A thousand enterprises are born every day and same number die as well, may be more. But the enterprises that linger on and tackle every challenge successfully are those that have a strong foundation. They are better equipped to face changes (revolutions, in case of online businesses), reputation crisis and strong competition.
There are two paths that lead to the formation of such a successful enterprise:
Have a Strong Leader: Your business should be helmed by a strong leader who knows the true potential of his/her team and is a true visionary. It can get dictatorial at times (cough *Steve Jobs* cough) though. But we know how rare it is to come across such people.
Be 'Social': Be more open and collaborative. Empower the individuals who are an integral part of your business. Be a Social Business.
So what is Social Business after all?
A social business is an organization that is more open, collaborative, adaptable and effective; hence benefiting all the individuals that are a part of the ecosystem, viz. employees, customers, owners and stakeholders.
Too Many Jargons! Simple Language Please
In simple terms, a Social Business connects every single person who's a part of your business to each other. And not only does it connect, it also encourages them to interact in a manner that is beneficial to the growth of your business.
Let me explain it to you in detail.
Build An Integrated Organization
You build an integrated organization when everyone in your business is able to connect with each other without any friction. So... your stakeholders can interact with your employees, any of your employee (and not just customer service) can talk to customers and even employees can communicate with each other internally without any barriers. The silos are removed and communication is made simpler.
A better technology in place can ensure that.
Create Brand Advocates
When you open up your business the social way, you end up creating an organization that is a small society in itself. The more seamless the interaction, the deeper the connect between people. Imagine for a moment that you are having issues with this enterprise software you just downloaded and want to get a solution ASAP.
Wouldn't it be great if you can talk/email directly (and personally) to the some one in the development team instead of going through a faceless customer service representative giving you canned replies? A quicker solution always has greater potential to convert buyers into raving fans.
I would like to quote my own example here.
Vodafone has been bugging me with their promo calls/texts almost an hour every single day since the last few days. I tweeted that out and I got a call from Vodafone Care telling me that they can't decrease the frequency of calls/texts as it is technically impossible (we're in 21st Century, right?) and I should subscribe to Do Not Disturb to stop them entirely.
I told them I want the texts (and occasional calls) but not practically every hour. When I asked them to connect me to their technical team for an explanation on how the frequency cannot be reduced, they refused. As a customer, my belief in brand Vodafone is now weaker than it was before.
Not only does the connectivity lead to better CRM, it also brings your employees closer. It turns your organization into one bug family. They don't have to go through a manager or a team-leader to reach out to ther departments. This creates employees who are passionate about the vision and mission of your brand. This positivty generates word-of-mouth about your brand and tends to attract talent who are seeking to work in a positive enivorment.
Build Better Products
Continuous monitoring and analysis of the data being shared seamlessly helps you discover things that you won't be able to observe in a conservative organization. If I am a developer talking to customers and listening to his pain points, I can relay it to my team quickly so that necessary changes be made asap. The aim here is build a product that is good for customer in all aspects. Now put a customer service agent in the middle and the time window for delivering a better product update has increased by few days (or worse, weeks!).
How Is it Different from Social Media?
The core of Social Business and Social Media are same - a better connectivity. But they are still very different from each other. A business that uses social media employs CRM, sales and marketing teams to go out there and interact with their consumers. The silos are still present. It's just that these teams have moved from phone/email to social networking platforms.
Let's have a look again at my experience with Vodafone. You will notice that the company is using social media very well; it called me up within few minutes after I sent that tweet out. But, since they are not a Social Business and won't let me connect to anyone else apart from their customer service team, they have left me dissatisfied.
This tells that having a a robust Social Media strategy can fail if intrinsically you are not 'Social'.
But turning your business into a social business has its own challenges.
Opening up your business to every one who's either inside or outside poses a serious communication problem. Every employee of yours is connected to your customer and to each other as well and such a situation is indeed mind-boggling to imagine. The information flow has to be seamless across all these paths and a robust technology ensure that it stays intact.
Interaction with Customers
While your developer may be a wizard with codes, he/she might not be that good at interacting with customers. You need to train all your employees to interact in a better way with your customers. You need to formulate a policy that governs these interactions.
This is the biggest challenge. Going 'social' is more of cultural shift and not some simple adminisrative change. You must believe in being open and collaborative. Silos will be broken, there will be free communication and everyone will be networked to everyone.
As a business owner, it is up to you whether you want to make the shift or not.