So Your Business is Getting Social. Or…They Grow Up So Fast!

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.

– Albert Einstein

A quote from Einstein may seem like a strange way to start talking about the idea of understanding the maturity of your business when it comes to jumping into the world of social networks for business. But unlike a child starting school or a teenager being old enough to get a driver’s license, businesses very seldom have a set of dates and times that indicate just where in the life of an organisation they are. With this in mind Einsteins quote starts to make more sense. No business does everything at once, organisations grow and change over time. Setting aside the obvious points of when a business is incorporated, yearly financial returns etc… we want to look at specifically how can an organisation access its maturity in its endeavours to be a social business?

The Industrial Revolution vs The Internet Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution vs The Internet Revolution.

As you can see above the internet has changed the game when it comes to customers and businesses. Let’s assume that as you have been following this journey of mine in learning and understanding about social networks for Business you have decided that you want to either make your business a social one, or you want to understand further just exactly how social your business already is. One of the major challenges in doing this is just what is it we are measuring and how to we measure? A 100 meter sprinters improvement along with success is measured in milliseconds, and it is the same for all. Where as each and every business is different and is trying to achieve it’s own individual goals in its own unique way. It’s obvious that assessing this is not going to be a simple number that can be applied to all. It’s require an organisation to apply critical thinking involving the mechanisms it is utilising to achieve its social business goals.

Unlike manufacturing process a company uses being ISO 9000 certified, currently there is no industry accepted standard on how a business is supposed to benchmark itself in regards to social networks or social media. It is an assessment that must be done under the guidance of a framework that the organisation agrees provides the best information possible and allows them act on it.   Looking at two different frameworks, one produced by Texavi and the other by Altimeter gives us examples of how these are defined. Although some terminology differs the ideas are very similar. There is however a growing body of opinion and research that points towards certain concepts as being necessary for a business to call itself social, these can be applied to understand where in the process a business is.

Texavi’s model sets itself 5 maturity levels that focus on both the internal and external aspects of a social business. Internally it looks business focus, process, delivery platforms and the social media activities that the business may already employ. Externally it looks at people (customers), content, business focus and messaging.

Texavi's 5 Stages of Social Business Maturity

Texavi’s 5 Stages of Social Business Maturity

Altimeter has a similar stage perspective in how it breaks down its framework. These being, planning , presence, engagement, formalised, strategic, converged. As with the previous framework these stages are set to look at processes both internal and external. A business using either one of these approaches would certainly end up with a much better understanding of where it was in achieving its ambition to be a social business.

Alitmeters 6 Stages of Social Business Maturity

Alitmeters 6 Stages of Social Business Maturity

Lets look at the commonalities across both these frameworks to help understand how a business can assess itself. I call it the ABC’s of social business.

  • Audit – Both of these frameworks and others all point towards the first step of any business being to listen and understand just where it is at the moment. Before attempting to launch into transforming its. This may seem to be obvious to some but so often organisations rush ahead to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when what the had may have been a perfectly appropriate starting point. Whether in this case it is Texavi’s “informed” stage or Alitmeter’s “planning,” knowing what you have and don’t have is crucial.
  • Build – This is by far the largest and riskiest part of the process. Businesses may find themselves in these stages for long periods of time and perhaps the end may seem like it will never be in sight. However, it is important to understand that there is no one size fits all solution for business in this area. As shown with the two frameworks given it involves the creation or adaptions of social channels and the establishing of base metrics on which to measure growth. Right through to the expanding of engagement through the business with social and the allocation of specific resources to begin to move from tactical to strategy decisions.
  • Complete – This final part takes all of the various components already implemented by a business and combines them into a company wide synergy of social networks and tools, facing both internal and external. It will have transformed the way employees interact with each other and how knowledge is share thorough networks. It will have also radically changed the way the business and customers connect. Collaboration, Cooperation and conversations and standard and open across and channels. It does not however stop here. A smart business will now return back to ‘A’ and audit where they are now against where they want to be in the future, starting the process again.
Just One example of what a Social Mature Business Could Look Like.

Just One example of what a Social Mature Business Could Look Like.

As you can see, there is never going to be a single track that each organisation can take to assure that they achieve the goal of being a social business. As technology changes and organisation evolves different plans will be needed. What is becoming more and more evident is that businesses that aren’t open to the idea of being social, run the risk of losing market share to those that do. Along with giving the appearance of an ostrich with its head in the sand while those around it enjoy the conversation.