A World Gone Social

How Companies Must Adapt to Survive

A World Gone Social

Authors: Ted Coine, Mark Babbitt
Pub Date: September 2014
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814433263
Page Count: 256
Format: Hardback

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A Conversation with TED COINÉ and MARK BABBITT

Authors of A WORLD GONE SOCIAL

Why do you identify social media the catalyst for the next major business era?

Ted: “Social media has proven to be an insurmountable market force, changing how we innovate, collaborate, serve our customers, hire and develop team members, motivate others toward a common mission, communicate with stakeholders, display our character, and demonstrate accountability. This isn’t change for the sake of change. Neither is this change to fine-tune the status quo, as we saw in the twentieth century with Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, and the Lean movement, which simply helped bureaucracies function at a more efficient, profitable level. This is real, systematic change. Human change. The Industrial Age is dead. Welcome to the Social Age.”

What exactly do you mean by “human change”?

Mark: “We humans, at our core, are social creatures. Social media enables us to be more... us. Embracing the Social Age goes beyond establishing a Facebook fan page and recruiting on LinkedIn. Business leaders need to realize the monumental impact social media has on their customers, employees, and collaborative partnerships, as well as their bottom line. It has shifted the balance of power from message-controlling corporations and institutions to people, who can now voice their opinions, and whose opinion can be amplified a million times over with a single tweet. Social has transformed how we think, work, and live. It is fundamentally about the power of social—about making business more human—and, despite its digital nature, not at all about media or technology. Social is global change for good.”

There’s nothing good about a CEO’s embarrassing comments going viral or a virtual lynch mob.

Ted: “With social, as with all things human, both the good and the bad are magnified; for every story of good-gone-social, it seems there are a thousand social sharks and trolls ready to feed on the bad. Adapting to social’s seismic changes, like any human change, isn’t easy. Every leader challenged with taking an organization into the Social Age must place their company square in the path of good. Enable those around you to do right by the customers, employees, vendors, and communities you serve. Build a culture where giving gets noticed. And be fully accountable just after something goes bad—but before it gets much worse. In a world gone social, this is how business is done.”

Throughout your book, you repeatedly emphasize one word: “engagement.” Why?

Mark: “Engagement is the cornerstone of the Social Age. Active listening, collecting and acting on input, providing both formal and informal feedback loops, giving recognition and expressing appreciation are all a huge part of success in a world gone Social. Engagement has earned its place in the buzzword hall of fame—it is that important. That said, many people who throw the word around have no idea what it really means. Engagement isn’t good marketing. It isn’t good content. Its success isn’t measured by a number of Twitter followers or Facebook likes. Whether speaking digitally or in person, engagement is our ability to communicate well with all stakeholders in any conversation. In the Social Age, it is imperative that we engage with customers, vendors, influencers, advocates, and brand ambassadors—as well as employees.”

How, specifically, can business leaders use social media to strengthen engagement?

Ted: “In a global economy, business leaders must be available, nearly 24/7. Social networks have become our ears, eyes, and mouth—in that order. We monitor Twitter for tweets about our brand, products, team members, and customers. We watch LinkedIn Groups for the thoughts of industry influencers. We browse Pinterest to gauge interest in a particular topic or trend. We diligently observe Yelp, Glassdoor, and other niche review sites for real-time observations from our customers and employees. We set up Google Alerts or install Mention—a terrific tool for prioritizing mentions by keywords—so anytime our brand, products, or major team members are discussed by name, we know. Using Social media monitoring tools, we listen in a way that has never before been possible. We watch for input from myriad sources. And we respond, in an authentic, accountable manner, faster and more effectively than we did in the days of PR-scripted responses. When business leaders do this consistently and with sincerity, magic happens. Engagement reaches a tipping point—where advocates, ambassadors, and champions combine with customers, employees, and influencers to form a community. In the Social Age, this is the pinnacle of an established brand.”

That sounds like a lot of work.

Mark: “Social is work—hard work. There are only so many staffers who can be assigned to your social commitment. Imagine the power, then, in building a stable of the most passionate community members—perhaps those who are hungry to build their personal brand and gain valuable experience—to assist with repeatable tasks. These enthusiastic members often become not just vocal proponents of the community but direct contributors to the organization’s mission. The best of the best become organizers of your community outreach, often filling a volunteer post such as moderator of your LinkedIn group, manager of your Facebook page, monitor of your Pinterest account, or official greeter of your Twitter chats. As the leader of their organization’s online community, business leaders need to identify the most passionate community members—the organic evangelists for their brand or cause—and then build healthy, mutually beneficial relationships with each. Take a lesson from the best nonprofits in the world: Your community is only as strong as the volunteers who support the community.”

Not every business leader clicks with social media. Does every business need a “Social” leader?

Ted: “For every business leader, a thorough understanding of how the social world works is absolutely crucial. In the not-too-distant future, social media will be the way we communicate with everyone. It will be how relationships are developed and how alliances are formed. If you’re not a social person, find someone in your company who is to represent you—for now. Then, learn and adapt—quickly. Blogging is a great way to build credibility. No time to blog? Make a reputation for intelligent commentary on other bloggers’ posts. Take part in a weekly Twitter chat centered on your area of expertise. To get up to social speed, engage with and emulate an established Social mentor. During our research for A WORLD GONE SOCIAL, Mark and I were struck by the results of a 2012 study conducted by IBM: Overall, 17 percent of companies currently had Social executives. Fifty-seven percent planned to have executives on Social within the next three to five years. Here’s our issue with that second statistic: If you plan to go Social, what’s stopping you from doing it now? In the Social Age, three to five years is forever. And too late.”

No business can afford to waste money, time, or effort. What’s the ROI on social media?

Ted: “What’s the ROI on being relevant to your target consumers? What’s the ROI on still being in business ten years from now? That’s what we’d like to say to every business leader who asks that question, because we are at a strategic inflection point, right now, and we feel strongly about the need for most organizations to be deeply immersed in social.”

Mark: “Yes, that’s what we’d like to say. Instead, we understand the pressure most every early adopter of social media is under to justify his or her activity—even existence—on social. And we appreciate how hard it may be for executives to go ‘all in’ when they don’t completely understand the process themselves. Bottom line: you can’t talk about social—or issues like overall ROI—without also talking about the technologies that have intersected with social media to cause what we call the ‘Social Circle of Life.’ That circle is made up of five components: social media, mobile technologies, cloud computing, big data, and analytics. As we make clear in our book, these components feed off one another and grow exponentially. Brand ambassadors attract prospects and converts via Social and mobile. New contacts and data points are stored in the cloud. Companies starving for business intelligence pull it into big data. Analytics tools process the data; reports and predictive analytics are generated. Action is taken. And the circle is complete, again. This all happens over and over, millions of times per day. And the companies that leverage this immense power, that embrace the Social Circle of Life, win.”

Do you have any parting words for current and aspiring Social leaders?

Ted: “We all know change must come. We deserve more. By ushering in a new wave of leadership—leadership for the Social Age—we can do better. Because we now know that, no matter how appropriate it was at one time, the way we’ve been taught to think and act as leaders is wrong. We must actively listen. We must become rebels. We must embrace our role as heretics. ”

Mark: “Absolutely. The best social leaders—those who initiate change—are Rebel Heretics. Your role as a social leader—a Rebel Heretic—is to determine how you will bring change to your organization, industry, and the communities that support your mission. You must be bold enough to be different, to wear your ‘Rebel Heretic’ label like a badge of honor. You must be bold enough to be passionate about your role and the mission of those you lead—whether it be a team of 6 or 600,000—into the Social Age. You must be bold enough to ask the tough questions, listen to the answers, and learn from what you hear. You must be bold enough to be yourself.”

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