Thoughtful Insights on Social As a Business (SaaB): Thinking Beyond Social Media Campaigns

It takes a lot of time, effort and executive commitment. For any organization to be dappling with social media effectively means to have not just a dedicated resource but an entire team that strategically uses social media to market and sell everything that the organization stands for.

Wait a minute! Only sell and market?

Social Media is important to company performance but difficult to prove’, says a report on Forbes. With social media spending poised at 9.4% of marketing budgets and expected to rise by 128% to 21.4%, CMOs world over however are still scratching their heads over where is the money going? According to the survey conducted by Forbes only 15% of marketers report their companies can show any sort of social media impact using quantitative resources.

The question really is should social media then be only used to market? Is that not limiting the scope of the medium? Is there is a way to use Social as a Business (SaaB) strategy which goes much beyond conventional social marketing campaigns?

The way I see it, Social as a Business should be a way of life for every business. Social goes beyond engaging with friends on a network, and we know that. What many companies fail to do is harness its ability and power to touch every aspect of business. Social enables new channels for generating business, commerce, promotions, interaction, competitive benchmarking, influencer engagement, employee intimacy, tracking infringements and many more aspects of the value chain. If deployed effectively and smartly, social can become your friend, confidante, watchdog, consultant and business partner!

As social impacts businesses both positively and negatively, it is imperative that brands move away from leveraging social media to just reach out to their consumers / audiences and manage reputation if and when (hopefully never) something goes wrong. I’d say it is time organizations look beyond the scope of social media and build truly social businesses that delivers the brand promise across all parts of their business value chain and look at ways and means of managing social based initiatives to help the brand stay strong and enhance the overall value.

Am I throwing a stone in the cool, placid lake? Well, looks like some have already thrown their pebbles creating small ripples of change. Let’s look at some of the best examples from world over.

Harnessing the power of Social R&D

Digital has really changed the game for a lot of entities. Libraries are shrinking. Bookstores are closing shop. Exhibitions remain a thing of the ultra-niche. How does then an antiquated museum ensure that it just doesn’t receive footfalls from school children or the select few who have a love for history?

The Imperial War Museum in London, conducted an extensive exercise what came to be known as ‘Social Interpretation’ where the curators along with knowledge partners applied principles of social media to relationships with cultural objects. The objective was to understand if the application of social media models to cultural collections successfully increase engagement and reach? How does a museum assess the taste of its patrons? To gauge and understand visitor expectations, the museum installed digital tools in the gallery, via mobile and online. The intention was to share this information with other museums and galleries. Technology is a potential threat to the traditional role of the curator, so how could they really deploy technology to enhance and empower the role of the curator?

There were three major components to be developed simultaneously – kiosks in the galleries, QR codes for smartphones, mobile apps for Android and iPhone and online object commenting, collecting and sharing. Six social interaction kiosks were installed across the gallery and over a period of 6 months they observed that a third of all visitors interacted with the kiosks, most of them being young. The QR codes were more or less ignored. Social Interaction via the web however showed more encouraging results. People were more comfortable to comment and share their views online. Social Interaction was feared as disruptive, but what it really did was enhance customer experience and in that very exercise the Imperial War Museum’s curator now had more credible knowledge to back his installations.

Social R&D is making steady inroads into businesses. How about finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or the progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease known as ALS? In a disease that causes nerve cells that control voluntary body movements to stop functioning, leading to paralysis how can social be possibly used to cure it? In 2006 when 26 year old Avi Kremer a young Harvard Business Student was diagnosed with ALS, he decided to form Prize4Life Inc. Kremer knew that he was dealing with disease that had no cure because there was no credible way of monitoring the progression of the disease and the effectiveness of the treatments. Prize4Life was formed with a mission to ‘accelerate the discovery of treatments and a cure for ALS by using powerful incentives to attract new people and drive innovation’. Avi and the founders of Prize4Life decided to award $1MN to the first person or team to identify an ALS biomarker. Before the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took the world by storm, crowd sourced information on ALS by Prize4Life has already received 108 solutions till date.

‘Delivering’ Aid Where It Matters 

If the youth of the country are spending time on social playing games and browsing, then what is the best way to touch them? With over 160 MN people playing Facebook games and many from the developing nations, USAID has tapped a natural intersection of games, social media and international development!

In 2012, NetHope (a consortium of NGOs that work towards providing IT connectivity in developing countries) and USAID worked on a program called Innovations for Youth Capacity and Engagement (IYCE) whose goal is to utilize the power of innovative technology, develop games to engage, empower, educate and assist the youth to make a transition to adulthood. The program was piloted in Jordan with a Facebook game called Our City aimed to promote civic responsibility in the youth. The game allows the player to go through a series of quests and missions, to understand the components of a health city while building their ideal city that represents the future of Jordan.

Social Knowledge Powering Manufacturing & Supply Chain Management

At the heart of it, social media is a great aggregator of ideas and thoughts. It is a platform for conversations but if you turn the prism one can also use it effectively as a repository of knowledge. I didn’t say it first here because there are companies that have effectively social media for knowledge sharing, manufacturing and supply chain management.

Enter, Esquel, the Hong Kong- based supplier of cotton textiles and apparel. The supply chain extends from cotton farming, to spinning, garment manufacturing, all the way to labeling and trimming. For a company that has its operations spread across a vast geography, Esquel in 2011 started using Yammer. In what began as a platform by a bunch of folks from the IT department, today Yammer has become an effective internal communication platform. People post questions answers and ideas, and use it for everything from morale boosting to problem solving! Esquel reaises that listening to the workforce is very critical in the nature of their business and by investing in it the company has now managed to build a constructive platform where people share their problems and solutions.

The supply chain bandwagon has been slower to jump on the social media bandwagon. Industrial Mold and Machine, producers of custom molds for plastic bottle manufacturers, has been able to deploy social very effectively. The organization was looking for a way to deal with their communication issues and improve their manufacturing process along the way. The organization implemented the use of iPads with SocialText software for the workforce on the floor. SocialText made it easier for the workforce to collaborate, find and share resources and information, ideas and expertise. The software also allowed the people to resolve production-line quality issues and solve other production related issues. Today, IMM considers itself truly mobile!

In the meantime, Hippo has been keeping stock with Twitter. For a brand that steadfastly believes that ‘Hunger is the root cause of all evil. So don’t go hungry’; the consumer has very little choice but to bite into it with a huge munch. Even so when the personification and characterization of the Hippo is so real and eye-catching, the company could not afford to go without no supplies, or empty stands in shops and outlets. What did Parle Agro (the parent company) do? Instead of spending huge sums of money in outsourcing distribution and supply duties, Hippo decided to harvest its Twitter power instead! If your nearby store has run out of your favourite snack, all you need to do is post it on Twitter and the company would ensure that you have your favourite snack in a jiffy!

Social As An After Sales Support

Where the selling ends, the support begins. Or at least this should always be the case, even on social media. Given the speed of digital power, even the 50 year old Eurail has had to change tracks and adapt digital technology to keep pace with the people who travel on their trains. Using Facebook and Twitter to connect with travellers seeking their queries and concerns, Eurail today has a dedicated team of travel enthusiasts servicing its clients across platform. Needless to say, Eurail is known as one of the world’s most social media and technologically savvy travel companies in the world.

Not too far is Comcast, laying the rules of customer care through Twitter. With a dedicated handle called @Comcastcares that is manned by the company, Comcast has till date serviced several user complaints online.

Socially Powered Recruitment – the HCL Story

According to a recent Mashable report, 55% of recruiters reconsider job candidates after seeing their social profiles. In 2014 alone, 93% recruiters will use social media to evaluate job candidates. At HCL, we have always questioned the norm. So when it came to talent acquisition, we wanted to consciously disrupt recruitment standards and practices and be the world’s first company to engage in an end-to-end Social Recruitment Campaign. Given that 47% of the company’s work force belonged to Gen-Y, we had to leverage social media to stay ahead of the game.

Thus was born #CoolestInterviewEver, the HCL campaign to hire on Twitter. Given that the nature of a job interview is always secretive, being conducted behind closed doors, conducting an interview in the open world wide web of 140 characters was a new game. We of course as it as an incredible opportunity to send out a clear message to potential employees about the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that HCL wanted to nurture. The objectives of the recruitment campaign were to cut across markets, be relevant to Gen Y and create a ‘fit in class’ buzz. The campaign was launched on 10th of February with the team actively engaging with participants. A daily status update was sent to the team and the other internal stakeholders to get their inputs on further optimization.

HCL’s world class social command centre was leveraged to track engagement 24 x 7, to provide Engaging, Listening, Reporting, Shortlisting and Optimising. From 3 days prior to the launch, the team was actively responding to the queries around #CoolestInterviewEver. They used an extremely personal tone. The three tenets of HCL Brand – a) trust, transparency & flexibility b) value centricity c) Employee first customer second(EFCS) were exemplified in every tweet. The rising excitement could be felt in the participant’s tweets. With about 80,000 participants from across 60 countries, HCL replied to every single tweet or comment coming from every participant. The campaign got media coverage from more than 60 international and national media worth $ 1MN. The total engagement exceeded more than 250K, exceeding target by 25%. The campaign pushed HCL’s Twitter follower base to 200K+, leading the IT industry, ahead of global companies like IBM, Accenture and Indian Players like TCS and Infosys.

The social trailer has just begun, either companies will leave in the interval not doing a good job of their social strategy or they will create a movie which many of their consumers will watch many more times!

You and I will surely curl up with our popcorn!

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Apurva Chamaria currently heads global brand and digital marketing for HCL Technologies, a 6 Bn US$ IT major and is responsible for global brand marketing, employer brand, employee and community marketing, thought-leadership marketing and digital marketing. He has pharmaceutical industry experience having worked in various sales and marketing positions at Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited (now a part of Daichi Sankyo). He's also a regular speaker at industry and company conferences like Sales Performance Management '12, Octane User Group Summit, Microsoft Leaders Speak, ACMP Change Management 2014, and premier B-School events and annual conclaves of institutes like ISB, IIM-A, IIM-Raipur, FMS, IIMC, IMI, MICA, Great Lakes etc. He’s a columnist for the Pitch magazine. Follow him on Twitter @a1purva
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