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This is a Time for Leaders to Lead not React

If you’re reacting, someone else defines what you’re going to do, rather than defining what people need to do.

Your businesses faces great change. This statement is true about customers, competitors, and everyone else affecting market behavior. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

Customer engagement, and specifically customer engagement in social media offers many benefits that businesses are starting to uncover, most of it unintentionally. While many champions knew in their gut that social media offered business value, to what extent is now something that is becoming a primary focus in 2011 to 2012 budgetary planning. From satisfaction and goodwill to thriving online communities to building loyalty and trust, customer engagement in social networks is revealing tangible advantages. Once champions recognize how to capture activity, document progress, and translate raw numbers into tangible business value, social media will become an integral and proven pillar in the foundation of not just customer service, but the very fabric of business.

For some of you, I’m preaching to the choir. Perhaps this comes across as rudimentary or common knowledge. But in my experience, social media is largely siloed in marketing departments. And for those businesses experimenting with customer engagement in social media, engagement insights and lessons are largely siloed within the service department. I challenge you to extend the value of social media beyond any silo to not just socialize the entire business but introduce new processes, systems, and methodologies that makes it more relevant and adaptive to an increasingly discerning connected customer.

The opportunity before us extends beyond Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and even in the communities that exist to connect customers to one another in branded forums. The challenge however lies in our ability to translate engagement into either direct or dotted lines to existing business metrics. Yes, we need to look beyond what I refer to as the 3F’s (friends, fans, and followers) to prove the value of social media. But this goes beyond just documenting converting numbers into KPIs that lead to ROI. This is also about translating insights into catalysts for business transformation.

To determine the ROI of social media, programs must be designed with the end in mind and compared to the performance of existing programs using existing measurement processes. Additionally, customers insights and trends must be documented to demonstrate the opportunity to improve customer experiences. For example, you can demonstrate that social media reduces inbound call volume and thus saves the company money over time. But that’s just the beginning. If you identify repeat problems, issues, or trends, your next step is to work with the affected business units to create or deliver a fix. Once this is communicated to customers through all available channels, customers en masse will feel acknowledged and appreciate the businesses ability to adapt to their needs and concerns. What’s the value of that experience?

As I introduced at the beginning of this post, using social media to react is just the beginning. But at some point it takes a shift to not only react, but also lead. Demonstrating the value of social media is our mission in 2011. In 2012, proving the value of the insights learned from customers and prospects in social channels will help connect disparate business units and functions into one connected and adaptive company.

This is about taking the perpetual switching of social media from on and off to on again and evolving campaigns to that of continuum engagement. A connected customer is always on and as such, an adaptive business must do just that, remain nimble.

Your task is not easy. The case must be made to leadership that there are material benefits in embracing change. To help, I’ve assembled three videos produced by Salesforce featuring my dear friend Dr. Natalie Petouhoff. In each of the three videos, you’ll learn how to build the business case, how to calculate ROI and how to make the cause for an adaptive business.


Episode 1: How to Build a Business Case for Social Customer Service

Episode 2: Calculating ROI for Social Customer Service

Episode 3: How Social Customer Service Benefits the Entire Company

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29 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “This is a Time for Leaders to Lead not React”

  1. Good stuff, Brian. Loved video #2. I have to admit that I expected it to be mostly BS, but it was spot-on. 


    • briansolis says:

      Cheers Olivier…thank you for chiming in.

    • drnatalie says:

      Hey Olivier,
      Wondered why you might have thought that video #2 would be BS?

      The videos are based on the ROI calculators for social media that I myself, Kathy Herrmann herself and our collective thought leadership have built over the last several years.

      I built my initial calculators by interviewing dozens upon dozens of customers who were using social media. Most didn’t really measure or measure ROI with the kind of discipline we know is possible. But what we did do is listen to antecdotal stories and from those we could see patterns of costs, savings, benefits. I formulated calculations and then went back to the 30 companies and did a clarity check to see if the calculations approximated what they had seen. And yes… it had.

      Since then Kathy and I have created ROI models for social media monitoring companies, social software companies and many businesses wanting to justify the business decisions to dive into social media.

      Love your book and the work you are doing! 
      natalie Learn. Share. Grow.

  2. NEENZ says:

    Once again solid advice! Beginning strategies with the end in mind is practical leadership advice. Yet, many struggle with the vision. If you dint know where you want to be, how can you chart a course? In this social world customers are empowered to publish their thoughts, there’s no control over it. The only control is how a business or individual reacts.

  3. Gabrielle says:

    Now THAT is inspiring and informative. Love how you put it back on the business to come up with a plan, which is where it needs to start. Imagine if Apple didn’t sit down and design their overall plans to start with the popular launch of iTunes… leading up to how their new messaging system. It’s brilliant and businesses have the power to be brilliant leaders in social media… if they sit down and come up with the plan.

    Just bought your audiobook version of Engage and am looking forward to listening to it! 🙂

  4. Beatus says:

    Great Post, great timing! One remark: A Reputation is not just something to “protect”. It is much more. If there is someting in our daily business we have to work very hard for – day after day, 365 times a year – it is our reputation. It is THE business driver of our comming years. And Social Media is offering fantastic opportunities to drive so. But only for brave and onest people and companies! Beatus from Switzerland.

    PS: Brian – I agree with Gabrielle: Your Book Engange is great. It was my entry-ticket into the world of Social Media about 15 months ago.  

  5. Great point. I’ve seen several brands realise the need to take the lead with their external social media activities after witnessing how internal communities (or Enterprise Social Networks) can drive productivity and increase engagement among staff and partners. Once you take social media out of it’s marketing “box”, it’s many uses become more apparent.

  6. Dear Brian, thanks for this informative article.
    I agree with you and Luke about the more pragmatic use of social media when it is about providing a service.
    I like the 3rd video which, for me, highlights this issue: how a post-purchase service using social media can boost an organization evolution into a customer-centric enterprise.
    Marketing and PR teams could also be key players in this evolution through the use of social media, switching from message on web 2.0 tools pusher to pre-purchase service provider, like helping the prospects to take the right decisions for exemple. Where should this connection start in the purchase decision making process to maximize the ROI? This is another debate…
    Kind regards,
    Thomas Pichon

  7. Brian: Love Dr. Natalie’s piece. 

    Imagine this: The CEO has TweetDeck open on his desktop with customer input streaming in. One column is about reactions to a just-launched product, another is comments coming in about the company’s cash cow service offering, a third column shows the flow of comments about customer experience with the India-based call center, and a fourth column in streaming in customer inputs on the competition. 

    Tell me. What CEO worth his salt wouldn’t want this visibility into his marketplace.

    I don’t think it’s about the tools, it’s about finding applications the CEO can’t live without. You put this TweetDeck in front of him, and he will become a social media addict.

  8. KorinaB says:

    excellent post. couldn’t have
    said it better myself. And further, I don’t think that every brand is ready for
    social communication just yet, and should not join in if they feel that there
    are questions, or areas, that they can’t discuss publicly. Those scary
    questions will be raised, and those hidden areas will be hit. Before entering
    social conversation, answer those questions to yourself first… not in the
    form of canned responses, but as an imperfect human that was asked the question
    relating to one of their imperfections.


    I think what many brands….
    no, let me rephrase that…  I think what many people behind those brands
    are forgetting is that social conversation has turned the tables… Brands are
    no longer expected to be perfect; quite the opposite. And the ones that
    continue to repeat the good ‘ol message of “Wow to me. You (consumer) are
    lucky we exist. We are perfect. It is you that is not” are in for a big
    surprise. Because those brands that insist on this model, will get much faster
    into the area of bad reputation than the ones that are actively participating
    and addressing uncomfortable questions in the conversation that has been going
    on, and will continue going on, with or without their presence. 


    People behind brands: you are
    sitting at the table that is 180 degrees switched. Get on board and start
    respecting consumers in the way they should be respected.

  9. Andyhedges says:

    Awesome post. I think it also speaks to how to engage customers in ways they want to be engaged, when and how.

  10. Renee says:

    Calculating our ROI of social media is something we hear we should be doing all the time, but are rarely told how we should go about it. That was not the case in this article and videos, superb job! Very informative and helped me a great deal. Thank you.

  11. Dave Rogers says:

    Brian- you make your living by “Selling” the value of Social media. You are a Social Media “evangelist” and thus have your nose right on it and are in danger of not seeing the forest for the trees, dude. Social media is just that, media. It is part of the broad mix of communication. But there is too much hype about its’ value and perhaps too little real knowledge of where it will settle down and become a another tool like television and radio, etc.

    I love to drink Dr. Pepper. Personally, I think Dr. Pepper should be declared the state drink of Texas. But I will never waste one, precious moment at the “Dr. Pepper Social Media” site. Get real man, life is way too short.

    • briansolis says:

      Trust me…I maintain a much more balanced perspective that includes all forms of engagement.

    • DrNatalie says:

      Hey Dave,
      I appreciate your point of view. I’ve been covering technology for over 20 years. I remember the “promise” of ERP, CRM, etc… while those types of technologies and their associated processes and affect on people had great promise, there were alot of failures. Large companies like Hershey, Nike, Disney spent $200M-$400M on projects that went sideways and were aborted because they couldn’t be fixed enough to use them. So in the train of technology and its affects on business… ERP, CRM, Social Media… Social media comes in a long line of misfired technology/process/people business improvement opportunities for business. enter Social Media – which is as you say a media, but it is also associated with Web 2.0-type technology and affects process and people.

      I’ve spent the last 5 years analyzing social media — with the previous 15 years having analyzed the ROI of ERP and CRM-type solutions. The ROI for social media stands far and above that of predecessors of CRM and ERP. there are many reasons for that, and happy to go into the reasons… with you personally. not enough space here. I could write a book on it… (the data comes from spending years as a management consultant, a Forrester analyst, etc…)

      Brian didn’t do the calculations for social media ROI. I did. But what he did so is to watch the videos and see that I validated what people like him, who have been growing and evolving the social media market for the last 15 years, have known about what’s different about this medium. And I think this post was him saying that there is a ROI, and that he appreciated that someone took the time to calculate it. 

      There’s no hype in my calculations. These videos were based on 5 years of research on social media, speaking to hundreds of people who implemented social media and evaluating costs and balancing the costs with benefits. I’ve been doing these types of calculations – ROI, brand index and assessments, etc… for 20 years… having a background as an engineer – Ph. D., probably helped.

      And I want to acknowledge ALL the people like Brian, who have spent a great deal of their life’s work developing and evolving this field of social media — because of their work, there was enough data for me to calculate what the return on investment is.

      if you want more info, please DM me @drnatalie or email me doctornatalie@gmail:disqus .com

    • Dave Rogers says:

      Dr Natalie- I very much appreciate your thoughtful, response. Truthfully, some of the facts you noted have me taking a second look at what may be misunderstandings on my part. I have spent hundreds of hours wading through the hype and sophmoric aspects of social media. My suspicion s that I may have become jaded. Thanks again. I won’t write Brian off either. Let’s see what I can glean from you guys to temper my attitudes and focus my efforts.

  12. Kasandoval89 says:

    Great post. I have a question, what is PR?

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