Earlier this month, in my post on getting guidance right for customer communities, I shared a huge takeaway from a recent Ning report that examined growth and trends in community engagement. Anne Driscoll, the company's VP of business operations, told me companies with successful communities don't just view them as tick-the-box activities; rather, they employ holistic social strategies. Her comments echoed a point made by Ed Moran, Deloitte's director of product innovation, when I interviewed him in 2009 about Deloitte's "Tribalization of Business" study. He told me:
... Your whole enterprise should care, not just marketing. Your product development people should be sitting right there saying, "What does this mean for the next revision of our product?" It'll help you get smart about support. "What are the bugs in our product, or what's not clear about the owners' manual?" You can correct that almost in real time through better integration with your support. Think about HR, even. People who are really engaged with your company's product and services and want to help, wouldn't those be great people to employ some day? So when you go across the enterprise and look at the different functions, every one of them should have a seat at the table. ...
I like this idea about holistic social strategies so much, I share it whenever it comes up. (Sadly, it's still not all that often.)
Moran also noted some forward-thinking organizations were establishing social centers of excellence. A primary function of such centers is to disseminate socially derived knowledge throughout the enterprise. He explained:
... If you have an office in Brazil, some of the stuff you are learning there might be good to integrate into operations at the mothership. There needs to be a mechanism to get the information from Brazil to the mothership. A center of excellence can do that. The center is tasked with everything you are learning and getting it to the right places in the organization. ...
Organizations without the resources to establish a center of excellence up front can enjoy similar benefits by tasking one person within the organization to monitor social media channels and get relevant information to the right people. Writing on the oneforty blog, guest poster Sheldon Levine, community manager for social media monitoring software Sysomos, refers to this role as a social media switchboard operator. (I like Levine's mashup of social with a word that is likely to draw blank stares from younger folks.)
Not surprisingly, given Sysomos' line of business, Levine suggests the role could be automated by programming a social media monitoring to search for key words and, when it finds them, to route information to the appropriate people. An example he offers:
... If a customer is tweeting that they wished your product did feature X differently, someone from R&D can quickly strike up a conversation to probe deeper into what that customer thinks would be better and why. ...
In a 2008 post about online communities do's and don'ts, I cited a Harvard Business Review article that contained similar advice from Debi Kleiman, VP of product marketing at Communispace, and Anat Keinan, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. They suggested sharing social data with folks throughout your organization, from product managers to C-suite executives.
However, they noted, not everyone wants or needs the same level of detail. From the article: "Some people should hear unfiltered customers voices; some need deep dives with detail; others need quick and dirty top-lines. The more that people throughout the company engage with community feedback, the more value they'll find and the higher your ROI will be."