Will Bosma, APAC Solu­tion Con­sult­ing Direc­tor, Adobe Aus­tralia – LinkedIn, @wbosma


I have been for­tu­nate this week to spend time with a num­ber a larger enter­prises in Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia dis­cussing their cur­rent social busi­ness sit­u­a­tion and their pri­or­ity needs going into 2013. These meet­ing were across a num­ber of indus­tries but there were some strong con­sis­ten­cies across all of them.

They have been on a remark­ably sim­i­lar jour­ney. By and large, they all start with an ad hoc approach to social media lis­ten­ing, engage­ment and mod­er­a­tion. This ‘exper­i­men­tal’ stage see’s social ini­tia­tives dis­con­nected and oper­at­ing in a silo from all other chan­nels. The mea­sures are nearly always the low level ones that focus on ‘how many’. The fix­a­tion is on get­ting more friends, fans and followers.

The his­tory was remark­ably sim­i­lar – at this stage they are using free tools to try to man­age the processes – and they are using a lot of them and in a very dis­con­nected way. And as these enter­prises are pan regional, in some cases global; the pres­ence grows rapidly and they have a lot of dif­fer­ent pages and accounts all over the place. The engage­ment is almost com­pletely reac­tive. Its at about this time they begin to dis­cover that social media is far from ‘free’ and that to be effec­tive they need to do some­thing very much more inte­grated and strategic.

Pretty much dur­ing the past few years they have been evolv­ing into social brands. Mar­ket­ing seems to own all social ini­tia­tives and the focus is on brand / rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment, mar­ket­ing opti­miza­tion –  and the KPI’s now turn more to engage­ment – com­ments, retweets, cus­tomer posts, ‘peo­ple talk­ing about this’ met­rics are now at the fore. Now, given that Asia has some of the most engaged audi­ences on the planet  (see fig­ure below) you would expect that engage­ment rates are high com­pared to other parts of the world. And its amaz­ing how pretty much every major brand has a sport or famous sport­ing team con­nec­tion that fea­tures as an impor­tant part of the con­tent and engage­ment strat­egy. Pop­u­lar picks are foot­ball (soc­cer) teams from the Eng­lish leagues; For­mula 1 teams and some events like the recent Olympics.

Some of the com­pa­nies I spoke to had over 1.5M fans on their Face­book pages and hun­dreds of thou­sands of twit­ter followers.

There is a strong empha­sis on out­bound social cam­paigns but with so many chan­nels and pres­ences they are strug­gling to main­tain brand con­sis­tency; strug­gling to keep the engag­ing con­tent flow­ing and increas­ingly con­cerned about gov­er­nance.  And today, they have evolved from using only free tools to hav­ing a real mix of point solu­tions. Per­haps some free­ware for engage­ment; a paid tool for social lis­ten­ing; a dif­fer­ent one for pub­lish­ing; and per­haps another for moderation.

And whilst social no longer sits in a com­plete silo; nor is it com­pletely inte­grated. I saw exam­ples of spe­cific chan­nels set up for cus­tomer ser­vice which were sep­a­rated from the out­bound mar­ket­ing chan­nels but if a cus­tomer lodges their com­plaint in another chan­nel it gets ignored. You can lit­er­ally see cus­tomer delight in one chan­nel and cus­tomer anger in another

I would argue that many of these enter­prises have reached the oper­a­tional stage of social busi­ness, with a focus on mar­ket­ing. It’s a more embed­ded part of the busi­ness and there is a lot of focus on cam­paign inte­gra­tion and even some thought on how to uti­lize social inter­nally.  But they are strug­gling to get to the next level.  There is even some frus­tra­tion within busi­nesses that social has gone too far from a mar­ket­ing per­spec­tive. That invest­ments are being made in increas­ing lev­els of social cam­paigns with­out analy­sis of results and com­par­i­son to other mar­ket­ing chan­nels. This was pretty sur­pris­ing to me.

And as the con­ver­sa­tion then moved to ‘where now’ there is again a remark­able con­sis­tency in what these organ­i­sa­tions have as their pri­or­i­ties for social in the com­ing year. They want order; they want con­sis­tency and they want mea­sur­able results – in short they want to move to the next level of social business.

Uni­ver­sally, they want to take social out of its remain­ing silo and make it an inte­gral part of the busi­ness – at least from a mar­ket­ing per­spec­tive. They want to cen­tral­ize some of the gov­er­nance around key processes to pro­mote con­sis­tency of mes­sage and brand as well as ensure com­pli­ance with increas­ing reg­u­la­tion. But they didn’t nec­es­sar­ily want to reduce the num­ber of sites they have.

Largely they see the value in hav­ing local pres­ence and encour­ag­ing the regional / local busi­ness to build its own com­mu­nity. This can be dif­fi­cult to know how far to go – some banks want to have a Face­book page per branch for exam­ple whilst oth­ers felt a coun­try based approach is enough.

What they did want though was inte­grated work­flows and per­mis­sions where they could cre­ate a frame­work which gave them flex­i­bil­ity to decide what could be decen­tral­ized and what should be cen­trally approved.

But over and above all else, they want to be able to close the loop and mea­sure the results of their social efforts. This is really heart­en­ing as this truly indi­cates to me that social busi­ness is matur­ing and organ­i­sa­tions are under­stand­ing that ROI can and should be mea­sured on social ini­tia­tives – after all, that is a pri­mary rea­son for all forms of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing – its mea­sur­able! And of course, there is mount­ing pres­sure from the C suite to demon­strate this return as they all know by now that social media is far from free.

A lit­tle while ago I wrote a blog piece on the 10 Com­mand­ments of Social Busi­ness which a few peo­ple con­nected with.  It seems to me that large enter­prises in South Asia are doing well on most of those but as yet have not rec­og­nized the needs for a social busi­ness strat­egy, not a social media strat­egy. But they are work­ing hard now on mak­ing social measurable.