Mass collaboration via tapping into social media is set to be the next big business thing and unstoppable.
The days of companies simply using Facebook and Twitter to clock up millions of ‘friends’ who ‘like’ a site, may soon be over as the commercial drive to turn social media into a real business asset-class gathers pace.
A new book, The Social Organisation: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees aims to address the gap between merely marketing a brand and helping businesses to interact better with customers and staff.
Authors Anthony Bradley of Gartner Research and Mark McDonald of Gartner Executive Programs asked 400 companies (including the biggest US players) about how they have used social networking to ‘enhance their business’.
The analysis of the replies indicate that to date they enjoy a limited benefit of marketing. Social media gives companies a target audience but one without something to gather round and be inspired by. There is no people-engagement.
The book argues for businesses to ‘figure out how to use the power of social interaction to encourage mass collaboration from both customers and employees, to get some amazing results’.
On one level, what they are advocating is use of crowd-sourcing, in which they can harness the collective wisdom of thousands of minds applied to problems, sales ideas, new developments.
But on a deeper level, it goes beyond, to improve the customer experience all round. ‘Community-centric customer support systems are one of the most interesting ways of using social platforms effectively to improve a business’.
Done well, Bradley and Macdonald argue, plugging into social media ‘gives a company a great springboard to engage a digital community… while completely redesigning the customer experience’. By the same token, the experience and motivation of employees is greatly enhanced by social tools.
Staff ‘swarming’ round product or service problems gives more people ownership of the solutions and greater commitment to implementing them.
A further development identified by the authors is ‘corporate memory’ banks, whereby people learn from fellow staff members’ experiences, successes and failures. The FBI has created ‘Bureaupedia’ and US intelligence agencies have set up ‘Intellipedia’, safe and secure networks populated by staff groups who also edit the data.
They firmly believe that this ‘mass collaboration’ (following mass production, mass distribution and mass marketing) amplifying capabilities of organisations through people, internally and externally will be ‘the next big evolution for business’.
In short, this is something akin to masses of mass brain-storms for the digital age.
The Social Organisation: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees by Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald. Harvard Business School Press, October 2011.
Photo: Stephen Monaco