Sustainability best practices can guide social media too


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Focus on what matters. For Capgemini, reducing energy consumption in data centers and cutting back on business travel has proved far more consequential than other popular ideas like recycling and printing on both sides of paper. The latter are fine, but effective programs select a few priority areas, set substantial concrete objectives, and put aside the rest. As Hampson notes: “Lots of companies flounder with this, think they have to do everything even if impact is low or not aligned to major business objectives.”

Social media is similar. B2B companies anxious to get started in social media often get caught up in the tools and tactics of disseminating content and building follower lists. These have their place, and what matters most will certainly vary across companies. By and large, however, what does matter most to B2B firms is using social media to deepen customer and market insight, improve internal collaboration, and strengthen engagement and trust with key customers and partners.

Build the business case and continually refresh it. For Capgemini, sustainability is not a nice-to-have program that makes people feel good; it’s a commercial imperative with substantial business impact and potential. As Hampson notes, the business case for sustainability builds directly on key corporate priorities, including access to critical resources and markets, operational efficiency, legal and regulatory compliance, and competitive differentiation. As the particulars within these priorities evolve, and sustainability initiatives move forward, Hampson and his team adjust and refine the business case accordingly.

With social media, the business case should similarly be a work in progress rooted in core business priorities. Marketers investing in social media often focus on building awareness, demonstrating thought leadership, and (if at all possible), generating new leads. If “what matters” includes improving business agility, collaboration, and connection, though, these should be central to the business case with clear objectives and metrics (even if not financial) to support that case.

Leverage financial processes, baseline early…and manage expectations. Hampson made several great points here, including the data intensity and complexity of the issues, the importance of getting the CFO on board with a major new initiative, the inevitability of gaps and inaccuracies in the data, the need to make assumptions and be transparent about them, and the critical importance of measurable quick wins to build momentum.

The lessons make eminent sense for social media. Social media initiatives are not typically very expensive in terms of cash, but aligning with the CFO and emphasizing financial management and impacts is always a good idea, even if the results are not entirely measurable in dollars and cents. Managing expectations is also essential. Social media is a long-term game; few companies see substantial gains to the top or bottom line until they are well along with new ways of working. Yet quick wins are certainly possible, especially in areas including market insight, internal collaboration, and customer engagement.

Integrate and hold your nerve. Sustainability is about business transformation, Hampson said, rather than just another side issue or additional program. You don’t want to create parallel processes; you want to transform existing processes and programs. This means engaging and empowering leaders and experts across the organization rather than doing it all yourself; it also means that active education and ongoing support for changing behavior is at least as important as new technology and tools.

Ideally, social media is really social business. It’s also about transforming how companies work — which certainly means that broad-based engagement and empowerment is critical rather than simply setting up a separate group to “do” social media. The leaders in social media have moved far beyond a few staff and programs in the last few years and invested heavily in social media training, centers of excellence to document and share guidelines and best practice, and active support for integrated action and culture change.

Make your reporting count. Interestingly, Hampson noted that his big lesson about sustainability reporting was that telling Capgemini’s story out in the marketplace was just the tip of a fast-growing iceberg. The real need is internal, and reporting internally has become a huge effort. Most important on the internal front is tailoring reports for key stakeholders, providing actionable insight (not just data), and actively targeting the most important people and groups.

Given the complexity and rapid change of social media, as well as the generally long term nature of social business change, careful and aggressive internal reporting is also essential. Different stakeholders have quite different perspectives on how social media can help their aspect of the business; tailoring reporting to ensure relevance can go a long way toward constructive engagement across diverse groups and functions. And of course focusing on actionable insight (e.g., market feedback suggests we need much more effective value propositions) is a great deal more useful than simple data (e.g., our latest Facebook push yielded 2,000 new fans).

Hampson’s lessons are actually useful for most any major change initiative. As we all look toward getting much more effective with social media, though, they seem to provide a useful guide to moving forward in the most productive possible way.

Do you agree? What are your top five lessons learned?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rob Leavitt
Rob is a Principal at Solutions Insights, a B2B consulting and training firm, and a Senior Associate of the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), where he served as Vice President of Marketing and Member Advocacy from 2-27.


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