As the keynote speaker for Social Media Examiner’s 2012 Social Media Success Summit, Altimeter Analyst Jeremiah Owyang presented a “Social Business Hierarchy of Needs” from his larger research report on how advanced companies prepare for social media crises. The research was compiled in part from interviews with large businesses (1000+ employees), but many of the principles can apply to small and medium businesses as well.
You’ve likely heard these horror stories:
- Domino’s Pizza employees create a YouTube video of them doing disgusting things to a sandwich before it went out for delivery
- A disgruntled customer writes a song and posts a YouTube video that claims United Airlines broke his Taylor guitar
- GoDaddy CEO proudly tweets about killing problematic elephants in Africa; animal rights group responds by requesting people switch their web hosting provider; GoDaddy loses revenue
- Gap puts forth a redesigned logo and receives severe backlash from passionate fans, critics, and media on social media channels
As this wise consultant put it, having a social media crisis plan is timeless because “we, as businesses, deal with people. And people don’t change. Trends change, ideas shift, but the classic characteristics of human beings do not. We have a need to feel connected to others, and we crave to be valued by those whom we support – brands included.”
So, where does your business fall in the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs? Here’s what it looks like and what you can ask yourself as you climb:
- Foundation. Has your company defined clear business goals and how social media supports them? Do you have policies to protect your company, employees and customers? Have you provided training on how your employees can use social media? Where do you start? Take a look at companies who’ve created robust policies around social media such as Cisco and Intel. Here are four types of policies you should create, according to the Altimeter report:
- Social Media – how the company at large can use it
- Disclosure/Ethics – what can your employees say publicly
- Community – for customers and prospects, a desired behavior in social media communities
- Privacy – how your company will use data collected by social media
- Safety. Who is responding to customer comments? Do you have someone to handle off-hours? Is there an executive who can approve responses quickly? Do you have rapid response tools e.g., Twitter account or a corporate blog template ready? Do you have a triage system in place? Customers expect real-time response and don’t care who resolves their issues. Have you conducted a fire drill to practice what employees will do in crisis mode?
- Formation. Have you connected business units to increase coordination and reduce duplication? Have you conducted an audit of all the social media accounts your company has? (There may be more than you think!) Have you provided a way to share best practices and get feedback within the organization? Have you formed a Social Media Center of Excellence to serve the entire company? Cisco has a global social media intranet where employees can access a playbook and best practices. Salesforce uses their “Chatterati,” employees who are most helpful as a resource to other employees (they get rewarded for their efforts).
- Enablement. Have you entrusted business units to deploy on their own (now that they have a Center of Excellence guiding them)? Have you aggregated your social media data to show executives the return on social business investment?
- Enlightenment. Are you now able to weave real-time response into business processes and planning? Have you empowered your employees to respond in a safe and coordinated matter? For example, Zappos has a “Twelpforce” and Best Buy allows retail employees to respond to customer inquiries in near real-time.
If you haven’t implemented these steps, you’re in good company; the majority of companies interviewed for this report were still in the lower levels of the hierarchy. But think what your brand could be as an “enlightened” company — truly valuing your customers by responding to them quickly, then effectively adapting your business to meet their needs. If you have, Owyang (and perhaps Maslow) would be proud.