Whenever I speak to groups about social business, the most common question I am asked is “how much time does it take?” The related question is “how do we measure ROI?” but what folks really think they want to know is “is this worth my time?”
From a tactical perspective, these are all legitimate questions. From a strategic perspective, they are the wrong questions.
If you and your business have not yet fully embraced the emerging relational internet and mobile technologies as a way to transform every aspect of your business and continually improve your ability to impress your employees and customers, the question that should be keeping you awake at night is this:
Am I too late?
If your competitors are embracing social business and you are not, then they are defining the competitive landscape. When your competitor reinvents the rules of the game, the best you can ever hope to achieve, if you even survive, is competitive parity. While you scramble to try to imitate what you think they are doing, they will be busy creating the future again.
There is no free lunch in social business. It takes time for you and your employees to learn how to blog, tweet, make videos, and interact with people in professionally personal ways on LinkedIn, Facebook, and now Google +. But if you never invest the time, you will never develop the skills and never build a formidable river of relevant content that flows through the social networks of your customers, employees and suppliers, working for your brand around the clock, every day of the week.
If you don’t create the content, it will be almost impossible for you to convene conversations with customers at sites you own. If you never convene conversations with customers around things that matter to them, you’ll never build a strong community of people that care about you and your business because you first cared about them. You can’t buy communities of people that trust you so much they are willing to publicly associate their names with yours, you have to build them, and that takes time.
Our economy has been rocked harder the last few years than it has at any time in my life. Businesses have cut their workforces, and many businesses have closed. But at the very same time in history, sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have created the unprecedented ability for people to participate in many-to-many conversations where they quickly and easily share information about things that matter to them. These conversations are archived and shareable. It’s nothing short of a paradigm shift in the way we communicate with each other.
Business as usual has been a recipe for disaster for so many companies in this dismal economy. The paradox is this has been a time of tremendous opportunity to practice business unusual for those that had the foresight to embrace the paradigm shift being driven by relational technologies.
It’s still very early. Make social business a strategic imperative and you still have the opportunity to seize the initiative on your competition, to force them into battle for competitive parity.
The clock is ticking. It’s time for you to give serious thought to how you and your business will respond to the new reality of social business.