The use of social collaboration tools by sales, marketing, operations, customer service, and other departments has soared in the past 18 months, and analysts predict this trend will continue to grow by double digits over the next few years. Whether they're promoting product launches on Facebook and Twitter or collaborating internally on Salesforce.com's Chatter to close deals, organizations are finding the benefits of social media and collaboration tools to be undeniable. According to McKinsey Quarterly, the true value of social CRM can be observed in increasing effectiveness of promotion, increasing customer satisfaction, and reduced marketing costs.
Social collaboration value can be measured in a variety of other ways as well. Consider the pharmaceutical industry. Patient-reported outcomes, including adverse events or reactions and quality of life, are used to determine if a product is safe and whether it should be reimbursed. If patients are willing to share this information socially, there is a largely untapped opportunity to collect data for both product and market research. Additionally, patient advocacy groups can leverage social collaboration to influence product reimbursement and pricing. There are also the very obvious benefits to be gained in identifying potential adverse events earlier.
Think for a moment about the impact of the lack of collaboration. Expanding on the pharmaceutical example, when a chronic disease impacts less than 1 percent of the population, the ability to learn from others with the disease, identify specialists, or pinpoint the correct diagnosis can be invaluable to patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. With social technologies in place to facilitate collaboration, innovation for new treatments could be fostered through global research communities within and across organizations, and researchers might avoid setbacks by learning from others faster.
The downside of social collaboration: risks
Yet with all the potential social collaboration has to offer, many companies are hesitant to embrace it thoroughly. When asked why, companies point to the lack of enforcement of compliance and regulatory capabilities. In "Social Media and Its Associated Risks," a report issued by global audit, tax, and advisory firm Grant Thornton and the Financial Executives Research Foundation, a staggering 42 percent of the 141 public and private company executives surveyed admitted that no one in their organization monitors compliance with social policies.
Unfortunately, for many companies, there are real risks with social collaboration. These risks come from a variety of factors. Regulatory compliance is the main issue for many firms across a number of industries, particularly financial services and life sciences. But risks stem from other issues as well, such as copyright infringements, privacy, and intellectual property leakage—to the point where companies are questioning whether the benefits of social use outweigh the risks.
The pharmaceutical industry, for example, is reliant on customer collaboration, but at the same time, these critical relationships are heavily regulated. A recent survey revealed that 88 percent of healthcare professionals use online communities at least once a week. However, the pharmaceutical industry continues to miss out on social collaboration opportunities due to fear of prosecution and fines. This is not surprising. The cost of noncompliance continues to rise. Since 1986, more than $30 billion in fines have been levied against the industry. States are now imposing additional fines and, currently, there are more than 50 companies operating under a corporate integrity agreement, which restricts their marketing, selling, and development activities. In the life sciences industry alone, there are more than 200 in-process investigations.
Enabling social risk management
Whereas social CRM technology, such as Radian6 and Chatter, enables social collaboration, social compliance technology protects that collaboration via risk management. For example, for a CRM platform to embrace true social collaboration, it must enforce the social collaboration policies designed by the organization, either natively or with the assistance of complementary social enterprise compliance solutions. Traditional archiving technologies alone are not enough to manage risk, and companies should utilize social enterprise compliance suites that deliver real-time risk analysis and classification so they can address potential violations within minutes. Once a compliant social CRM foundation is in place, enforcing compliance around social collaboration, distributed content, or collected social collaboration data, for example, becomes not only possible but also recorded and reportable.
Roadmap for social compliance
- When planning to bring social collaboration into the social CRM fold, consider the following critical areas:
- Plan for and prioritize the people and the networks that you need to enable as core components within your social CRM solution.
- Enable rules, policies, and agreements in terms of context, content, and permissions with social compliance technologies.
- Ensure your social compliance technology vendor knows the specific risks of your industry and can be a trusted advisor.
- Start internally and expand incrementally.
As discussed, there is no one answer. As with any smart business venture, create a plan that works within the organization's strategy; don't work in a vacuum. Define expectations. Social collaboration is not just another ad campaign and should not be taken lightly. Prior to acting, fully understand the risks and benefits involved in social collaboration and implement a plan of action for how to control those risks. A company should also define the collaboration rules and policies specific to its business or function.
Engage an internal social engagement tool such as Chatter or Yammer first. Allow employees to experience the value of collaboration, dedicating staff to enhance the experience.
Employ social compliance technology to monitor and classify risks, then have a plan to remediate risks and help employees learn from mistakes. It is important to have a well-thought-through policy regarding appropriate use, with adequate training and accountability prior to rolling out any social collaboration platform. Allow the collaboration to filter into work flows and proactively include it in projects. The goals for social collaboration must be fully transparent so that integration into the CRM systems and processes are quickly understood and adopted.
Once employees have embraced the technology and understand appropriate use with minimal infractions, expand collaboration outside of the organization first to contracted vendors and industry thought leaders, gradually widening the scope to include key associations or industry trade groups. Finally, when the business is comfortable with the enterprise solution, move into external communities with confidence.
Otavio Freire is the cofounder and chief technology officer at OpenQ, where he is responsible for the creation of OpenQ's enterprise technology solutions, which enable customers in the global life sciences industries to significantly impact their sales, marketing, and compliance efforts.