andrew-dixonMost companies see social business as social media: curating your Twitter account and conversations. But how do you create business value and meaningful change within your business based on your customers insights?

On March 4th, I had the opportunity to get together with members of the American Marketing Association in Austin. The casual ‘happy hour’ setting, hosted at a great restaurant called Coal Vines, was a great chance to network and catch up on the news for the month.

The AMA asked me to discuss a topic with their members. I presented a case study, The Key to Social Media Responsiveness: Social Business. It was about the evolution of social strategy within companies. More specifically, it was about how to move beyond social media monitoring and become a social business – enabling you to become responsive to the marketplace across your whole organization, not just your teams on Twitter.

Social strategy today is externally-focused.

Most customers have spent the past two or three years installing listening systems to do basic sentiment analysis – they want to understand what the market is saying about their brand, product, or service. Companies are monitoring their social accounts, and interacting with customers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn (and that’s just within North America). For the more sophisticated organization, listening platforms like Radian 6 or HootSuite are used to aggregate and measure conversations from a number of different places. Some companies are going beyond just listening and are actively participating in the conversations, or are using social media proactively as a means of building meaningful customer relationships.

However, few companies are prepared to capitalize on all of those rich external insights because it requires the company to react quickly and appropriately, and to work together internally. For example, just because your company’s services department becomes aware of a product issue bubbling up across your social support accounts, doesn’t mean they are able to mobilize the marketing, development, or senior management teams for a unified and rapid response. In fact, the newfound sophistication in learning about what the market is saying is often wasted, since the ability to act on it internally continues to lag.

Old workplace systems

Think about how you would handle social media opportunity in your personal life: the communication and collaboration tools you use at home to stay connected with your friends and family are far more powerful than those you have at work. You can follow people, get notified when someone has news, keep updated with activity feeds, @mention your friends to loop them into a conversation, etc. Enterprise tools have not kept pace with the way people like to connect together and stay current, and usage of those older tools is suffering.

Let’s take the most common enterprise collaboration tool in place today: email. Email was never designed for open collaboration, and as a result it fails miserably. Trying to rise above a mounting list of unread messages and filtering which CC: messages you should read is challenging enough, let alone trying to use file attachments to do live document collaboration. Email is fraught with issues that I don’t need to explain.

So what about your company’s corporate intranet? Intranets have served the purpose of being a repository of corporate policies and procedures, but they have fallen short of being a dynamic two-way collaboration platform. They are mainly corporate-controlled, and therefore require experts to publish content, meaning few authors and stale content. Historically, intranets have become a place where documents go to die.

That’s the opposite of how people expect to work in an age of instant, social collaboration.

Bring your own _____ and rise of the cloud app

As a result of this, many workers have taken matters into their own hands, bringing purpose-built, lightweight cloud apps into the business to solve short-term problems. USB keys have been replaced by Dropbox for the sync and transfer of files; Yammer is used to share a quick thought; WordPress to broadcast a blog – the list goes on. While these tools are simple, elegant, and effective independently, they are far from a complete solution. They are not securely designed for business use, they don’t work together, or they don’t integrate with your other systems. For these and other reasons, these consumer grade tools drive your IT departments out of their minds.

But more importantly: these apps only solve one problem, in one department or team. You don’t need more silos; you need a way to bridge the gap between your customers and your internal conversations, workflows, and content.

Becoming a social business

If you want to react quickly and efficiently to what’s going on in the marketplace, your business requires a new generation of tools to be adopted internally. We could use email when it makes sense – as a notification engine to let you know something has changed, or as a tool to quickly create content that’s syndicated to an audience in your corporate intranet. You should be leveraging the structure of your corporate intranet to organize your company’s information, and employ easy to use cloud apps for collaboration in a secure, integrated way. At Igloo, we affectionately refer to our platform as “an intranet you’ll actually like”. We often either replace or augment existing systems like Microsoft SharePoint or a home-grown solution, or even just basic email. We know that to be a social business you need social tools in an easy to use environment that empowers your teams to do their best work – together – without giving up control, structure, and security.

You don’t know until you try

Understanding how a collaborative Intranet can help your business requires that you try it. That’s why we’ve designed a few ways for you to get started, depending on what’s right for your business.

Sign up today and get instant access to an app-based Igloo that’s free to use with up to 10 people, enough to see how your teams will use our apps (blogs, shared calendars, files, forums, microblogs, profiles, and wikis) to communicate better.

We also offer a 30-day trial with unlimited users to test-run with your whole company, and custom proof-of-concept demos branded, architected, and configured to prove how Igloo can solve your business problems. We’ll have you up and running in days, not weeks or months.

Presentation – AMA Happy Hour Austin 03-04-2014