In the past 6 months Dado Van Peteghem and I have interviewed 25 companies on whether or not they integrate social media in their marketing and company processes. In the past few months we already made some results available for you, in articles on 'the first steps to integrate social media' and the description of the integration process at Cisco. We have now finalized our research and would like to share all insights we gained from these conversations.
Every company faces 4 phases
The main conclusion from the survey is that each company faces (or should face) 4 phases when integrating social media in their organisation:
- Building knowledge: During this phase the internal knowledge and conviction is built, in order to deal with social media in a structured way. Furthermore it is important in this phase to build the necessary infrastructure. This infrastructure contains both some indispensable internal regulations and the creation and management of the necessary accounts on relevant social media.
- Pilot projects: during this phase concrete projects are devised and executed. The aim is that these projects immediately show their added value for the company. This implies that they have to obtain marketing or financial results as well as improve the organisation's learning curve. Furthermore it is essential during this phase to have a central person (or group of people) responsible for the further spreading of social media within the company. Finally it is recommendable in this phase to start listening, in a structured way, to conversations that are available online. This is how you actively create a culture of listening.
- Integration: This phase's aim is to bring the entire company closer to the client or the consumer. Clients are involved specifically in the organisation's management. This is when the consumer enters the boardroom. The organisation's structure is adapted so that its functioning is more specific and faster. Apart from the existing success indicators, the organisation also uses new aspects linked to social media.
- Leverage effects: the final step is to consciously look for leverage effects. This is when the real ROI of social media surfaces, i.e. having a larger impact through everything you do and also to focus on spending less money on marketing and branding by a larger and more active reach on social media.
This won't happen automatically: a detailed list exists of 13 strategic change projects necessary to successfully integrate social media in your company. The social media integration is not an organic process that happens automatically. Companies that have already done a lot of integration (such as Cisco, Intel, Kodak and Dell) have started a number of internal projects to get where they are now. An eye-catching conclusion from our survey is that almost each of these companies has gone through the same phases. In other words: these companies can teach us a lot. All details concerning the 13 strategic change projects are described in our extensive paper, which you can view here:
Below we present you a summary per project. Some of these projects are finite; others could run eternally so to speak:
- An internal and external conversation audit: in order to create a good strategy it is important to know what the existing conversation potential is within your company and with clients, the opinion makers of your company.
- Organising training and formation: in most companies the knowledge concerning the possibilities of social media is very limited. That is why an essential part of success is a thorough training (organized either internally or externally) for all collaborators.
- Adapting the HR strategy: the HR strategy often needs to be adapted on several aspects, such as: a policy for social media usage, parameters that will be used in the yearly evaluation, new criteria when recruiting people...
- Preparing the infrastructure: many companies experience a proliferation of social media accounts. It is important to organise that structure clearly before starting up the pilot projects.
- Creating a Centre of excellence: a crucial project is naming the person responsible for the integration phases: the guide. In most companies this is a Conversation Manager, who may or may not have a team at his/her disposal, who is responsible for the centre of excellence team. These people mainly have a facilitating role for other people in the company. They know all the pilot projects, share all experiences and guide the main projects themselves. They are a guide, an internal advisor and a helping hand. When there is a lack of clarity on the final responsibility, there is also a risk of internal tussle that will slow down the integration progress.
- Choosing and realising pilot projects: Pilot projects are the main condition to get support within your company during this change. In another blog post I already explored this phase in detail. The main aspect is that a company sees and feels results during these projects. Furthermore they are important for increasing the learning curve throughout the company.
- Creating a listening culture: an important part of dealing well with social media is listening to conversations between consumers. In many companies a limited team is responsible for listening. This is a good thing but it is not sufficient for the creation of a listening culture. Therefore the right internal communication is indispensable, and you actively deal with the conclusions obtained from listening in. Learning how to learn actively and rapidly implementing the conclusions is what a listening culture is really all about.
- Adapting the company structure: the existing silo structure of most companies is not convenient for an optimal usage of social media. The organisation of the future will be a network organisation, where people of different departments will collaborate towards the realisation of one single target (for example: satisfied customers). Furthermore the aim to bring the consumer closer to the company, to such an extent even that consumers become part of the boardroom. In the end the aim is to reduce or even to totally clear away the distance between customer and company.
- Creating cooperation between collaborators and customers: customers can help us tremendously by giving feedback to ideas but also concerning the creation of new concepts. Hence this project: let us work towards a structural collaboration with the clients. Creating a customer community is an essential part of this.
- Developing a content strategy: we need to succeed in offering content to people that is relevant for them or their network. That is how our content's impact will expand. Executing a clear content strategy is the challenge. In fact it can be compared with managing a newspaper: one person is chief editor and is responsible for filling the paper with stories that fit the paper's image and mission.
- Using new success indicators: in order to change a company's behaviour, you have to change the objectives. In order to fully integrate social media, indicators need to be added. Possible indicators are: extra profits via social media (direct and indirect sales), economies (for example: a reduction in the media budget), the Net Promotor Score, or a general integration and knowledge of social media in the company. Furthermore every department will get its specific goals.
- Using the social lever: using the created social media reach more consciously for obtaining more impact with all marketing efforts that already take place now. At a moment when a certain reach has been built via social media, companies have the option to reach an extra target group. In certain cases the impact increases by 10%-15%. The art is to develop a reflex where each marketing action is extended via social media. That is how the underused potential of your company is reduced.
- The introduction of flexible and quick marketing: this is probably the main challenge for the companies of the future: how can we reduce all our processes and thus become faster and more flexible with our entire organisation. The difficulty is not to answer a tweet ... every company can quickly install that. The art is to quickly implement the feedback you receive and to launch better products into the market. A consumer is no longer prepared to wait 6 months after giving feedback. Making the processes as short and flexible as possible is the ultimate goal.
Are we leaving anything out with these 13 projects? Maybe you think certain projects are missing from this overview, such as organizing web care, Facebook communication and other significant things. Many of these are part of pilot projects, and these differ according to the companies, the sectors. The 13 projects we described are an overview of the necessary steps EVERY company has to take, in our opinion. These are relevant for all in order to integrate social media. Pilot projects offer the flexibility to fill the phases in a way that is meaningful for your own organisation.
It takes 24 to 48 months
Going through this entire process takes 24 to 48 months, depending on the type of company. One of the most essential phases is choosing the right pilot projects. After all, these projects need to have an impact on the organisation in a short term. No company is willing to wait 48 months before seeing any real impact. Scoring successes in the meantime is essential for the further evaluation of the process. During such processes there are often frustrations between guides and followers in a company. Here's a clue on how to avoid these: go through the process phase by phase. The guides are mentally already in phase 4 whereas the followers have only just gotten used to phase 1.
If you have good or less favourable experiences with this type of change projects, it would be great if you could let us know! We are constantly looking for new and relevant examples in this context. All feedback and experiences are more than welcome!