Enterprise Social 2.0, building customer relationships through social media

It looks like a daunting task to try and resume 2 days of social media knowledge at the Enterprise Social 2.0 conference in Brussels (#es20), but I've done it before,  and the appreciation I got from the organisers is just irresistible. I therefore already abandon my intention to only blog in Dutch here, just for everybody to enjoy the laurels this conference deserves.

Several presentations from a variety of speakers, mostly practitioners and no guru's, contained similar insights. It's therefore useful to work around the main problems companies struggle with to truly implement social media in their daily marketing, customer service, PR and HR activities.

Convincing the board

Getting buy in from the upper echelons of the company is crucial  to succeed with social media, yet it seems one of the biggest hurdles to overcome for most companies and their social media evangelists. Not only you have to convince your board to get budget, you also have to inform your CEO that it would be great if he'd featured in your next YouTube video. At ABInbev they did just that using the youth argument. The youth's higher propensity to drink and  loyalty to historical brand choices, combined with a great presence on social networks was convincing enough to get the ball rolling. It was only the beginning though, of a long (and according to Jef sometimes lonesome) road to truly 'become digital', as opposed to just 'doing digital'. A few online product launches later they seem to do pretty well  as a digital company and apparently there will be much more to come by 2014, when the World Cup will be organised in Brazil...

 Educating internally and social media policies

Once a company starts engaging online it needs guidelines and education for it's employees. At 3M for example (and many other companies actually), Yammer, an internal company twitter, is used to get employees familiar with what Twitter is all about and how it works. The engineers feeling comfortable with it can later move on to 'the real thing' and engage in online conversations with fellow experts and prospects. At ABInbev they have a digital lab to experiment and evangalise 'digital' throughout the company. Others attract outside help or rely on internal champions to organise social media trainings. However, leading by example and breaking through company barriers seem indispensable ingredients to make the social recipe work.

 Creating a consistent online presence internationally

Creating a consistent presence on social networks proves particularly difficult for large international organisations. Accounts are so easily created they are hard to control and local departments can interpret their use differently. Multinationals like Accor hotels or networked organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières had to put significant effort in rectifying situations that got out of hand. BT even had to chase down an ex-employee that owned the companies LinkedIn account.  Rather put your time in a nicely written social media guide, right?

Relinquishing brand control and losing brand ownership

Going social with your brand inevitably means handing over some of its control to your customers...and critics. A bitter pill to swallow for many brand managers. The way people talk about and interact with your brand will shape its perception both online and offline. The key here is to come up with good stories which your target group will recognize itself in. By giving the broader story (and values) of your brand, the fan base has something to build on, although they will still interpret it personally and fit it into their larger story. You give the clay, they will model it.

Engaging fans, empowering community members

Communities are hot, both in B2C and B2B. Wether it's to investigate deeper customer needs, nurture leads, stimulate innovation or co-create, a well-managed community seems to do the trick. For this you do need somebody who knows how to handle a community, as much as the co-operation of your own (engineering) staff. Community members must be treated as co-creators, not respondents or 'hot' sales leads. If members don't feel they get any value in exchange for their efforts in the community, they will abandon anyway. @Grahamhill firmly pleaded to start with mapping out the customer journey to understand this value exchange in the first place.

My brand is being destroyed online, what now?

A crisis is the biggest fear but also the biggest opportunity to capitulate on the power of social media. If you're not prepared when the shit hits the fan, you are one little (angry) bird for a bunch of hungry cats. However, if you're prepared (and this is where your CEO kicks in on YouTube) it might be a good damage controller. The conditions are that you'd be transparent, honest, caring, credible...and fast. A lie is easily spotted these days and people don't have patience.

The Toyota recall crisis was a very nice case in this perspective, as well as the ashcloud case by KLM. While thousands of travellers where stranded, KLM asked employees to volunteer for 4h shifts in a team that consisted of 4 Facebookers, 4 Tweeps and 4 rebookers to handle the requests of the passengers. It strengthened the company's believe in social media and eventually led to their pretty amazing campaign KLM Surprise.

LEGO also had a good answer ready for a Facebook group with the sole aim to moan about how painful it is to step on a LEGO brick with bare feet. A funny video shows  the Head of Corporate Communications apologising for the harm but also coming up with a funny solution to the problem. This video could turn the negative brand sentiment into even more positive buzz online.

Measuring the ROI of social media

The holy grail is still to be able to measure the impact of all this conversations on the brand and sales. BMW was the only company that closed the circle by offering a design sketch to their 'hot leads' in the M-Power community, in return for an answer on the question 'did you buy the car in the end ?'.That's only possible on a small scale though and in B2B environments with few leads. Most companies understand it's not enough to count likes and followers, and try to fit every possible measurment into broader KPI's such as brand sentiment and engagement. Other common measurements are earned meadia value and earned audience reach to asses the succes of digital campaigns.

 Know more?

Others also wrote about Enterprise Social 2.0:
 The conversation manager

or checkout the hashtag #es20 on Twitter.

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