Leadership toolset #8: Enterprise Social Collaboration
We’ve spoken frequently in our Marketing Organizational Leadership series about the benefits of cross-functional collaboration in elevating confidence in the marketing function and organizational performance. Here, Kendra Ramirez shares her expert tips and insights for harnessing enterprise social collaboration platforms to stay agile and ahead.
Kendra Ramirez is a nationally recognized social media authority and was a finalist for the 2009 Social Media Innovator of the Year award. Since 2005, Kendra has helped hundreds of organizations, including numerous Fortune 500 companies, leverage social media tools through her cutting-edge knowledge of social media strategy and tactics. In her current role as Social Media and Mobile Manager for Cincinnati-based Ascendum, Kendra helps medium and large firms solve business challenges by engaging the right combination of Strategy, People, Processes, Technology, and Infrastructure. We’re pleased to welcome Kendra to the DocuStar Marketing Organizational Leadership blog series!
What is Enterprise Social Collaboration?
Enterprise social collaboration employs features such as the “comment” and “like” functions of social media and “threaded conversations” to create an internal dialogue that can help organizations overcome functional silos, improve cross-functional collaboration and outpace the competition by enabling organizations to more quickly distill and disseminate critical information and insights to employees in order to respond to trends in the market. Further, enterprise social collaboration can serve as a means for employees to share direct customer feedback to accomplish goals such as:
• Improving customer service and support
• Addressing customer complaints and product gaps
• Gathering insights and feedback to help guide the new product development and marketing innovation processes
Historically, the process of synthesizing customer and employee insights required hours of preliminary legwork spent gathering, reviewing and indexing information before insights could be presented to key stakeholders. McKinsey & Company estimates that analysts spend about 80 percent of their time gathering and reviewing the research before distilling trends for distribution internally, but this model is evolving: Enterprise Social Collaboration greatly compresses the time involved in curating key market insights gathered from multiple channels and prevents tacit employee and customer intelligence from sitting in silos, says Kendra.
Companies from The Home Depot to Burberry are capitalizing on the power of enterprise social collaboration to quickly respond to customer needs and to operationalize tacit employee insights. From quickly gathering and distributing key market insights and empowering employees to respond directly to customer requests via social media to validating competitive pressures or a marketing communications approach directly with employees, enterprise social collaboration helps to elevate organizational performance and positions companies to respond to market and competitive pressures with speed and relevance.
Here are some of the most effective ways organizations are using enterprise social collaboration platforms today, according to Kendra.
Top Candidates for Enterprise Social Collaboration
• Marketing Campaigns. Social collaboration platforms can be used to co-develop marketing campaign materials and collateral with Sales and bridge cross-functional differences.
• Employment Branding & Recruiting. Employee comments made in the internal social collaboration platform can be used to help standardize external brand messaging – including external “impact statements” such as average employee tenure – used in employment branding and recruiting.
• New Hire Orientation. Rather than using multiple emails to send important communications and information to new hires, social collaboration platforms enable new employees to quickly and efficiently find the information they need, ask questions and get answers and help directly from employees through a centralized collaboration platform.
• Organizational Learning. Social collaboration helps to uncover trends and internal tacit insights from employees by providing a platform for employees to contribute knowledge from their diverse catalogue of work experiences and skill sets, which might be a perfect fit for an upcoming project or for troubleshooting a current challenge. Social collaboration compresses the time involving in finding employees who are a good fit for specific projects.
• Competitive Insights & Analysis. Competitive information can tend to get siloed in one department, and sometimes insights such as Sales objections don’t get passed along to the stakeholders who need them the most. For example, customer feedback regarding product or service improvements may stop at Sales and not be shared with important stakeholders including Product Development, Operations & Delivery or Customer Service. Social collaboration can work as a vehicle for quickly sharing and responding to important feedback, complaints or issues from the field.
• Market Research. Social collaboration platforms empower employees to help curate key market research and insights, such as product and IP research, directly within the platform to minimize duplication of efforts.
• Branding Authenticity & Consistency Across Channels. Social collaboration can help to standardize brand messaging across channels, both internal and external, as Marketing can use the platform to provide and/or refine core brand messaging for uses by all departments, including Sales and Recruiting.
Caveats for a Successful Rollout
While enterprise social collaboration is a valuable tool for any business as demonstrated by the above applications, even the best tool will fail if the goals and objectives aren’t defined up front. According to Kendra, it’s critical to ensure that a process is put in place before rollout to gain alignment about the objectives and parameters for using the toolset and to ensure the platform doesn’t become another silo. “The decision to adopt a social collaboration platform has to be led at the C-suite and driven from the top-down, and education is really critical. It’s important to clearly articulate the benefits of the platform at an individual level to encourage adoption,” says Kendra. “After rollout, you need to campaign internally with flyers and contests. End users (your internal customers) need to understand, ‘What’s in it for them?’ You need to connect the goals of your social business platform to your organizational purpose.”
Breaking Down Silos for Better Cross-Functional Collaboration
While the benefits of enterprise social collaboration are many, one of the most significant benefits is helping to break down organizational silos. “Anytime employees feel valued and their voices are heard, that’s a big deal,” says Kendra. “Enterprise social collaboration prompts realignment around common goals, particularly between Sales and Marketing, where there can sometimes be warring between factions.” Enterprise social collaboration can help to open the dialogue between Sales and Marketing to ensure campaigns are relevant prior to launch. It also helps to give a voice to customer-facing employees, whose insights and ideas all too often go overlooked. “If you engage employees, says Kendra, “the effect of your marketing campaigns will be magnified in positive ways.” When your employees are given proper guidelines and kept informed with key company updates, they can act as powerful brand advocates for your company. As with any organizational communication, however, enterprise social collaboration cannot be effective without clear guidelines for using the platform. Be sure that your communications plan and objectives are clearly defined prior to rollout, cautions Kendra.
As the marketing technology landscape continues to evolve, enterprise social collaboration has emerged as an integral resource to help organizations respond with speed and relevance to changes in the market, gain internal and external alignment for marketing messaging, and give a voice to employees who may otherwise not be heard. A successful rollout includes a top-down decision to invest in the platform and clearly articulating objectives and guidelines to employees who will be using the tool during rollout. Once training is complete, the benefits of enterprise social collaboration – including better cross-functional collaboration and the goodwill created by giving your employees a voice to help shape the future of the company – far overshadow the initial time and resource investments required for planning your rollout and training employees.
What is your experience with Enterprise Social Collaboration? Submit a comment below or join the discussion in the LinkedIn group, “Marketing Organizational Leadership.”
Enterprise Social Collaboration DO’s
1. DO define guidelines for using the social collaboration platform.
2. DO consider which (if any) redundant platforms you may need to stop using before rollout.
3. DO drive adoption from the top-down; otherwise, your social collaboration platform could become another silo.
4. DO pilot and test your program first prior to rollout.
5. DO use contests and incentives to encourage adoption of the platform.
6. DO position enterprise social collaboration in terms of the benefits to your employees.
7. DO connect the goals of your social business platform to your organizational purpose.
8. DO use social collaboration tools to distribute employee communications and updates.
9. DO designate Community Managers to help oversee platform usage guidelines and to help “curate” tacit employee knowledge and market research insights.
Enterprise Social Collaboration Dont’s
1. Don’t pursue enterprise social collaboration without first clarifying organizational goals and objectives for the platform.
2. Don’t focus on the tool alone: A successful program requires the interoperation of people, process and platform (technology).
Four Keys to a Successful Rollout: A Recap
1. Clearly define goals and objectives up front
2. C-level, top-down decision
3. Training & rollout plan
4. Promote with incentives
5. Designate Community Managers as social collaboration champions
** To view more articles in this series, click on the “Marketing Organizational Leadership” tag below.