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Bees with micro-sensors demonstrate the value of a different approach.

Last week I was fortunate enough to present and host a workshop at the Future of Social Media Congress here in Sydney. Over the three days, it was fascinating to hear the many predictions from all sides of industry on the future potential of social media. Least of which, the measures being taken by the CSIRO to reveal the mysteries behind the rapidly declining number of bees worldwide: seriously, microscopic bee sensors… But I digress.

For while it’s valuable to debate these trends and how organisations should be future planning, the most powerful observation I made through the presentations and discussion was how we all must get today right first. Rather than focusing on future channels and technologies, what can we practically do when we get back to our desks to help our organisations access the enormous value and potential that exists right now?

It’s hard to capitalise on future opportunities when, by and large, many practitioners and organisations are still struggling to connect social initiatives with business outcomes today. Instead, social media’s future in business depends on our ability to communicate and demonstrate the business outcomes that can be achieved with the right strategy.

Social capabilities eat social media channels for breakfast.

My take? Switch organisational focus from social media channels towards social capabilities. Capabilities that equip organisations to perform more effectively in the digital age – where customer expectations are ‘higher’, ‘faster’, ‘personalised’ and ‘more affordable’. Capabilities that ensure organisations understand and use data, technology and customer behaviour to drive improvements in the way they market, serve and sell.

Even though channels have their place, capabilities are a much more valuable focus and, in fact, will inform what and how channels are used.

In business terms, these capabilities include Social Intelligence, Social Customer Care, Social Media Marketing, Social Sales, Social Production and Social HR (I won’t go into details on these here, but do drop me a line if you’re interested to hear more about them and the role they can play for your organisation). These social capabilities can have a huge impact on a range of existing business functions to improve the way those functions deliver on existing organisational strategy, rather than adding a new suite of channels to manage.

Connect org goals, org strategy and org metrics with social capabilities.

What’s so valuable about social capabilities? The way they redirect internal interest and efforts away from channel-centric activities to connect with overarching organisational strategy. The chart below highlights the value a social capabilities approach enables and how it compares with a more tactical channels focus.

Social capabilities deliver business outcomes
Figure 1: Delivering business value through social capabilities (© Propel Group (Australia) Pty Limited 2016)

Focusing on channels leads to the development of channel strategy, in turn creating channel goals. Whereas a focus on social capabilities aligns any initiatives and practices with organisational strategy – used by all functional areas – and contributes towards organisational goals.

Practically speaking, if your organisation is looking to improve customer experience but also has a mandate to reduce costs, how much more valuable will a social customer care capability be to the business when providing a personalised, efficient service experience, in a channel many customers prefer? Let alone the ‘cost to serve’ benefits. Suddenly the channels selected for execution are less important, as it is the way capabilities connect with and deliver against organisational needs that drives their value in the eyes of leaders.

And rather than being limited to channel metrics as a measurement practice, you’re aligned with existing organisational metrics which are already known and of importance to senior leaders. This makes it much easier to demonstrate the value you can bring in delivering business outcomes. Your efforts improve cross-functional initiatives – even those outside social and digital channels – rather than only serving as execution channels for teams.

If you’re having difficulty getting buy-in from senior leaders; if you’re having difficulty connecting your efforts to existing organisational priorities; or if you’re struggling to demonstrate tangible returns – shift your focus to capabilities. KLM has done it. Opower has done it. Many of our clients have done it. Why not consider the shift?

Author: Roger Christie

Roger Christie is Founder and Managing Director of Propel. He understands the importance and value of a customer-centric approach to business, and has worked with a range of public and private sector organisations to help them leverage data, technology and operational change to deliver practical business solutions. Over the past decade, Roger has advised boards and executive teams across government departments and ASX top ten corporations, and understands the challenges facing organisations looking to excel and remain viable in an increasingly competitive, discerning marketplace. You can connect with Roger on LinkedIn and Twitter, and follow his thoughts on Medium.

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