Oct 25, 2013, 01.20 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Social business is the way ahead

Social media holds a lot of untapped potential that can be leveraged by Indian businesses. It is when organizations tap this potential that the shift from being a mere entity on social media to turning into a social business happens.

Years ago, it was just unthinkable that you would decide whether to watch a movie or not on the basis of short and snappy reviews posted by strangers, indulge in blatant narcissism by posting 'selfies' and revel in the 'likes' your 'statuses' get. However, the phenomenal growth of social media over the years has changed all of this. In fact, these days, most of your food visits Instagram before you taste it.

According to a report, the number of social network users globally will rise from 1.47 billion in 2012 to 1.73 billion this year, which will rise up to 2.55 billion by 2017. With numbers like these, the power of social media cannot be underestimated. Even as you read this, a million posts about a million products and services are flooding social media. 

How do organizations, that are being criticized, appreciated or merely being spoken about for their product or service on social media, turn this into meaningful feedback? How do they leverage this information and use it to their advantage? How do they sift sense from nonsense? The answer to these questions lies in 'social business'.

Social business? What's that?

A business that applies social networking tools and culture to business roles, processes and outcomes, achieving powerful returns on time investments and customer satisfaction is said to be a social business.

Most businesses are present on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many others. However, their presence is limited to merely promoting their products and services and occasionally engaging with their customers. Many a time companies host Facebook and Twitter contests, but these don't go beyond 'likes', 'shares', 'tweets' and 'hashtags'. While this does help to create some amount of buzz about the company, most of it dies down with time.

However, social media holds a lot of untapped potential that can be leveraged by Indian businesses. It is when organizations tap this potential that the shift from being a mere entity on social media to turning into a social business happens. Speaking on the advantages of going social, Carlton D'Silva, Chief Creative Officer, Hungama Digital Services, says, "You know who your customer is; his likes, dislikes. You can then market to him in an effective manner."

Social business goes beyond social media

Social media not only refers to popular websites like Facebook, Twitter and the likes. Some companies create networks exclusively for their employees to interact and collaborate with one another -- a case in point being Cemex, a billion-dollar Mexico-based cement-making company. To launch its global brand of concrete, in 2010, Cemex built a social business network, so that its employees spread across 50 countries could converge on a single virtual platform. Called Shift, this platform allowed employees to engage with one another, thus reducing cost and time overheads while leveraging the power of social.
 
Globally, Cemex is considered to be a social business leader. The company has immensely benefitted with the open communication and free flow of ideas that Shift offers. Shift also allowed Cemex employees to connect with existing social networking platforms.

"Earlier things were simple. Now, internal collaboration is important. There is also pressure from Facebook, Twitter. If they (companies) block Facebook, Twitter, they need to fill that void," says Sanchit Gogia, Founder and CEO, Greyhound Knowledge Group.

Gogia adds that social business is about "taking internal intranet to the next level and making people connect."

Beyond fostering employee interaction, going social can also ensure customer satisfaction. Realizing the power of social, companies like IBM have come up with a slew of solutions that help interpret the huge amounts of data generated on the internet on a daily basis.

Italian poultry leader Amadori Group makes use of IBM solutions to gauge consumer sentiment surrounding their company. The company monitors what is being said about it on social networking sites and blogs by way of social listening, which helps it gain new insights into the minds of consumers. After tracking and making sense of customer conversations, Amadori Group introduced greener packaging.

Why should organizations invest in social

It cannot be denied that social media has enormously altered consumer behaviour. Social reviews and comments go a long way in determining the spending habits of consumers. In fact, it's estimated that, by 2022, social technology will enable four out of every five customer transactions. This shows how imperative it is for companies to invest in social technology. Besides, given the massive growth and reach of social networking sites, they're perhaps the best places to look at for genuine customer feedback.

Gogia rightly points out, "Earlier, it was customer service, then came customer engagement. Now it is all about contextual customer engagement."

According to a report, a survey conducted last year by consultancy group Brand Keys revealed that restaurant brand Domino's created the most "customer delight." The credit for this goes to its idea-sharing platform called ThinkOven. ThinkOven invited suggestions from customers regarding recipes, new menu items and other tips. By doing this, the popular pizza brand showed how important it is to 'listen' to innovate.

Closer home, Tupperware India launched an ad campaign on social media inviting real life stories of women that matched with the brand's vision.

Such online campaigns not only engage consumers but also help them identify better with the brand, which in turn translates into robust offline business. IBM's social business solutions aim at just that to change the way business gets done while cutting costs, boosting revenue and staying ahead of competition.

Is going social the way ahead for Indian businesses?

Will Indian companies, that have taken fancy to social media, but have not yet exploited its actual potential, turn into social businesses in the near future? D'Silva is optimistic about it. "Very soon customer relationship management will move online in full force. This will cut down costs tremendously," he says, adding that going social helps companies understand customers in a short duration as it is a "now" medium.

Gogia says that having presence on social media is not enough. It is having presence which has an outcome that matters.

As more and more Indian companies discover the power of social media, it's time they invest in becoming a social business too. It is with this view that IBM offers a number of solutions that are aimed at 'creating a smarter workforce', 'creating exceptional customer experiences' and 'delivering solutions with confidence and flexibility'.

Going social is all about investing in people (be it employees or customers), the first and foremost form of capital for businesses. If this is done right, there is no stopping organizations from succeeding.

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