How does one leverage on the power of social communities? What does it mean to build a “Social Nation”?
I found out the answers to these and more after reading Barry Libert’s breezy volume Social Nation. The CEO of Mzinga, Libert declares in his book that organisational success lies with tapping on the collective power of employees, stakeholders, partners, and customers – both online and offline. To do so, one needs to develop social skills to complement one’s other strengths (physical, informational, and emotional).
According to Social Nation, four major forces drive the shift towards a social business world:
1) The shift towards an increasingly social workforce who are highly connected.
2) The prevalence of open business models where companies leverage on their communities for innovation, marketing and customer service.
3) The role of emerging technologies and Web 2.0 tools like social networks, blogs, discussion forums and chat.
4) The availability of social monitoring and measurement tools making it easier to garner social intellience.
To build your own social businesses (or social nations as highlighted in the book), you’re advised to adhere to seven guiding principles as follows:
1) Develop Your Social Skills – Social leaders are expected to follow more than they lead, while continuing to facilitate, provide structure and support the work of their communities. Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV is cited as a leader in demonstrating social skills. To find out where you stand here, do take this social quotient test by Mzinga.
2) Let Culture Lead Your Way – When creating and building one’s “Social Nation”, one should remember that corporate and community culture is critical. As far as possible, one should adhere to an open and honest environment. Examples in this area include Zappos.com and Google.
3) Mind Your Online and Offline Manners – This pertains to how one communicates something (how you say it versus what you’re saying). Consistency is important both online and offline, and such behaviours make a big difference in how one engages fans, friends and followers. Emily Post is a good purveyor of both social etiquette and netiquette.
4) Monitor, Measure, and Adapt to Your Community’s Needs – Through a variety of social intelligence appplications and tools, one should monitor, measure and act upon what’s happening around you. Important elements include the number of conversations by one’s communities and their sentiments. Ganz Toys and Webkinz is a good example of a company that is intently listening to their communities and acting on that information.
5) Include Others in Everything You Do – As an organisation looking to build a “Social Nation”, one should rely on the contributions of one’s stakeholders in every segment of one’s company. This may entail involving them in product development, service delivery, word-of-mouth, communication, and other areas. Ducati and its skillful integration of fan events, online platforms and product launches provides a good case study here.
6) Rely on Others for Growth and Innovation – Companies plugged into the social manifesto knows that friends, fans and followers are vital in helping one to achieve significant growth in today’s hyper-connected world. Engaging one’s constituents and involving them in creating the next big hit does matter too. PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew and its “online nation” DEWmocracy.com is an example of fans helping to power product development.
7) Reward Others and You Will Be Rewarded – This principle of reciprocity is key. As organisations make more connections and build relationships, they should look at both tangible (financial) and intangible (emotional) rewards for their partners. Successful businesses should meet both needs. Apple’s close engagement of its iPhone and iPad application developers is a case in point.
To get started on building one’s “social nation”, Libert suggests that one should look at five key processes: delivering customer support via one’s community, building one’s brand through friends and followers, conducting marketing research via fans and followers, using peers to train and develop one’s employees, and developing new products through employees, customers and prospects. He also provides a list of 10 pitfalls to avoid.
While the book is written in an easy to read conversational style – I finished reading it all in one day – it provides more of a general framework than a step by step guide.
What struck me as perhaps the most important lesson of all is the need to closely engage and empower one’s employees in any social business strategy. Getting the buy-in, involvement and belief of one’s team is critical to winning in this game. Only when they are aligned to one’s vision would one enjoy the multiplier and network effects associated with building and leveraging on one’s social nation.