Note: Sprinklr engaged 30 of the top minds in enterprise social media to help you understand best practices in enterprise social media management. You can download the full PDF here. The following was my contribution.

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Since my social mantra has always been about Return on Relationship, it’s refreshing to see a shift in the corporate mind-set regarding the business use of social media. According to a 2012 Social Business Benchmarking Study by FedEx and Ketchum, large companies still view social as a tool for building brand loyalty and strengthening customer relationships… and in my opinion that has a long way to go. However, they are also beginning to see the benefits of scaling social to other relationship-driven aspects of the business, from enhancing collaboration and dialog with stakeholders, to strengthening relationships with employees and vendors.

And it’s about time! Since everything we do in business relies on developing and strengthening good relationships, why lock the most effective relationship-building tool we have in a marketing closet? Take away the “social media is for marketing” blinders, and all kinds of possibilities within your organization become clear. Shift your approach from Social Marketing to Social Business. The value of Social goes well beyond marketing.

So take a step back and envision ways you could use social tools WITHIN your business, especially if your organization has multiple centers of operation. Wouldn’t it be nice to have faster, better communication between departments? Share workflow around projects across time zones? Enhance conversation with external stakeholders around the world and quickly open dialog with new vendors? Of course it would! The power of social communication can get you there because it enhances the ability to make personal connections happen—and personal connections are what drive business forward.

We’ve seen a little of this in the way some companies have tapped employees to enhance customer service across social channels, expanding those departments from centralized operations to team-based collaborative efforts that eliminate walls. The result is exponentially increased level of service through expanded human-to-human attention—something no automated system can replicate.

It’s like a return to the earlier times of doing business before commoditization took out the human factor and de-personalized business transactions. We knew our neighbors, we knew our local butcher—the grocer—the milk man, on a personal, face-to-face level. Now we’re able to return to that level of personal touch because social media has essentially given the consumer a voice again, and our innate desire to personally interact with other people is driving it. I think the FedEx/Ketchum study is a reflection of that recognition and a welcome one. In fact, according to the study 85% of the companies surveyed said that employee participation in company social efforts has increased over the last 12 months. And companies are beginning to engage their employees internally through social—almost 50% of those surveyed. That’s a good start, but it needs to go further.

Forward-thinking companies should be scaling social to allow diverse team members to collaborate on complex projects in real time (from anywhere), as well as eliminate bottlenecks that encumber internal processes. More businesses need to tap into the power of social search to gauge sentiment, get a feel for what’s happening on a global scale, investigate and interact with vendors, and use that information to innovate faster in a shifting marketplace.

Does it take re-tooling your organizational systems? Yes. Is it painful? Perhaps, but we only resist change because we’re unable (or unwilling) to visualize the outcome, and those who don’t adapt to a changing environment quickly die. The ground may be shifting beneath our corporate feet, but we can’t go back to business as usual and survive. We’ve seen social power at work in developing better customer relationships for companies of every shape and size. It’s no longer an unknown—it’s a proven tool. So now is the time, my friends, to take social out of the marketing box and scale it across ALL business in order to truly maximize return on relationships. Embrace it—own it—make it part of your business culture, and social@scale will help you thrive. 

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