Building the Business Case for Social Business

In a prior article, we defined social CRM and the social business model to help understand how applying social tools and technologies can impact your business. In this article, we'll dive into building the business case so you can determine whether the social business model makes business sense for your company. Here's a six step approach and assessment to evaluating and forecasting the business impact from becoming more social.

A 6 Step Approach to Forecasting Social Business Impact


Understand how social tools can impact existing business processes

As part of its business practices, the social company utilizes an organizational structure, as well as processes and tools, which allow it to:

  • Engage, collaborate, and create with customers, partners, and employees.
  • Capture and share traditional, transactional data with the unstructured data prevalent in social conversations and stored among social networks.
  • Deliver a high quality customer experience that includes at least some personalization by including contact attributes from the contact's social profile.

A social company delivers service through the customer's preferred channels. The right channel mix depends on customer preferences balanced with the company's resource availability.

Capturing data in today's social world requires the use of Social CRM technology, which is normally an add-on to traditional CRM software platforms. Key social components include:

  • Social listening solutions, allowing companies to monitor the public web and capture social conversations occurring about their brand, products or services. Examples include, Sysomos, Attensity, and Visible Technologies.
  • Community solutions, allowing companies to engage and influence interested audiences as well as empower peer to peer based interaction and support. Examples are Facebook, Jive Software, and Lithium Technologies.
  • Social connectivity solutions, allowing companies to connect CRM solutions with popular social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to monitor social activity, integrate social stream data with CRM transactional data and participate in conversations with greater context. Examples are Salesforce Service Cloud, Oracle CX (Social Experience) and Microsoft Dynamics 365.
  • Integration across the Social CRM platform.

A high quality customer experience should be independent of the customer's entry point. The customer should see only one, united company regardless of communication channel or time of day. This means employees in all customer-facing departments need to have ready access to customer information at the time and place it is needed. Further, if a handoff is required from one employee to another, it should be handled with a transfer of acquired knowledge and minimal disruption to the customer.


Listen and discover

Start building your social business case with cloud monitoring and social analytics tools to identify, listen, discover, and measure conversations across the social web about your company, product, and services. It can be eye-opening—and not always in a good way—to see what people are saying and writing about your company.

Additionally, you can also gain valuable insight into similar conversations about your competitors. And, since the conversations are public domain, you have no worries about privacy infringement.


Define objectives

Like any corporate initiative, if you don't know where you want to go, then you won't know how to get there. After you analyze the results of social monitoring, define your social objectives. Keep in mind; these should directly feed into your over-riding corporate objectives. Common examples of social objectives include:

  • Customer service savings from increased agent deflections or improved agent productivity.
  • Increased sales revenues from an extended online footprint, higher impact with customers and prospects, or higher sales per customer.
  • Marketing and public relations savings from less expensive customer insights, better brand protection to mitigate communication crises or improved and targeted messaging to prospects and customers.
  • Product development savings from better product ideation based on customer preferences and needs or accelerated product development.

Design strategies to meet objectives

By incorporating the insights you gained from social monitoring with your objectives, you'll be ready to define a social strategy based on the channels where your customers can be found, and on the ways they prefer to communicate. Although a social business case can touch all aspects of your operations, the top four arenas to first consider are:

  • Marketing and Public Relations – engaging prospects and customers to promote sales and brand loyalty.
  • Service – supporting existing customers and partners with new social tools over social channels.
  • Product development – embracing concepts such as ideation and creating customer-centric products.
  • Team collaboration – with combinations of employees and external audiences using social tools such as forums, online communities, peer to peer networks and microblogging.

Determine Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure program results

KPIs for social programs generally include:

  • Traditional operational metrics (e.g., marketing metrics, call center metrics, etc.),
  • Social analytics metrics, and
  • Business impact results.

By understanding the relationships and dependencies between the variables across the different datasets, you can gain insight into the activities, reach, relevance, behaviors and measurable impact of customers.


Forecast social media Return on Investment (ROI)

Too many social media pundits say, "Social media ROI cannot be calculated because there are too many unknowns." Or, "Don't worry about the ROI, just get a strategy and start doing something." This is wrong-headedness. Imagine telling a manufacturer to "just go build a new factory, no need to plan a strategy or consider the cost."

It is both possible and essential to determine a social media ROI. Admittedly though, it does have its challenges – but they are surmountable. By understanding their interrelatedness and dependencies among the datasets discussed herein, you can connect the dots, gain insight and project the ROI of your initiative which will in turn justify the necessary business investment to achieve the business payback.