3 Reasons Not to Take a Leap of Faith into Social Business Transformation

Quite a few companies who started early in social media — primarily on a leap of faith — are now touting their “case studies” and advising other companies on how to turn themselves into a social business. While their perspective and their stories can be very helpful in generating ideas, social media have evolved beyond the need for a leap of faith, and leaders pursuing social business transformation should demand more from their agencies and consultancies, in three important ways:

  1. Business Case: Social media are no longer the wild west — although it feels that way to many companies. We have the data to develop robust business cases that pass the CFO’s sniff test.

    We can translate the goals of the business into social media initiatives that create measurable business value. And we can estimate the expected business value within the kinds of predictable ranges that we would normally expect from other forms of business transformation, such as CRM transformation, or creating shared services groups.

    Demand a rigorous, data-driven business case, or you risk (1) over-investing in social media, or (2) investing in the wrong capabilities.

  2. Focus on a Business Goal: There is a big difference between using social applications for knowledge management and collaboration, versus social media marketing. Each require different expertise, enabled by different technology vendors, with different value propositions.

    If you scope your social business transformation effort to address all social applications, including employee productivity, retention, marketing, PR, hiring, customer service, etc., then you are, by definition, boiling the ocean.

    Step back and pick a scope that is actually manageable. Maybe start with social media marketing, since that is where there is likely to be a clear and quantifiable business case. Then work your way into other domains.

  3. Caveat Emptor: When a technology company offers to share their internal lessons with you, ask yourself whether they are also selling their products. Many purveyors of “case studies” and “lessons learned” also sell social media command centers, or social business applications, or listening tools, or analytics tools, etc.

    Ask them about the business outcomes — and not just anecdotes, but recurring, consistent business outcomes. You’re not going to invest millions of dollars to achieve anecdotes.

The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed.

4 Responses to 3 Reasons Not to Take a Leap of Faith into Social Business Transformation

  1. Heathwulf March 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    The are excellent points.  They not only apply to the early starts in E2.0 but are the only reasons many of the laggards (for example manufacturers) are looking at social is to address specific business goals and provide real business or user value.

    • Chris Boudreaux March 5, 2012 at 8:18 am #

      I think that’s true, and it is very important for folks to realize that they need to demand more from their consultancies and agencies than simple anecdotes and hopes about how social media might create value.  I worry about people over-investing or investing in the wrong capabilities.

      Thank you for your comment.

  2. Chris Estes March 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    This is a great post; I think social media is following a
    similar maturity curve as the internet from informational, interactive, soon,
    transactional. Large scale Commerce will occur (in, though, with) social media.
    When thinking about sCommerce, start thinking new channel. All the tools built
    for eCommerce, mCommerce (mobile) will be needed and integrated with sCommerce.
    For enterprise size companies, this is channel which requires large systems
    integration, large project and business transformation.

    • Chris March 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm #


      I think you’re right that social drives large business transformation, but most companies have not reached sufficient internal clarity on what the transformation could mean for them, so most still have not developed the requisite internal motivation for true business transformation. However, the wave is slowly building, and I believe that most large brands will launch some level of CFO-sponsored transformation in the next 12 – 18 months. Thanks for your thoughts.