As a student, I started my career in a Global “eBusiness”, a client-side consultancy role that at the time, was driving the early-beginnings of engaging with doctors and patients on-line.
Of course this was a grey area given the regulations for direct-to-consumer marketing, but one that I believe did ultimately benefit the consumer as information/ support became more open and accessible
The Pharma company christened this new way of marketing ‘e-marketing’ and very quickly developed a series of ‘e’ products and services that became a myriad of ‘e’ acronyms.
(Communicating and remembering the meaning of each of these proved quite a challenge!)
But crucially, the business had invested in the need for ‘e’ and set-up a best-practice unit which was tasked with identifying and mapping the internal stakeholders to define who might be the best influencers and advocates to spread the adoption of ‘e’ throughout the business.
The global department had an umbrella view on how ‘e’ could be included in every piece of communication, internally and externally and they were given a substantial budget to create pilot campaigns to win over brand managers.
Global road-shows and conferences also helped champion and promote ‘e’ thinking and very soon the business had rolled out disease education patient and doctor websites, on-line tutorials for ‘e’ learning and and a global patient portal to house an entire library of digital tools and content.
This was a pretty revolutionary shift for Pharma 10 years ago that was fresh and exciting, but one that did require a full-throttle internal comms push to get the business thinking more below-the-line and crucially, understand how the internet could complement traditional marketing and brand activities across its many therapy areas and change the way we do business.
The consultancy unit that I sat in was therefore more business than marketing, more internal facing than external and as a result was able to focus on building the strategic vision for the company.
Moving social beyond marketing
It is this business-wide approach that is critical if companies are to get social media integrated into the blood of an organisation.
‘Social media’ as a term is too marketing orientated so ‘social business’ was born to highlight the internal, cultural aspects that social technology offers and to get the C-Suite and other functions beyond marketing on-board to be customer-first, but this term also has far too many parallels with the social enterprises that are distinctly non-profit rather than corporate.
Changing the mindset of ‘social beyond marketing’; will take time and perseverance but the companies that are there are reaping the benefits in consumer trust which does lead to profit, and start-ups who are building in social consumer touch-points into their culture right from the start remain the best case-studies of this shift.
But for larger companies, although the need is clearly there, businesses are still only investing in technology with little budget available for strategy to push social adoption throughout the business.
Why social business is having an identity crisis
‘Social business’ the idea of business transformation that will enable an organisation to act faster, be smarter and stay relevant to their customers and thus stay in business, is not dead. But possibly. as suggested by Chris Heuer and Brian Solis, ‘social business’ as the term to drive this plan with the C-Suite and beyond marketing, is not gaining enough traction and therefore needs a re-brand.
I look at this from a planner’s perspective, that the largest benefit we can get from this movement is the speed, openness and accessibility of social data, about…well absolutely anything (from brands, consumers and products to business opportunities and competitor intelligence) and we can build technologies that enables us to layer this, cut this data on top of other sources across the business to make it more relevant or actionable.
A New model: real-time planning
Speed. Now that that is something that consumers want. Real-time responses to their Tweets, immediate engagement from the brands they care to Like on Facebook and 24/7 customer service for everything else. But so do employees, who need speed of information so they can be speedy in their decision making and take advantage of the opportunity now – before their competitors jump on it.
At its core, social business is about being more human and authentic to all your stakeholders (customers and employees) and establishing a renewed commitment in people, culture and technology, whilst working with customers as partners to build genuine advocacy through the use of social communication and technology.
‘A real-time planning’ mind-set is needed to make this strategy stick, then scale and grow.
It requires working with the existing cultures (understand them, work with them rather than fight against them) and invest in great talent who are already passionate on a personal level about the use of social technology, so they can champion something they already believe in and lead a break-through strategy across global functions on a professional level.
Breaking down knowledge silos through clever centralised reporting that can be shared with all departments and markets is also critical to this gaining momentum.
When ‘e-marketing’ was born as the first digital marketing wave, there was a rush for brands to get online and start talking to consumers, real-time planning should be considered as the internal mechanism to continue this digital success.
Because in today’s attention-deficit world, brand actions and timing count for everything.
Marketing’s job is therefore to catalyse an excitement about real-time planning through the use of social data, advocate the use of technology to do jobs better, put in place pilots to showcase the power of social and customer intelligence among peers and build a culture of constant digital innovation and collaboration.
At this point, social data starts to feed the org…and real-time planning becomes the integral process that distributes insights and action.