Required Reading: Building The Social Business Imperative

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When Clara Shih was working on The Facebook Era in 2008, “social networks were just getting off the ground,” she writes in the introduction to her newest book, The Social Business Imperative. The notion that Facebook was important to businesses might have been easy to mock at the time, but social media has come a long way since. Nevertheless, some professionals are still neglecting those channels and deflecting responsibilities to designated parts of their companies, Shih says. In a talk with Associate Editor Oren Smilansky, Shih offers tips for becoming a “social business.”

CRM: Why did you feel you needed to write a book that expanded beyond just Facebook?

Clara Shih: The first book was a vision book, and it was full of predictions. At the time, [The Facebook Era] was a controversial title, because Facebook was tiny. It was not at all clear that it was the Facebook era or the social media era.

We have the benefit of seven years of empirical data, pitfalls, and case studies. It’s much more concrete. I wrote the book because the world has changed, and almost everyone is on board with the idea, at least in theory, that they need to become a social business. That as a head of sales [for instance], they need to be promoting social selling; as the head of marketing, they need to incorporate social marketing into everything that they’re doing.

What do you think companies are most struggling with when it comes to social media?

Realizing something in theory is very different from actually operationalizing it. Most companies haven’t yet re-architected their business processes to mirror today’s customer journey. [They] have taken silos—usually in marketing and customer service—and they’ve taken bits and pieces of how they interact with the customer and have embraced social and digital. But they haven’t got the entire journey, and they haven’t re-architected the way that they serve the customer throughout the journey. So it’s inconsistent; most customers will say, “Well I see some Facebook ads, I follow this company on Twitter, I can complain to this company when I have a customer support issue on Twitter.” But then all of the steps in between—all the interactions with the salesperson, the actual transaction—all these other crucial steps are nowhere to be found on social and digital.

How does a company gather the information it needs to understand what it’s missing?

It starts with remapping the client journey. [Many companies] probably have outdated mental models from years ago, but they have to get out in the field and understand how someone today approaches the purchase process. How do they find out about us? How do they engage with us? How do they want to be engaged? Not what we believe and want for them to do, but what do they actually do?

And if you understand that journey, the rest is clear. I mean, it’s messy, right? It involves new systems, it might involve reorgs, training, and change management, but everything has to start from the customer and go from there.

Do you have an example of a company that is tackling social media in interesting ways?

Warby Parker’s is a fascinating story. They know that when people visit their store, they’re looking for an unforgettable experience, and so they deliver that. But they also know that in this day and age, people want to share with their friends. So they have a photo booth in some of their stores; they have clearly marked hashtags. It’s really set up for you to share when you’re in their store.

They’ve also taken one of the long-standing shortcomings of e-commerce, which is that you don’t get to try something on, [and] see what something will look like on you. They’ve really attacked this problem in a creative way. When you order glasses from Warby Parker, you actually order multiple pairs to try on at once. A shortcoming of e-commerce is that typically when an item arrives in your home, your friend’s not right there with you like they might be in a brick-and-mortar store, or the mall. And so they also encourage people to take pictures of themselves in each of the five styles and to tweet or share it on Instagram, which people do. They include a specific hashtag, so not only are the customers getting their friends’ opinions, but Warby Parker themselves have a huge social media feed where they’ll weigh in and tell you which of the five frames they think look the best. They’ve really found a way to integrate social media really authentically and seamlessly into the customer journey.

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