November 11, 2010 / by Becca Ramble

When I first started as an Account Manager at Visible two years ago most of the social listening projects I worked on were with small groups from Interactive teams, Market Research or Corporate Communications from within large and often exceptionally diverse global corporations. As the “social media” folks within their organization they often found themselves on the cutting edge but also somewhat isolated from everyone else because social was something different and not necessarily something for everyone within the company.   What we found though is that as you listen to conversations across social media channels and pay attention to how people feel about your company and how your products or services are resonating with your target market you can find yourself saying “oh this is totally something that other people in our company should know.”

These are opportunities for utilizing Social Intelligence across business groups.  Enterprise-adoption of social intelligence has grown exponentially as we learn to move from listening by specialized groups within an organization to normalizing social across the company moving it from cutting edge to “something we just do”.

As social listening projects have become more and more commonplace I find that more and more business groups want to hear what is being said and know what it can do for them and their unique business goals   I work with several companies who began with pilot programs in Corporate Communications and now have social programs in place in divisions including Customer Service, Corporate Communications, Research, Risk Management, Operations, Employee Effectiveness, Innovation, Legal, and Human Resources.  Now, companies wondering “who else can benefit from this information” can see that the opportunity exists to leverage that social data across the enterprise and that almost every department could benefit from and take advantage of social listening and that it is manageable.

For most companies, the prospect of an enterprise-wide adoption of any initiative can seem incredibly daunting.  With social listening it needn’t be because while the data may transcend the enterprise, most business groups will be able to normalize their usage of social intelligence into their everyday workflow.  There are several keys to enterprise-wide adoption of social listening and intelligence that will help pave the way for ongoing success:

1)     A strategic plan is the first step.  As a company, you will need to have a plan for what your listening and social intelligence goals are.  Chances are you started here with your first foray into social.  From here your enterprise strategy can be created which will help provide guidance to additional groups that come on board and participate while staying true to the overall company’s objectives.  This has several benefits including helping to maximize the value of the data collected, ensuring consistent application of social guidelines and messaging and also helping to create opportunities for additional growth and innovation.

2)     Up front and periodic needs assessment by business group will help ensure that each group understands what they need and want from social listening.  Each business group has specific and unique charters for what they do and why they do it.  By understanding how social intelligence can augment and improve their day-to-day work, you can tailor their social data collection, workflow and analysis   to their business goals.

  1. For example, if you are Company A, your Marketing team may want to know how people feel about your core brand while your Corporate Communications team may want to know how people are reacting to your earnings announcements and your customer service team wants to know how your customers are reacting to your new online app.  This is all available with a broad search for your brand but by tailoring the data sets that each group works with, everyone can see what is most relevant to them.

3)     A written escalation plan will help provide structure for any issues that surface in social channels that may need immediate attention by one or more business groups.  It is important to define the situations that may warrant escalation and determine the path of who to notify when.

  1. For example, a series of customer complaints seen by your Customer Service team across Twitter may warrant an alert sent to your product teams and an official Corporate Communications message.  By establishing an escalation plan for the top business issues you anticipate you can make sure everyone knows who to turn to and that you reduce unnecessary over communication by everyone who may see a particular post or issue on the Web.

4)     Ongoing communication and collaboration are the hallmarks of any successful enterprise wide endeavor.  It is imperative that representatives from each business group know what other teams are doing.  This will avoid duplication of social efforts including monitoring, analysis and response.  You will want to ensure that if your team is tracking how customers feel about your new promotion, that you share that information with the other groups who can also benefit from it.  From this type of open communication, new opportunities can arise and you can save money as the finite data set that is discussions about your brand are shared with everyone they are relevant to.

As a large or small company, any new initiative can be exciting and a bit scary.  Normalizing social listening and intelligence across multiple business units is an evolutionary process.  With these key components hopefully it can be a smooth one.

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