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Building A Better “Social Business”

by David Brock on July 22nd, 2013

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with Ed Abrams, Vice President of Marketing for IBM’s Small and Mid Sized Business Segment.  Ed has some fascinating insights on how any business can more effectively engage customers in meaningful conversations.  At the end of the post, be sure to listen to the interview, I learned a lot conducting it, I’m certain you will learn from listening.

We covered a lot of territory in the interview–some of the highlights:

We spent some time talking about what “being social” is, something I think many of us get wrong when we think about social business–confusing it with tools and technologies.  Ed reminds us that being social with our customers is really about building our engagement with them.  It starts with bringing relevant and meaningful insight and intelligence, but using this to build a conversation and dialog.

Ed’s point is critical, too often we view the social tools as platforms to extend our voice–new channels we can leverage to get our stories out to our customers.  But a social business is different, it’s about the interaction and the conversation we establish with our customers.  Our content is the point of entry, but if we aren’t prepared to have a conversation or dialog, we won’t effectively engage our customers.

Ed makes the point that being “social” with our customers is impossible, if we aren’t social internally.  Internal collaboration is critical to moving the conversations with customers forward.  Engaging our customers credibly, directly, and honestly, requires us to embed a customer centric culture into our own internal collaborations.

We have to understand how the rules are changing.  85% of customer engagement starts with “search.”  As customers are looking to make a decision, their first step is to try to find answers and information on the web.  Businesses not hanging out where the customers are don’t have a chance.  We have to understand who our customers are, what information do they consume, where are they looking for answers.

“Big data” and analytics are changing our abilities to engage customers.  We know have the capability to personalize our communications, developing deeper and richer engagement with the customer.  We have the ability to shape our conversations, focusing our content and interactions on the things most important to each customer.

Big data is no longer just available to big corporations—companies of any size can now leverage the tools, to personalize our communications with each customer.

We wrapped up the conversation talking about how to get started in Social.  Ed made three great points:

Start small.  Start leveraging the tools internally to improve your own collaboration and ability to communicate and engage your own people.

Educate your people, makes sure they understand what you are trying to achieve.  Help them understand it’s not about the technology, but about how you want to inform, engage, and create dialogs with your customers.

Know your audience, know who they are, what information they are looking for, how they consume information, where they consume it (company websites, blogs, discussion forums, etc.)  Show up where they are showing up.

Enjoy the interview–then apply the lessons.  Our customers are social–we have to engage them socially!


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Thanks for taking the time to speak Ed!

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.



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One Comment
  1. I have listened to the podcast, read your post and have two observations.

    1. No, nothing has changed.

    Our selling world is that same as it has been for 140 years. People have always searched information & found wrong ideas.

    The ubiquity of keyword search changes nothing.

    Here is a blurb from the NCR manual, circa 1896:

    “A probable prospect has to go through a series of mental steps ….

    First, the conviction that he is losing considerable money through errors & store transactions.

    Second, that a National Cash Register will stop these errors in store transactions and pay for itself;

    Third, that he must get one immediately.”

    Replace “National Cash Register” with “IBM Connections” and you have a great selling script.

    2. Yes, everything has changed.

    Dialogue, the spoken word of a lecture, and radio are now archived.

    I can go back, review both Ed’s and your words and pay much more attention to them than I could when I first heard them.

    There is now a possibility that I could learn a great deal from these archives.

    (Roger Schank on why lectures are a waste of time, if you want someone to learn

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