A utopian world or a glimpse from the future?
Michael Brito’s book “Smart Business, Social Business” draws the picture of a successful company in a new digital era where consumers have become active influencers of brand perceptions and purchase behavior (the “Generation-C”). The book portrays a 100% customer-centric philosophy where companies plan, respond and adapt according to their targets’ expectations; their success is determined by the measure they achieve to offer meaningful and sustainable value to their customers. Such a demanding mission requires from companies to invest in technologies that will enable them to get to know, interact and engage with customers. Reading Brito’s analysis on the social business, one can find many parallels with Brian Solis’s golden rules of profitable engagement.
First and foremost, the social business is a dynamic one that has taken down all the barriers of communication and structure between departments and services when it comes to intelligence collection, customer interaction, and success measurement. For both Brito and Solis, the questions “who are we?” and “what business problems do we try to solve?” are fundamental; their answers will determine the mission, strategy and tactics of the social media plan. Only by aligning the plan to specific business goals, can marketers evaluate the success of social media campaigns and improve the value these bring to customers.
Another “sine qua non” principle is that every employee must be actively involved in the creation of an on-going dialogue with customers, whether in corporate web properties or in their own social networks. Both authors make extensive references to the governance policies that must guide the language, tone, and attitude of the employees in their digital interactions. They argue that any social media policies must protect the organization, while encouraging the employees to get involved without fear of backlash.
On the bandwagon of engagement, external influencers and advocates are most welcome to hop in, as their impact on purchase behavior can be critical: the influencers thanks to their robust social networks and perceived authority, and the advocates due to their status as trustworthy, helpful, and authentic consumer voices. The advocates are particularly helpful in building after-sales brand loyalty; this goal grows more important by the day, due to a gradual business shift that we have seen in Chris Anderson’ Long Tail theory: Instead of pursuing a one-time interaction through purchase, the “social business” restructures its internal operations and external communications to achieve long-term relationships with old and new customers that are based on mutual trust and value sharing.
Finally, the customer’s journey has turned from static to dynamic: consumers consult multiple sources, whether peer-to-peer or brand-to-customer, following a spiral, not linear purchase funnel. For a company to be able to influence their decision-making, it needs to put apply Social Relations Management practices: monitor social media discussions and attitudes and then combine the observations with traditional CRM data regarding purchase behaviors and profiles as these develop outside the web. The utlimate objective from the collection of this double-layer intelligence is to anticipate patterns of electronic consumerism for every single customer to be able to place the right “direction plates” on the right paths and crossroads, in a way that it doesn’t disrupt the customer’s journey but makes it mutually beneficial.
These lessons can be applied by the managers of the Greek National Tourism Organization to the measure they are willing to put in place fundamental cultural and operational shifts allowing the organization to become truly social. As a first step, they should break the silos between the different departments within the Ministry of Tourism, in charge of the GNTO’s operation. The GNTO should also figure out in which ways their social media presence can help achieve their missions, and establish strong links between social media mission, measurable goals and tactics. Through extensive training, clear governance policies, and a carefully selected platform of internal communications, every employee can actively join the GNTO’s marketing and reputation management programs. Moreover, Greece has a vast base of brand loyals on a global scale, whose passion and authentic voice can be channeled through a long-term customer advocacy campaign that must be integrated with the rest of the digital strategies. Creating relevant and believable content is the ultimate challenge of every smart, social business. Through careful observation of purchase and social media behaviors, and by keeping a close eye on ongoing travel conversations, the GNTO will be able to deliver valuable content to the right people, at the right places and on the right time. Of equal importance will be to collect and act upon customer feedback, something that will help the GNTO improve its communication strategy and tourist services.
Returning to the original question of this post: Is the world that Brito describes a utopia? After watching a group of skydivers broadcasting live their jump to thousands of online viewers, using nothing but a pair of Google glasses during a Google hangout, I got to realize that the only utopia would be for businesses to remain stubbornly un-social.
The dynamic customer journey: http://www.briansolis.com/2012/04/the-rise-of-generation-c-and-what-to-do-about-it/
You in Greece: http://www.visitgreece.gr/en/downloads/banners
Project Glass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh-liQDE3cM