Friday, July 31, 2015

Social Business Internal and External: Why Both Should Work Together

For years now companies have been trying to leverage the power of social for business benefits both inside and outside the organization. Internally the key drivers for social are business functions like HR and product development, and the users are employees of the organization. External social business is driven by marketing or sales and reaches out to customers and others who access social media online. These changes have had many positive effects on the world of business – but not all changes have been positive.

Learning has been without a doubt one of the area most positively affected by social. Learning has moved from the classroom to online and this is undergoing further transformation through interactive delivery mechanisms and adoption of social approaches to learning. File sharing, commenting, tagging, rewards and recognition, gamification are other features enhance the learning experience by sharing information and providing motivation to learners.

Skill building through learning programs is an ongoing activity for an organization in the knowledge industry; for example IT, financial services, research or consultancy. Social Business has changed the design of learning programs, learning methods, interaction and measurement of results. Participants to a learning program can now learn through communities and forums and keep updated on the trends within the community. Employees learn from each other and there is more knowledge sharing which has improved the effectiveness of learning.

As much as social business has been a positive force for change in the workplace, so too has it disrupted old models and forced companies to change their approach to marketing, customer service and more. Customers can take to social media to provide bad feedback about a product or service and cause damage to the company or brand in ways they couldn’t have before. There are many famous instances of negative posts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs which have gone viral. Social media is a very important channel for companies to address customer complaints and a proactive approach is required to monitor and respond to queries from customers. A strategic social media strategy that includes building a community of advocates is essential to counter the threat of bad buzz. Customer support for a company can use social media to enhance the feedback and loyalty of customers.    

The customer support team can use social business for their daily work, sharing knowledge, building skills, creating a knowledge base for support and so on. All these activities are internal to the organization but the results can be seen externally through better customer support and feedback, quicker resolution of issues and cost optimization.

To create a competitive advantage and stand out in the market companies need to make their social business initiatives work in sync and create a differentiator. In our example we saw how customer support can leverage learning to improve skills. Leading companies are differentiating themselves by delivering superior social experiences to employees and customers. It is time to look at your internal and external social business and start bridging the gaps. 

from Social Business Insights Blog

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Your Customers Are Like Snowflakes

I'm aware that mention of snowflakes in July could be somewhat out of season (unless you believe the recent claims that there might be a mini ice age in 15 years), but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway.


Customers are like snowflakes. At first glance they are all very similar, but dig deeper and you start to notice differences. For example, it’s possible to categorise snowflakes at a high level, based on their size or shape. This relates to how marketing departments are able to categorise their customers based on demographics such as gender, age and location. This is important, as it allows organisations to shift from traditional scattershot marketing campaigns to higher value, tailored marketing campaigns. The benefit here is twofold: reducing the cost of marketing campaigns by not wasting money advertising to people who will not engage with your business, and improving return on marketing investment.


Any organisations that are already planning marketing campaigns based on customer demographic information are in a good place; however they are not necessarily pioneering. The snowflake analogy can actually be taken further.


No two snowflakes are alike


You may have heard the old adage that 'no two snowflakes are alike', which has actually been backed by research. The creation of snowflakes is a complex process, with many variables at play. We can, and should, view our customers in the same way. Performing categorisations on basic demographics such as age and gender provide powerful business benefits, but it’s not the pinnacle. There're a multitude of potential data points to collect about your customers, with each data point being like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle; collect enough pieces and you start to build up a powerful picture of that customer at an individual, personal level. This is often referred to as 'segment of one' marketing.


Building a system of engagement


Segment of one marketing is incredibly powerful and diverse. It requires organisations to stop thinking of their customers as a number on a spreadsheet, and start thinking about them as they truly are: complex, unique, constantly changing individuals.


Analysis of historical sales data provides a starting point for building tailored marketing campaigns by enabling the distribution of customised content and offers through the right channel, at the right time and to the right person to maximise chances of conversion. Further insights can be gained via A/B testing to experiment with and optimise variables such as content, channel and timing.


These insights can even be augmented with social media data, using analytics to gain a live voice of the customer and act on new opportunities in a timely manner by keeping your finger on the pulse of the newest trends and developments across the globe.


The ability to treat customers as individuals has become a key differentiator in maximising revenue generation. All of the data is out there; the challenge is piecing it all together to create a coherent, intelligent system of engagement that adds value for both the customer and the organisation. Organisations that have implemented these solutions are reaping the rewards and emerging as leaders in their respective industries.  



from Social Business Insights Blog

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Earning Your Upvote with Millennial Customers

There’s a new elephant in the room for client-facing businesses. It’s targeting the millennial customer. The world’s largest generation is rising to the store front with unmet needs and it’s time to start pairing marketing efforts with those needs. If you’re tapping into the millennial segment for the first time, here are a few critical millennial must-haves to keep in mind:


Be relevant.

Millennials are fully aware that a correlation exists between technology and competitiveness. One of the best ways to hold millennial customers’ attention is to prove your relevance through innovative offerings. This means having a cutting-edge digital presence and a customer experience that reflects conscientiousness. Around the world, success is being defined by incremental innovations to old technologies and services that transform a previously tedious effort (like catching a cab) into a non-negotiable necessity for daily life. This relevance and accessibility make millennials uber-excited. (Yes, we’re talking about Uber.)


Be personal.

Millennials aren’t looking for a one-size–fits-all solution to their needs. Millennial customers expect to be engaged in a specific, compelling way from day one. Thriving companies, such as Warby Parker, capitalize on customer preferences to create tailored customer experiences like never before. Be prepared for millennials to judge you based on their first impression, and you want their perspective to be 20/20 in your favor. Let’s face it, everyone wants to feel special, and millennials are no exception!


Be excellent.

We don’t need to see you do it all; we need to see you do one thing with excellence. (Really, we want to know where you are head and shoulders above the rest!) How far are you willing to go to refine your offerings to truly meet the needs of your up-and-coming millennial customers? Having one excellent solution is worth its weight in bitcoins. The days of providing a marginal solution to tackle many problems at once are over.


This new buyer group is forcing companies to think and act for the future. If you think it’s time to take the next step with your customers, check out the Digital Experience Website. If you’d like to read more about IBM's millennial researchyou can download the study.



from Social Business Insights Blog

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CloseUp with Aaron Horowitz

Meet Aaron Horowitz, Co-Founder and CEO of Sproutel, a platform for health and wellness education and the creator of Jerry the Bear – a robotic learning tool for children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Aaron is a maker; from sculptures to business, he is fascinated with the process of taking an idea from concept to reality. He also happens to be the winner of IBM's New Way to Startup, an exciting entrepreneurship program and web series featuring 10 of the country’s top millennial-led startups with a social mission. Congrats to Aaron and the incredible team at Sproutel!!

It's time for Aaron's CloseUp...


from Social Business Insights Blog

Monday, July 27, 2015

Now Trending: Millennial Employees

Just who are the millennials?  The renegades of the digital world? The dreamers? The trendsetters?


As the first generation raised in an immersive digital world, millennials represent the key to the digital transformation and survival of companies across the globe. There’s no doubt, we are the beauty and brains behind some of the most innovative entrepreneurial and strategic business initiatives springing up daily. (Just take a look at companies like Warby Parker, Facebook and FourSquare.)


As this new group of leaders, thinkers, and believers rises in the ranks, it remains imperative that employers keep close tabs on the habits, expectations, and motivations of millennial employees.


Here are a few cultural investments businesses need to make to equip, empower, and retain their millennials:


1.   Inspiration – Inspiration in the workplace is a major component of millennial motivation. Some major questions you might find millennials asking ourselves include: Where are the leaders in this picture? Who is setting the pace? How does this impact the overarching goals of the business? Providing millennials with the tools to deepen their general understanding of business fundamentals is a quick way to inspire and educate.


2.   Individualization – All in all, millennials mirror other generations in a desire to contribute purposefully, be recognized, and develop professionally. The truth is, we desire to be perceived simultaneously as a team player and an individual.  Companies that successfully inspire millennials to cultivate their unique talents and gifts where they overlap with business outcomes keep employees incentivized and empower. Feeling like “just a number” is a no-go for millennial strivers.


3.   Collaboration – The ultra-connected personal lives of millennials contribute to our desire for connection, teamwork, and collaboration in the workplace. In many cases, collaboration is a way for millennials to stay in the know with latest news or business trends. Working on collaborative projects or in a more “open office” environment is a way to enhance each employee’s general awareness of what is happening within the business, what’s important, and what’s not. Collaboration on teams of diverse talents and backgrounds serves up a potent cocktail of potential for innovation.


4.   Innovation – This global generation sees no boundaries to the positive impact we can have within the workplace, and even the world at large. As our global society expands rapidly, millennials want to make an impact using creativity and efficiency. Nickel-and-diming your way through business is not a way to keep millennials invested. Companies that voraciously explore new technologies and seek new ways to accomplish old goals keep millennials motivated and interested. 


If you think it’s time to take the next step with your employees, check out the Digital Experience Website. If you’d like to read more about IBM's millennial research, you can download the study.



from Social Business Insights Blog

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Traveling Is about Making Connections

Summertime is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, and for many that means getting on a plane for a well-deserved vacation. Or a couple planes, as the case may be. They say you should never have a layover shorter than an hour, just in case your first leg is delayed, but I like to leave extra time so that I can grab a meal or at least a snack before my connecting flight. I like to make travel as stress-free as possible, and as much as I like my co-workers, that includes disconnecting from work.

imageSSP knows about both kind of connections—the airport kind and the workplace kind. As the owner, operator and franchiser of food, beverage and other concessions at airports around the world, the company known as “The Food Travel Experts” helps travelers make the most of their time in between connecting flights. Internally, the company is expert at connecting its more than 30,000 employees via a new social networking platform based on IBM Connections.

With a company like SSP, which operates more than 400 travel locations around the globe, meeting customers’ needs means understanding and being able to serve many different markets and cultures. Yet this type of diversified customer base and dispersed workforce makes it more, not less, important to connect employees so that they may share experiences and insights, tap into expertise and work together to come up with new ideas. These are demands that cannot be addressed by email alone.

Recognizing this, SSP sought to build a social platform that would allow employees to form networks and communities to spark knowledge sharing, and give them a more intelligent way to manage agendas, meetings and documents. The result was SSP Connections, built in conjunction with IBM Business Partner Atriom. By promoting the platform through blogs, an email campaign, hands-on workshops and more, SSP had more than 1,500 employees adopt the system in the first five months, and plans to continue that success with more workshops, regional awareness programs and absorbing business processes into SSP Connections. The system is accessible through a range of mobile devices, a must-have with a workforce as dispersed and on-the-go as SSP’s.

Internal social platforms are drivers of productivity and innovation as well as employee engagement, with workers feeling more connected to their company and to each other, even across international boundaries and cultural divides. An intelligently designed and implemented platform like SSP Connections provides an invaluable discovery tool for workers to form new relationships with colleagues they would otherwise not have met. With mobile integration, these platforms let workers stay connected and productive even when they’re away from their laptop – just hopefully not when they’re on summer vacation.

Click here to learn more about SSP and its social platform.

from Social Business Insights Blog

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The POWER of Crowdsourcing

It turns out that the world's first 7 nanometer chip wasn't the only INCREDIBLE thing IBM accomplished last week!


Just last week it was announced that a virtual supercomputer created by IBM helped scientists in discovering a phenomenon that could enhance access to clean water for one billion people.

And I can proudly state that I helped make this possible.


How? By simply installing the World Community Grid app on my laptop and smartphone and letting the good work begin!


Scientists at Tsinghua University in China announced the discovery of the conditions required for moving water via carbon nanotubes 300 percent faster without the need of further energy.


The computational simulation study that led to this new method of improving water filtration and water quality was powered by IBM's World Community Grid.


We’ve all heard the benefits of crowdsourcing in digital age, but I have never heard a more inspiring and amazing crowdsourcing story than this!


This discovery would not have occurred without crowdsourced computing. Researchers executed a vast number of simulations using the donated surplus processing power of IBM's World Community Grid, harnessing three million connected computers from more than 700,000 "citizen-scientist" volunteers globally.


The one hundred million calculations carried out by IBM's virtual, crowdsourced supercomputer for the Computing for Clean Water project would have cost $15 million if they were performed commercially, and the study would’ve taken over 37,000 years had it been undertaken on a single-processor PC. Talk about the “power” of community crowdsourcing!


If you don't have World Community Grid downloaded to your phone / laptop, please make sure to check it out here: One of the coolest parts of being a community member, besides powering science and enabling good in the world, is that you can share the amount of hours you’ve donated per week with your social networks – now that’s what I call social currency!



from Social Business Insights Blog

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

CloseUp with Ed Brill

Meet Ed Brill, author of bestselling book and our Social Business Book Club selection for July, Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager. He also happens to be a VP of Social Business Transformation at IBM, speaker, blogger, as well as an avid traveler, foodie, and cyclist. Talk about a busy man!

Get ready for Ed's CloseUp...



from Social Business Insights Blog

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Opting In & A Culture Of Participation

Ten years ago, a group of IBMers came together to answer some questions - How can we encourage the individual voices of our people, the experts upon which our company is built, to be heard in the marketplace? How can we take the wisdom of the crowds and apply it to our products and services? How can we change the perception of IBM from faceless conglomerate to an organization that is engaged, transparent, and agile?

The catalyst for these questions was the effort to create IBM's first blogging guidelines. Several of us who were exploring new Internet social networking tools such as blogging, wikis, and discussion forums recognized their potential as a tool for IBMers to connect with our clients, prospects, influencers, partners, and suppliers. A few of us were already actively blogging, but in a nebulous space where it wasn't clear whether we were simply speaking for ourselves, or as IBMers, or as IBMers with individual points of view. The blogging guidelines would help us resolve these early questions, but we had a much more important goal. The blogging guidelines - which today are the IBM Social Computing Guidelines - needed to be an empowering document, not an oppressive one. We needed a policy that encouraged IBMers to share their thoughts, ideas, and expertise, out in the open, where the market could engage and learn.

Today, by many measures, that objective has been far exceeded. IBM is routinely recognized as the biggest corporate presence in social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. IBMers by the thousands have created blogs, Tumblrs, Instagram accounts, and other social streams. We went on to invent a category of social networking solutions for business, and have lead that market every year since its inception. Most importantly, we put into practice the themes of the social computing guidelines - engaging in the market, transparently, and being responsive and agile to what we learned.

Social Business: Lessons for improving IBM products and services

In a previous role, I was responsible for the overall business and strategy for several of IBM's collaboration and solutions products. I found early on that I could "walk the talk" of social business - engage directly with clients and prospects, find out more about what the market wanted in terms of capabilities or support, and share our plans and perspectives. Though I never intended it, after a few years of writing at, I built an audience comprised of the thousands of companies using these IBM products, those considering doing so, and even our competitors. This direct engagement lead to business outcomes - faster decisions and time to market, more responsiveness to requirements and market conditions, and in what became a hallmark of business blogging at the time - transparency around competitive positioning and roadmap. I learned how to make decisions around whose "voice" I was writing in - myself as an individual, or the representative of the product team, or a broader view from IBM as a company.

Clients and prospects responded. Can we directly correlate the growth of these products during 2004 to 2008 to the nascent blogging policy and presence? No, of course not. However, the sense of community that developed during that time brought clients closer to IBM than ever, IBM closer to the market than ever, and clients closer to each other. User groups formed. Other bloggers entered the fray. Heck, there were even marriage proposals, as people came together with similar interests and ideals.

I wrote the book Opting In: Lessons in Social Business to try to capture what came from that experience. In Opting In, I explore lessons learned around real-world social business: the need to see the big picture, to communicate strategically, to create a three-dimensional personality online, to make oneself accessible. Each chapter of the book examines a set of online activities and their outcomes, told through real stories. Most chapters feature guest contributors from the protagonists themselves: clients, analysts, IBMers. The chapters all conclude with the lessons learned on the subject topic - things like the concepts of personal branding and unique voice, delivering unique outcomes, and how to be transparent in a competitive market.

Join the Conversation

Opting In: Lessons in Social Business is an Amazon bestseller and has earned consistent 5-star reviews. To learn more, participate in our #socbizchat on Twitter on Thursday, July 9 at 1 PM US EDT with @edbrill (me!) and Marcia Conner (@marciamarcia), author of The New Social Learning (2nd edition). You can also connect with me via LinkedIn, or email to



from Social Business Insights Blog