Social Business requires connected internal and external communities!
Over the years the more social business tool deployments I did the more I realized, that I spent more time teaching people how to better communicate and build cultures that encourage training and collaboration than I did on how to use the new features or functions of this new software. The most successful social business deployments were with those departments or companies that already had a great culture, who believed and implemented an employee advocacy program and were looking for the tool to increase productivity and collaboration, not solve a people problem. Because these companies now collaborate openly between departments, I often found myself working with human resources on how they could leverage this internal community to connect, engage and train employees. At this same time I found myself working with marketing teams to create a similar social business solution externally to provide the customers, partners and prospects a home to collaborate, train and better communicate. This external community was then leveraged by customer’s service, sales and product management departments to not only gain user feedback but also connect with those using, testing and buying the product.
The factors that led to successful deployments of internal communities were no different than those social business solutions implemented for customers and partners. Both deployments increased engagement, communication, productivity and collaboration and were built on trust, an open culture, a recurrent training program, and management buy-in with strong community leadership.
Establish a Community or build a Network?
Too often brands and leaders see what companies like Zappos and Buffer are doing with culture and community and task their management or human resources or marketing departments to build the same thing. But building a community is much different than building a network of people. My friend Tim Mcdonald drew this (Picture to the right) on a napkin comparing a network to a community and too often what leadership wants is a community but because that takes time, requires changes across the company and leadership the task is shifted to creating a linear network of connected people creating transactional successes. Now there are plenty of benefits in creating a strong network and often these benefits can be masked or have some of the same results as creating a community will. These results will only be temporary and far too often leaders will then blame the management or the technology or worst of all convince themselves that employee engagement and community aren’t worth the effort at all.
When leadership requires management to embrace this change, understands that this takes time and focuses on these four areas, they will see a drastic increase in productivity, communication and collaboration within every department not just human resources, marketing and customer service.
4 community pillars for employee customer relationships!
Trust is often what leadership preaches is needed when making a sale, it’s what marketing works to establish with consumers but far too often it’s what is lacking between leaders and manager or managers and employees.
To create these internal employee communities that then connect and grow external communities trust must be established at all levels. This means trusting that investing in training existing employees, hiring passionate experienced community managers and empowering leaders driving this change will be worth it in the end.
Today most consumers don’t trust brands and why should they if these brands don’t even trust their own employees.
To gain this trust back companies must find ways to show the community they care which can be done in many ways once the consumer feels part of the brands community but first they must trust their employees.
Culture has become the most popular buzzword on every company’s website and within every job posting. What these companies don’t understand is that culture isn’t what you put on your website or what your CEO says on a video rather it’s represented and conveyed with every interaction an employee has with the external community.
It isn’t the free lunches or ping pong tables or no dress code that is needed for companies to create internal and external communities it’s the passion, focus and dedication to the team that great cultures have that allow them establish thriving communities. Community relationships between employees and customers require open communication with the focus on teamwork which is only possible when that matches the company culture as well.
Change is scary, most people, departments and companies aren’t built today to embrace change but innovation along with social, mobile, analytics and cloud are making change the only guarantee today.
To handle this change companies can no longer think of training as something that is done for new hires or done once a year rather within a trusting, thriving culture, training is invested in and occurs daily.
If consumers don’t understand a product that is being marketed or how to engage customer service they will never be happy with the product or service. The same goes for employees who are asked to take on new tasks or implement new technologies. Training must be thought of as a company responsibility not just a department function as customer service must train customers, marketing must create content that trains as without this training you’ll never have a community that scales or embraces the power of change.
Having an open door policy has always been the lazy way for management to say: “if you have enough courage to walk in my office and interrupt me, and if I happen to be in the office today you can do so without making the me mad!” A trusting culture that utilizes training can only go so far without a community of leaders.
Community leadership isn’t saying you have an open door policy or creating a commercial that says you’re not only the CEO but also a customer, it’s leadership that empowers and builds relationships by proactivity creating dialogue and leading by example inspiring others to lead and feel part of the community.
Sales teams are desperate for brand advocates; marketing is focused on finding influencers but without community leaders they will struggle to connect with the external customers, partners and prospects.
Trusted, trained and empowered social employees connect and grow both internal and external communities. These social employees not only become community leaders but they create, connect and grow brand advocates, influencers and community ambassadors.
ReThink how you measure success in social connected world
So as we talk about culture, the importance of engaging with employees, customers and future customers, I ask you rather than treating them as a transactional communications and asking for social or community ROI. Why not focus on empowering, training and leading these relationships so that they can build a culture and community that will become the trustworthy face of your brand.