Archive for April 2011

Social business: 3 multinational case studies


Social business on international scale

Social business - the scale is international

Continuing from our definition of  social business, this post will introduce look at 3 brief case studies of multinational companies that have successfully adopted social business.

As part of the 2.0 Adoption Council, IBM (in association with MIT Center for Digital Business and the Dachis Group) has published a series of case studies demonstrating integrated social business. Here is a summary of three of the largest:


The French multinational has 70,000 employees across 70 countries - giving great collaboration potential, but the formation was fragmented  due to growth through acquisitions and mergers.

The Alstom University focused on their people and process before considering technology. Running a series of pilot communities allowed them to receive executive buy-in, which promoted adoption by employees. Awareness about the community platforms and collaboration tools was achieved by a video shown at company events, and education was provided through an e-learning programme.

By taking this people-centric approach Alstom succeeded in creating a collaborative culture throughout the company, where the social tools were treated as a means instead of an end, and collaboration was not relegated to being used only virtually.


In an organisation as large as IBM (nearly 400,000 employees worldwide),  initiating change requires advocates.

IBM’s initial aim was to develop social collaboration for the IBM sales team, but their long term aim was to roll this out to the entire business. In IBM’s case a pool of 50 enthusiasts grew to 250 within six months, and was over 1,300 within a year.

An important part of IBM’s approach was to highlight the benefits of collaboration to its employees through blogging and sharing content. The aim to “evangelize everyone” and promote understanding of the benefits has been reinforced with top-down encouragement, with IBM CEO and President Sam Palmisano encouraging all IBM staff to use social collaboration in their day to day work.


With almost 60,000 employees and an autonomous culture, Nokia found that social media tools were being used independently of each other and social media silos existed throughout the business. The challenge was for Nokia to harness these individual networks into one collaborative social business strategy.

The success hinged on executive support, which granted two internal pilots to take place in the business. The micro-blogging pilot has already seen success, and a crowd-sourcing pilot has even resulted in a change to the company culture. One key benefit was a boost to employee morale - the feeling that they are being listened to and the potential for recognition of their ideas has given the company a “feeling of connectedness”.


It’s essential for buy-in from an executive level in order for a large company to become a social business. It’s also important to remember that technology should only enter the equation after considering the people who will be using it. These mini case studies show the strength of social business in terms of scale.

As all these examples are technology companies - it could be argued that they could integrate social business more naturally. In the next post of this series, we’ll look at companies who are already using social media and should be thinking about taking it further - if you have any suggested examples please do leave a comment below.

Calling all brands: stop counting Facebook “likes” and build deeper engagement instead


When it comes to Facebook, marketers often think that hitting 10,000, 50,000 or more than 1 million likes is the only metric for measuring the success of a Facebook page.

Perhaps this is because the “like” button is a metric that’s comparable to traditional mass media metrics. Magazines and papers sell advertising rates based on their circulation volume and TV companies still sell a 30 second ad spot related to viewing figures (the more viewers, the  higher the cost of the spot).

So ROI from social media, particularly Facebook, is easy to get your head around if you think of it in this mass media context.

Except it isn’t as simple as this.

While there’s nothing wrong with measuring the number of Facebook likes, social media is about more than just getting mass market attention; it should be used to build real engagement. Marketers need to stop focusing on volume and “likes” and should start looking at the quality or influence levels of the people they are interacting with.

Look at these Facebook pages for Pepto Bismol or Red Bull - each uses a somewhat awkward arrow to point out the like button (as if the average Facebook user doesn’t know where the like button is). Very little thought has gone in to what to do with these people once they have “liked” the page or whether the likes represent any sort of positive influence with the brand.

Marketers need to remember that when it comes to social media, numbers alone do not equal engagement  - only activity equals engagement. So perhaps what should be measured is an action demonstrating engagement, such as quality of feedback per post or number of comments posted.

Influence comes from connecting to those individuals who make up your target audience, and over time, developing and nurturing that relationship. Marketers should worry less about how many people they are connected to and should start thinking more about who they are connected to and how their brand can positively add value to that individual’s life.

How can out-of-home advertisers utilise social media?


Image courtesy of Snow Ball

Out-of-home advertising (or outdoor advertising as it’s also known) is any type of advertising that reaches the consumer outside the home. It includes things like roadside billboards, or the posters you see on buses and tube escalators.

With the falling price and improving quality of digital displays, more and more out-of-home advertisers are moving away from traditional print and paper methods and are starting to use digital commercials with moving pictures, sounds and interactive features.

According to a recent article in The Economist, spending on digital billboards and posters is set to double over the next 5 years.  Given the rise of digital in out-of-home advertising, brands and businesses would do well to think about the opportunities for using social media as part of their out-of-home advertising digital strategy.

World leading outdoor advertising company JCDecaux is already taking advantage of new social media technologies to help brands engage their audience more effectively. They offer a free iPhone application called u snap - whenever a consumer sees a poster of something that‘s of interest, the consumer can take a photo of it on their iphone and the app recognises it, giving extra product information, discount vouchers and directions to the nearest retailer.

Digital out-of-home advertising could also be used to take advantage of what is known as “gladvertising” and “sadvertising” where face tracking software, embedded into the digital billboard or screen, is used to determine the mood of consumers as they pass by so that the products shown in the advert appeal to the consumer based on their mood.

There’s also the potential for real-time advertising - when Spain won the football World Cup last year digital billboards in Madrid showed the results within seconds.Out-of-home advertisers could also make use of location based marketing to roll out offers or discounts to people who check in near their digital billboard for example.

With Clear Channel’s  William Eccleshare claiming that 90% of its business will be digital by the end of the decade, brands who use out-of-home advertising would do well to think not only about their digital strategy, but also how social media can be used to further engage with the consumer.

Social business: a definition


“Social business” - what does it meanSocial business dictionary? We’ll be exploring the concept of a social business in a series of blog posts over the coming weeks.

What is social business?

The term “social business” predates social media (referring to “a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective” - Wikipedia).

However, in the context of social media we define it as: the implementation of the unique communicative properties of social media across all levels of a business.

Examples of social business integration would be:

  • Collaboration tools - allowing colleagues to work on a project simultaneously and remotely.
  • Customer service - responding to questions, complaints and suggestions made on social networks. This can be handled collaboratively such as BestBuy’s Twelpforce.
  • Internal communication - intuitive messaging that is free from fragmentary nature of email.
  • Social CRM (SCRM) - customers will increasingly expect consistency and awareness of their social history with a company, no matter who or what department they interact with.

Why should I be interested in social business?

While the marketing potential of social media is well known, social business offers smoother internal workflows for employees, as information is passed and updated in a fast and intuitive manner.

Consumer social media is important for communicating with the public, but Facebook or Twitter are not always suitable for internal use by enterprise, and so specialised software and tools are required. While these may have a Facebook-like “feel” to them for easy employee adoption, enterprises have to be prepared to roll out new platforms, as integration across the entire organisation is essential.

So why are companies not using social business yet?

Fundamentally it’s because businesses are daunted by the implications of making fundamental changes to their operation. While social business is designed to be scalable,  the first step  requires a desire and understanding of its importance from the top-down.

Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter has written on the topic of the “social maturity” of an organisation, and similarly their progression through a variety of organisational models. We will consider these models, and the future of social business, in the later posts of this series.

4 key customer touchpoints where social media adds value


Image courtesy of McKinsey

In order to use social media to influence purchasing habits you need to embed it at key customer touchpoints.

Using  McKinsey’s customer journey model as a base, we’ve looked at how and where you can use social media at key customer touch points.

1. Initial consideration

What’s happening at this stage?
Something has triggered a need for the customer to start thinking about making a purchase. The consumer considers an initial set of brands based on brand perceptions and exposure to recent touch points.

How can social media be used?
This is an important position for brands to secure. According to McKinsey, people are three times more likely to purchase a brand that was in the initial stages of their purchasing journey in comparison with those that were added later.

Social media can play a part in this early stage by positioning a brand in the forefront of consumers’ minds at all times. Stumbling across a brand on a Facebook page, reading a tweet about a good experience someone has had with a brand, reading a blog post or forum thread online about a branded product - not only does this  help spread word-of-mouth, but the brand that a consumer is most likely to recall is one that has a constant place in their mind.

2. Active evaluation

What’s happening at this stage?
The consumer is actively seeking more information about the products they have in mind. Consumers add or subtract brands as they evaluate what they want and don’t want.

How can social media be used?
Two-thirds of the touch points during the active-evaluation phase involve consumer-driven marketing initiatives - something which social media excels at.

Reviews and recommendations from “people like me” play an integral part of the customer decision making process. A good review by an influential blogger, or a comment by a social media influencer who appeals to the consumer audience can be more valuable than thousands of pounds worth of advertising. By interacting and engaging with influencers, brands can build up their presence and appeal among their target audience.

3. Postpurchase experience

What’s happening at this stage?
After purchasing a product or service,the consumer builds expectations based on their previous experience, as well as hands-on experience of product itself, to inform the rest of their journey.

How can social media be used?
Post-purchase relations are very important. According to McKinsey, more than 60% of consumers (of facial skin care products) go online to conduct further research after purchase and if a product is marketed effectively online, or has been reviewed or discussed in social media, its most useful functions and features can be discovered at this touch point.

4. Loyalty loop

What happens at this stage?
This is where a consumer moves from making a one-off purchase to developing loyalty with a brand

How can social media be used?
In today’s world consumers can influence marketing and opinions about brands and social media can be the glue that keeps customers loyal to your brand. A customer who has liked your Facebook page, follows you on Twitter and contributes to your company blog is half-way to becoming brand loyal. A careful balance of interaction with consumers through social media and a great product or service could be the extra step needed to maintain loyalty,  turning impulse one-off purchasers into loyal customers. Happy customers can also turn into brand advocates and focusing on retaining repeat consumers can help attract new or prospective customers.

Interested in learning more about social media and the customer experience? Why not come to the European Customer World Experience 2011 from 24th - 26th May. Register for tickets here.