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Make yourself Useful, the Foundation for Building a Social Business

I’m a digital and social strategist in Global Marketing at a Hearst-owned BPO called CDS Global. But this past year I’ve been tasked with heading the company’s social business plan, something that has less to do with marketing, and more to do with change management and business-to-employee collaboration. Like most companies today, CDS Global witnessing a seismic change in how we do business. The emergence of an always on, always connected digital-social-mobile culture is transforming CDS Global’s B2B buyer journey. Prospects take to Google and social search, preferring to educate themselves, first and foremost, about services we provide. Our observations fall in line with Forrester Research’s estimates that “buyers will find 70% of the content they need on their own,” with only 15% of the information coming directly from sales and marketing. As we experience the death of the PC and the continued proliferation of mobile devices in the next five years, these impacts will only escalate.

But Sales and Marketing aren’t the only departments being affected. Customer Service is seeing an increase in end-customers who reach out to our clients about our services via social channels. Human Resources is embracing a growing mix of social and digital recruiting tools in order to reach and assess today’s talent.

Expect these trends to increase as Millennials, a generation of digital natives with very distinct work and buyer habits, gear up to account for 36% of the workforce by next year – 46% by 2020!

CDS Global, a legacy with its predominant clients in the magazine media space, came to realize that in order to stay relevant and competitive, it needed to get proactive and embrace these dizzying changes. But how would it pivot the global shifts in digital and social to work for – rather than against – the company?

Early this year, we joined the growing number of enterprises who made the commitment to become a wholly “social business,” a trending, but still rather nebulous term. What would this even mean exactly?

In a nutshell, social business is a holistic approach that spans departments, and includes both internal and external social strategies, tactics and tools that support overall business goals to ensure that the company maintains relevance and a competitive edge among connected audiences.

Many companies are quick to implement an enterprise social network (ESN), collaboration tool or listening platform, and call it a day. But onboarding a sophisticated platform isn’t enough, and can’t form the foundation of your social business strategy, or any strategy for that matter. Top innovation and change management experts attest, technology is always the easy part. The challenge is changing the work culture, and in leveraging the right tools in a way that delivers real business impacts and value. Adopting new ways of doing things is tough – to resist is human nature. Despite this, research shows that a mere 25% of companies offer social business training.

Designing education and training initiatives tailored to specific work functions, and making those resources available across the organization, are critical to ensuring a social business program delivers meaningful results. At CDS Global, social business training, such as monthly Lunch & Learn brown bags and a 12 Week Outlook Calendar Twitter Challenge, have been the foundation of the program. Resources like an employee Twitter directory, social media playbook, internal newsletter, self-serve center-of-excellence web portal, an enterprise collaboration platform and CDS Global’s Share Chain become the tools that allow employees to put their growing knowledge into action.

The enterprise social market has reached a level of maturity in 2013, and there are some uber robust platforms out there for monitoring, collaboration, CRM ingtegration, etc. But the tools in your aresenal don’t have to be particularly sophisticated and pricey to scale. What it has to be, more than anything, is useful. CDS Global’s Share Chain has been one of our most widely-used tools, yet one of our most simple social biz concepts. The idea stemmed from the concept of a prayer chain, believe it or not. Peers leaning on peers rather than marketing or PR alone to maximize the reach and resonance of news and content. We built our Share Chain using Liferay, an opensource collaboration platform. Employees across all departments can request collective social media sharing, calling on coworkers to help spread the word to our personal social graphs and networks. Subscribing employees submit requests on the Liferay web portal, and recieve requests by email from co-subscribers. It’s voluntary. If the request isn’t relevant to your social graph, or if you are swamped or traveling and can’t respond to a particular request, no worries. The point is to do what you can, when you can, when it makes sense.

What’s your take on companies going social? Thoughts, insights? Please feel free to connect with me by email at xadame@cds-global.com, or on Twitter at @xochiadame. And if you have a minute, please check out CDS Global’s Share Chain on Forrester’s Groundswell Awards submissions page, and here on our Forrester Groundswell Tumblr page.

Xochi (sōchē) Adamé is the digital marketing and social media strategist at Hearst Corp.’s CDS Global, Inc, where she is responsible for developing the CEO’s content marketing campaigns focused on business and technology trends impacting clients, as well as digital marketing across the organization, and internal social business programs. You can reach Xochi on Twitter at @xochiadame.

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