remembered the event well. People were still talking about it and sharing the fun video she and her husband had put together and posted on YouTube. Even though the company didn’t sponsor the picnic, it wasn’t uncommon for employees to get together on their own time and their own dime.

    “Do you know Nick over in Tech Support?” Angie asked.

    “I know of him, but we’ve never met officially,” Sarah replied, and then she started smiling. “But we did get some great clips of him in the video we put together. That boy certainly knows how to party and have a good time!”

    Angie continued, “Well, it seems that Nick is in a little bit of trouble. Did you know that on his drive home with his family after the picnic that they got into an accident?”

    “Oh, wow. No, I didn’t!” Mason exclaimed. “What happened?”

    “From the reports, Nick was too drunk to drive. His blood alcohol level was 1.2. He’s now been charged with a DUI. And what made matters worse for him is that the police department found your video on YouTube. Those ‘fun’ clips you mentioned of Nick knowing how to party – well, the police seem to agree.”

    “Was anyone hurt?” Sarah asked, still trying to process everything she was hearing.

    “My understanding is that no one was seriously injured – just the cars. Thank goodness!” Angie replied.

    “I feel so bad. I know it wasn’t my fault, but the video that I’ve been so proud of going viral has just complicated things for Nick. I wish there was something I could do,” Sarah said.

    Angie looked at Sarah for a few seconds, and then asked, “Are you up for doing an experiment with me?” Sarah nodded. “Good. Do you have a feather pillow at home?”

    “I do.”

    “Bring it into work with you tomorrow and meet me back here at 9 AM tomorrow morning.” Sarah had no idea what was up, but she was curious.

    It was 9:00 AM the next morning. Sarah walked into Angie’s office with her pillow.

    “Good morning! Let’s go downstairs to the café, grab some coffee, and sit outside,” Angie said to Sarah. She then grabbed a pair of scissors out of her top drawer, and the two of them went downstairs.

    After buying their coffees, they found a nice table to sit at outside. Angie handed Sarah the scissors. “I want you to cut open your pillow and pile all the feathers on the table.”

    Sarah thought Angie was a bit nuts, but she did as she was told. With all the feathers now on the table, Angie started talking about the event again. Sarah tried to pay attention, but she was distracted by all the feathers blowing away off the table. After about 10 minutes, she looked around at the feather ‘storm’ that had hit the café. And the sidewalks. And the streets. “What a mess!” she thought to herself.

    Angie then told Sarah to gather all the feathers and stuff them back into the pillow case. Sarah knew now that Angie was indeed nuts.

    “What kind of experiment is this, anyway?” Sarah snapped back. “There’s no way I can get all the feathers back. They’re everywhere! Even if I could retrieve most of the feathers, the pillow will never be the same again.”

    “That’s exactly right, Sarah. And so it is when we share information on the internet. We could be sharing our own stories, or our kids’ stories, or even a 'harmless' video of employees having a good time. In today’s digital world,” Angie continued, “the lines between our professional and personal lives continue to blur. We need to be mindful of what we’re sharing. Because what happens on the internet stays on the internet. Forever.”

    Sarah knew what she needed to do. What do you think she did?

    Author’s note: This is my adapted version of the popular "Feathers in the Wind" tale attributed to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. I presented this story during my big data privacy presentation at the Social Shake-Up conference on September 16, 2014.

    These 10 marketing tips are proven and tested to work. If you're sick and tired of running marketing campaigns that aren't getting you results, then these are surely what you're looking for.

    Marketing – this one word can either make or break your business. The sooner you realize this, the better. Because other business owners are struggling with their marketing efforts, I’d like to share with you 10 marketing tips that are proven and tested to work. How do I know that these tips work? Simple. I used them myself!

    If you’re looking marketing strategies that you can use for your business, then you can use my tips as your starting point. However, before you even start using any of them, I’d like to emphasize how there is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy for all types of businesses (as you can probably imagine). That said, I urge you to customize my tips based on the important elements that revolve around your business (I.e. your target market, your product, demographics, etc…).

    Let’s get this started.

    1.) Think inside-out. Establish your website first.

    The truth is, people tend to be very judgemental. If they visit your site and see that it is poorly designed, chances are good that they’ll find you less credible and not worth their business. You and I probably feel the same way too. If you aren’t sure about how you’ll feel, then let me ask you – would you do business with a merchant with this kind of website?

    Marketing Tips

    I didn’t think so. :) So before you think about telling others about your website, you have to make sure that it’s already completed or perhaps established to a certain extent. Telling others about your website when it still looks crappy can gravely damage your brand.

    2.) Start guest posting

    Guest posting is so simple to do there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it. Even if you haven’t done it yet, you probably have a good idea of how it works.

    1.) Look for high quality and niche related sites.

    2.) Contact the webmaster and ask if you can contribute to their site.

    3.) Wait for their reply.

    4.) Send them a well written article according to their guidelines if they say, “sure, send the article over”.

    5.) They’ll then post your article with your link in it.

    It’s that simple. That’s the gist of the process. Others make it sound like guest posting is rocket science when in fact it isn’t. So you might be wondering, what kind of benefits will you get from guest posting? I’m glad you asked.

    1.) It helps you establish your credibility as an expert in your niche – this breeds trust.

    2.) It can help bring tons of traffic to your website. This of course increases your chances of converting these viewers to paying customers.

    3.) It helps your website rank on search results which is one of the best ways (if not the best) to bring in thousands or even millions of traffic to your site.

    4.) You can do it for free. Though other sites might require you to pay.

    If you want a comprehensive guide on how to guest post, then check out my article about “The A to Z Guide to Guest Posting That Will Help You Grow Your Blog”. With the comprehensive guide that I wrote, you can start guest posting immediately after you’ve completed reading the guide.

    3.) Don’t use all the social media platforms you can get your hands on.

    Make no mistake, social media marketing isn’t free. While creating an account is free, keeping your account active and networking costs a lot of time and resources. And if you’re spending your resources on social media platforms where your target audience isn’t prevalent, then your marketing efforts would have been little to no avail. Instead of getting your business profile plastered on all the social media platforms you can get your hands-on, you’ll get better results (while spending less) if you just focus your resources on platforms where your target audience usually hangout. Using 2 – 3 social media platforms (depending on your budget) is a good number to start with.

    4.) Do not compromise your web content’s quality.

    Thinking that you have to produce fresh content daily is a common misconception that business owners fall for. Publishing 2 – 3 posts weekly is a good enough number. You can even produce 1 post per week if you’re publishing something that’s so comprehensive and thorough. If you publish a long post that’s packed with game changing tips, your readers will love you more than the sites who publish low quality to mediocre posts daily. The key here is to give your readers what they want. We all know that in most cases, people read because they have a problem that they want solved. It’s your job to determine what that problem is and to solve that problem by publishing something that answers it.

    The more problems you solve, the more credibility you build as a business. This of course can easily turn your site visitors from simply readers to buyers. Think pull marketing. Creating quality  content is one of its core elements so you should never compromise its quality in any way shape or form.

    5.) Create a Linkedin account. Start connecting and prospecting.

    If you aren’t in the know, Linkedin is the social media platform where  professionals and business owners hangout. You won’t see anyone there posting selfies or talking about how awesome their biceps are since the users are more focused on business and career. This is a great place for you to market, connect and establish yourself as an authority by giving expert advice to others. This is especially true since Linkedin just recently released a feature where you can now publish long posts.

    With this feature, you can start sharing in-depth advice to your target market and position yourself as an expert in the field. You can easily get referrals and endorsements from other users who can ultimately help you get more customers. Here’s a Linkedin marketing guide that I wrote that you REALLY need to take a look at – Warning: These Out-of-the-Box Linkedin Marketing Tips Are EXTREMELY Actionable and Effective

    6.) Allow others to republish your post

    Hold on. I know what you’re about to say. You’re about to tell me how this can get your site penalized, right? While you may be correct, you’re also mistaken if you think that’s all there is to it. There’s a proper way of doing this so it won’t damage your site. Think about sites like Search Engine Journal. What if someone contacts you from that site asking permission to repost your content since they liked what you’ve written. Do you just say no? Can you imagine how much of an opportunity you’d have missed if you did that?

    Search Engine Journal has over 5 million visitors monthly. If they repost your article with your link in it, this usually leads to thousands of traffic headed to your site. So what exactly do you do? Fortunately for you, if SEJ is the one who contacted you, they already know how to properly repost a content. But if there are other sites who are asking to repost your content, you need to consider these.

    1.) You need to tell them to use a rel canonical tag that would tell the search engines to credit the original source of the content which is your site.

    * Note – Simply adding a link in the content saying that you are the source isn’t enough. Something like this can still hurt your site. Just ask them to add a rel canonical tag and you should be good to go.

    2.) Check their site’s quality just to make sure that it isn’t spammy. If it is, then I suggest you don’t allow reposting.

    3.) If their site is of good quality then there’s no reason for you to say no.

    Here’s a post a Quicksprout.com that talks about the dangers of other sites reposting your content and what to do about it.

    7.) Comment marketing

    If anyone tells you that this strategy doesn’t work, I’ll tell you right now that they either haven’t tried it, or they DID try it but didn’t do it the right way. Before you do comment marketing, you need to consider these points.

    1.) Make sure that the post/content you are commenting on is relevant to your target audience.

    2.) You need to make sure that the website you’re commenting on has a decent amount of monthly visitors. Checking for social shares is also a good strategy.

    A good way to determine the site’s estimated monthly visitor is to use similarweb.com.

    3.) Make sure that your content provides value to the readers. You’ll never achieve anything if you just add a one liner comment on the post.

    4.) Make the readers want to contact you after reading your comment. An effective way to do this is to give a solid advice and add something intriguing at the end of your comment.

    Maybe something like this…

    “While there are a couple more strategies that we implemented that helped grow our website’s traffic by 3 folds, what I shared above can do you wonders. Contact me if you need more help.”

    5.) What I also like to do is add a signature on my comment. This is the signature I use.

    “Jimmy R.

    Freelance Writer

    http://guildofbloggers.com

    This makes it a lot easier for them to contact me. And if they are looking for someone to help them with their writing projects, seeing how I’m a Freelance Writer will help remind them of that need. This then increases my chances of being contacted and offered more projects.

    8.) Join groups and forums where your target audience hangout. In short – network.

    The strategies I implement on this tip is quite similar to how I do my comment marketing. The websites I frequent on are Linkedin, OpenForum and Inbound.org. I tried joining the groups in Facebook but it just isn’t working for me. You need to show genuine concern for others if you want to succeed in networking. Without it, they won’t see you as anything more than just another person desperately spamming their links. Instead of downright pitching your services, I urge you to ask about their needs first and talk about how you can help them. Offering your help first makes them want to know more about you. It opens bridges and is a good way for you to establish relationships with others.

    9.) By using a powerful sales copy, transition your social tribe’s mindset from being a reader to a buyer.

    If you’re wondering whether or not marketing on social media platforms is worth the time and resources, you need to consider these points…

    1.) There are roughly 1.4 billion Facebook users worldwide.

    2.) The amount of time people use in Facebook is roughly about 700 billion minutes monthly.

    3.) There is an average of roughly 190 million Tweets made DAILY.

    These numbers tell us one thing – people hang out on social media sites and they love being there! And if your customers are on there, wouldn’t it make sense for you to be on social media sites as well?

    If you’re new to social media marketing, you need to remember that the main challenge is usually to shift the mindset of your viewers from simply browsing and consuming content, to making them want to buy. Using a landing page coupled with a strong sales copy is the perfect solution for that. It’s important to note that a strong sales copy’s purpose is to get your readers to buy and not to entertain them. Other business owners tend to think that provided the copy reads well and does not have any grammar mistakes, it’ll do well as a sales copy. They can never be farther from the truth. More than not having any grammar mistakes and the write-up reading well, there are usually a couple of sales psychology/techniques used within a well written sales copy. These techniques can be as minute as using a “-” over a “.” or even aligning your copy’s text or not. Some of these points can be quite subtle yet it affects the overall impact of your copy’s ability to convert.

    The article 12-Step Foolproof Sales Letter Template by David Frey (Founder of Marketingprofs.com) is by far the best resource I’ve seen when it comes to creating a powerful sales copy.

    10.) Repurpose your content to increase it’s mileage.

    Because producing quality content can be expensive, you need to get as much mileage out of your published contents. There are a couple of ways to go about doing this. You can turn your written content into videos, Infographics and slideshow presentations (among many others). You can then publish them on different platforms to increase your business’ visibility on the web.

    What next?

    While reading and learning is important, it will all be useless in the end if you don’t apply what you’ve learned. That said, don’t just read and have those “aha!” moments without actually acting on the things that you’ve read which you found valuable to growing your business.

    Let’s hear it from you.

    Whether you have questions, ideas, or tips about marketing that you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to do so in the comments section below. I look forward to reading your comments.

    Photo attribution: Featured image courtesy of jiggoja at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    In the past few years, social has gone from being a consumer phenomenon to an enterprise opportunity. But many companies are struggling with how to implement strategies and realize ROI from their social investments. The new IBM study, “Charting the social universe: Social ambitions drive business impact,” reveals how pioneers navigate the social journey, adopting social capabilities through five primary entry points.

    In the past few years, social has gone from being a consumer phenomenon to an enterprise opportunity. But many companies are struggling with how to implement strategies and realize ROI from their social investments.

    The new IBM Center for Applied Insights study, “Charting the social universe: Social ambitions drive business impact,” found that as many as 74% of social decision makers recognized that a social business uses social technology to foster collaboration among customers, employees and partners, but only 20% felt their companies were truly social.

    So how do companies navigate the social journey? The study found that companies adopt social capabilities through five primary social ambitions, or entry points -- distinct clusters of social capabilities aimed at realizing specific business goals.

    1. Drive internal and external collaboration

    Collaboration is the social starting point for many organizations, using capabilities such as enterprise social networks and collaborative applications to increase employee productivity and social media marketing to increase customer loyalty and advocacy. These capabilities are most often deployed via cloud for scalability and also via mobile apps for accessibility

    2. Build, educate and protect the workforce

    To optimize workforce talent, this second ambition taps into capabilities such as recruiting, training, policy and security intelligence. The study found that 82% of companies surveyed already use social networks to recruit talent, making social a key part of recruiting strategy. And companies are also using social technology to train and keep the workforce informed

    3. Understand and engage customers

    While many organizations are starting to leverage capabilities such as customer analytics, social analytics and social CRM, most are not yet using that data to influence key engagement decisions. 70% of those surveyed who have deployed social analytics aren’t using them yet to influence decisions making this an ambition with untapped potential.

    4. Mine community expertise

    By leveraging capabilities such as onboarding, expert locaters and crowdsourcing apps, organizations are mining community expertise to increase employee productivity and optimize the workforce. 43% of companies rely on employee evangelists to kick-start social adoption, also relying on mobile-enabled social apps for enablement.

    5. Improve business processes

    This is the most advanced social ambition, where organizations seek to embed social capabilities in their business processes, from accounting to supply chain management. 43% of companies surveyed set enterprise systems to default to embedded social capabilities. The most complex of the five, this social ambition requires a lot more strategic planning as well as buy-in from stakeholders across the organization.

    The study also revealed several key lessons that all companies should consider on their social journey, including pursuing an enterprise-wide strategy, continuous implementation, stakeholder engagement and tracking ROI.

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