How to Outperform by Managing the Social Business Risks that Slow Your Competitors
By understanding the dirty dozen social business risks, you can make fewer mistakes than your rivals and get more done for less money, so this may be one of the most valuable posts you read this year. Having advised executives in adopting disruptive technology since the 1980s, I have learned that hidden assumptions sabotage early adopters’ investments and delay desired business outcomes. Happily, early adopters can significantly diminish social business risks by looking for them and mitigating them with agile development methodologies. CSRA’s client work has shown that using a risk mitigation approach is the most effective way to increase social business return on investment.
The Dirty Dozen Social Business Risks
- Legal exposure—arises when organizations neglect to create and manage social business policies to guide their employees and proxies in using social technologies and platforms. Even in 2012, only half of all organizations have social business policies. Without policy, organizations are exposed to litigation risks. Of the social business/social media policies we analyze each year, many come across as paranoid and serve to alienate employees. Here’s how to approach social business policy the right way.
- Generation wars—can develop when (often older) executives don’t realize that social technologies are 21st century dialtone for an increasing portion of their employees, business partners and other stakeholders. They block access to social networks and/or sponsor heavy-handed social business policies. (Usually younger) employees get frustrated and leave the organization or flout the rules privately. Even worse, the generations can’t work together well due to their preferences for different tools and work styles.
- Wrong venues—prior to working with us, every single CSRA client has overlooked the optimal digital social venues in which to engage their most desired stakeholders in the highest priority topics. Most conducted insufficient external due diligence prior to launching social media presences in Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which they justified simply because “competitors were there.” These decisions led to high costs and low returns because they were trying to interact in the wrong places. Here’s how to assess your ecosystem.
- Knee-jerk outsourcing—many B2C brands can be forgiven for following their legacy ecommerce marketing practices with social business, but it still has them swimming in risk. We call social business 21st century dialtone because it’s becoming as prevalent as the telephone, and stakeholders of all kinds increasingly expect to communicate using digital social tools. That means organizations need to develop internal skills. Those that outsource marketing to agencies spend more money for inferior engagement, and they keep themselves weak in the most important skills of this decade. Stakeholders want to interact, and agencies don’t know your business well enough to have quality interactions.
- Content trap—most marketers and agencies are living in the 20th century when they assert that “content creates engagement.” While understandable, it represents one of the most lethal risks we see. Video, audio or text “content” was more memorable during the mass communications age when people were not accustomed to individual online interactions, but the cat’s out of the bag. Impersonal content has less impact every month because stakeholders’ expectations are changing. They respond most to firms that listen and respond to them as individuals. More on understanding mass v. network communications.
- Careless staffing—too many sponsors of social business projects assign “anyone under 30” to interact in social venues because “young people use Facebook” (and older colleagues are less comfortable). Having extensive personal experience with social technologies is far different from knowing how to increase trust and develop relationships with various stakeholders. Few people of any age are aware of how to develop trust and relationships. Moreover, personal interest in the topics of engagement is extremely important when selecting team members, but it is usually overlooked.
- No internal due diligence—organizations usually fail to assess their ability to deliver prior to committing to social business initiatives. Social business is a marathon, not a sprint, so firms can boost their results significantly by entering venues and interactions to which it is easy for them to add unique, differentiating value very efficiently. Their efficiency of sharing is usually defined by their culture, business structure, personalities of subject matter experts and business strategy. More on organizational readiness assessments.
- Social business as marketing—this is the #1 risk we see. I even go as far as asserting that “social media” is a red herring because it assumes that social technologies’ key purpose is marketing and promotion. Reflect on this a minute. Do you get more attracted to pushy salespeople? Or to people who listen to you and try to support you in something that’s important to you? Most of the value of social business lies outside of marketing.
- Scoping social business investments too large—one of the most effective ways to mitigate social business risks is to scope initiatives small enough so budgets don’t put champions at undue risk yet initiatives are large enough to test key parts of the strategy. Agencies often go for the “wow factor,” which can be fun but is often expensive and focused on on content, not interaction and learning.
- Misguided measurement & governance: social media conventional wisdom tries to justify projects with promotion-oriented metrics such as number of followers and clicks. This is related to treating social business as marketing and trying to use ecommerce tactics. In most cases, any metrics and governance that are not grounded in measuring trust and relationship will mislead and underperform. In almost every case, money follows trust. Here’s one approach to measuring trust and relationship quantitatively.
- Insufficient interpersonal mentoring—without realizing it, champions of social business initiatives assume that their team members know how to interact online to increase “engagement,” but this is rarely the case. Social business team members need guidance so they can be themselves (authentic), deal with all kinds of situations and be very efficient. Digital social technologies put everyone “on stage” globally, which most people feel unconsciously but don’t fully appreciate. CSRA uses pilot charters to define initiatives succinctly and team member roles precisely. In most cases, we chunk roles small. Templates show how each role fits within the team while giving tools and guidance to each team member. See Execution/Large Organization for more on social business management.
- No enterprise adoption plan—once you consider that social business enables communication and collaboration at a far lower cost, it isn’t difficult to see how it can impact productivity, performance and profitability. Firms that develop and propagate best practices will outperform, but this doesn’t happen by itself. Here’s how to encourage the efficient adoption of social business best practices.
What social business risks do you see?