Harnessing the Power of Social Media
The affirmative power of social media offers a transformational opportunity
for companies, making a significant impact in the way they do business. From
connecting directly with end customers and engaging with employees to
collaborating with partners, social media provides a significant value proposition
that companies ignore at their peril. As stakeholders increasingly adopt social
technologies, the potential of social media can help companies grow customer
loyalty, accelerate growth and unleash their potential. This paper provides insight
into how enterprises can effectively exploit social media technologies to build their
brand, increase sales and improve customer satisfaction.
Even as the flattening world creates new opportunities for
companies by opening up unexplored areas of growth, the
expansive reach and enormous potential of social media has
served to increase these opportunities exponentially. The flat
world is becoming social, where social media technologies are
enabling change and enterprises and consumers across the world
are adopting these technologies.
As pervasive technologies enable demanding customers to
become more networked, enterprises need to:
• Establish direct connect with their customers
• Drive awareness on their products and services
• Provide a platform for their end customers to seek support
and discuss issues
• Make their diverse employee base more productive and
• Monitor and maintain their brand value across the
Social media can be utilized by enterprises to address these
issues. Traditional mass media is limiting - users have content
pushed on to them, and their sphere of influence only extends
to consuming or ignoring the messaging. However, social
media gives control to the end users, where they can guide
choices, become engaged in providing feedback, participate in
discussions and collaborate with their peers.
Therefore, enterprises can leverage social media to mine the
collective intelligence of a community of users - be it their
employees, customers or partners. Outsourcing, as we have
known it, is legacy, and crowd-sourcing is the order of the
day. Social media enables user-generated content, community
formation, influence creation, and collaboration among
community users by means of various applications and tools.
Moreover, these technologies also endow enterprises with a
scalability advantage, allowing them to employ social media to
target any number of user bases. Thus, social media helps level
the playing field of the flattening world.
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Social media is abuzz with conversation about companies, their products and services, their branding,
their capabilities, and their ability to meet customer expectations. Companies cannot stop or control these
conversations. However, they can ensure that they become a part of these conversations, listen to consumer
Approach views, work to shape opinion, address issues, and foster customer loyalty.
for Thus, Web 2.0 comes with a critical rider. With the emergence of user-generated content, enterprises must
Social Media deal with the voluminous flow of reactions about services and products that hits them with an intensity and
pace that they may be unable to handle. To realize the potential social media has unleashed, companies need to
have a well-structured strategy - or they must pay a bigger price in terms of an adverse impact on their brand
The 4C Approach to Building a Social Media Strategy
Companies can leverage the advantages of social media Community is a powerful means of bringing together like-
using the 4C strategy - Content, Communication, minded people on a single platform where they can connect
Community, and Collaboration. with each other and collaborate on common themes.
Community establishes sense of belonging and engenders a
Content refers to both user-generated content and content
trust factor among members which helps in the sharing of
published by enterprises. Widely available tools and
knowledge and enables co-creation.
technologies enable users to generate content - video, audio and
images - and facilitate the participative process. A Collaboration tools provide a means for diverse teams to
company‟s social media strategy must empower consumers and work together effectively to achieve a common goal. Wiki is a
employees to create content in a trouble-free manner. The classic example of the effectiveness of collaboration
content can then be used by the company as a feedback where more than three million articles are created and
mechanism for social media initiatives. updated successfully by people from all around the world.
Effective utilization of collaboration tools improves team
Communication: Enterprises must have a clear strategy
productivity and enhances output quality.
on the varied channels through which they want to
communicate with their employees, partners and What binds this strategy into an active endeavor culminating
consumers. Blogs are an effective means of communication in benefits for the enterprise is the Listen, Engage and Act
where enterprises can have key stakeholders register their process. An ongoing process which helps enterprises
thoughts on some key issues and strategies. Direct internal reach the end goal of their social media initiative, it entails
and external communication of key messages by the senior „listening‟ to stakeholders, „engaging‟ them in productive
management can have a significant impact on stakeholders. conversations and taking visible „actions‟ on their feedback.
Area Purpose Social Media Tools/Technologies
Creation and distribution of quality Videos, Photos, Audio, Content Aggregation,
Content content Widgets, Mashups
Internal and external official Blogs, Micro blogging, Events, chats, Podcasts,
communications RSS feeds
Bringing like-minded people
Community together for a common purpose
Collaboration among employees and Wiki, Discussion Forums, Ask and Answer,
partners Review and Ratings, Social Bookmarking, Tagging
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Social Media Maturity Model
Enterprises are going wherever the customer is, to be part differentiate themselves from the crowd and engage with
of the conversation, to feel the pulse of the customer, and and satisfy customers.
to connect with stakeholders in an environment they find
However, before embarking on large-scale social media
comfortable. Beyond that, they are leveraging the power of
initiatives, enterprises must analyze where they are in
collaborative technologies for everything from community
the process of social media adoption. This helps them
building to product research and from marketing to
understand their current status in the social media journey and
define a road map to reach the highest maturity level. The
After all, the opportunity is clear. With most of their following are indicative guidelines to understand the various
customers online and connected, collaborative technology levels of maturity.
becomes a critical facilitator in helping enterprises
1 Reactive • Lack of a consistent approach for social media initiatives across the organization
• Governance and processes do not exist for social media usage within and outside the enterprise •
Different technology and solutions used for various implementations across the enterprise • Absence of
buy-in and support from senior management on social media adoption and roll-out • No common
group identified for anchoring social media-related initiatives
2 Proactive • There is a centralized social media group responsible for all initiatives, but driving adoption is
• Individual groups within the organization are convinced about social media; however, adoption is
happening in silos
• Some products and technologies are standardized but still not consistent across the enterprise
• Governance and processes exist but are still in an evolving stage and not adopted completely by
• No framework for measuring the success and ROI for different initiatives
3 Predictive • Organizational structure for driving and managing various social media programs is in place
• Well-defined social media strategy exists with governance and processes defined and enforced
• Technology, architecture and road map are in place and standardized for existing and new
• Mechanism for measuring the ROI on various social media programs is available
• Approach for analysis of inputs and feedbacks from different social media programs is available
and creates actionable initiatives
How Enterprises can Leverage Social Media
With growing competition, companies are continuously pushed to reduce costs, improve productivity and drive innovation. Social
media technologies help to achieve these goals by proper planning and without making huge investments. There are numerous
ways social media technologies can be leveraged within and outside the enterprise. The key to a successful social media roll-out is
not to do it as yet another initiative, but have a road map on where these technologies can be used. Moreover, the adoption needs to be
prioritized across various business scenarios.
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At a high level, some focus areas where social media engagements can be initiated are:
Customer Connect: Empowered by the collaborative technology revolution, consumers are spending more time online,
interacting with each other even as the number of social media sites keeps increasing. So it is important for the enterprises to be part of
Employee Engagement: Companies need to be more transparent and provide a platform to the employees to promote a culture of
openness, collaboration, co-creation, passion and innovation to succeed in the current environment.
Sales and Marketing: Enterprises must focus on increasing the relevance and preference of their brands in the online social space.
Great brands do not tell their own stories but empower and enable the consumers who can tell great stories for and about them.
Connecting with Customers
... Young people are so convinced of the value of peer networks that they will
trust the advice of a total stranger over that of a professional marketer ...
Paul Gillin in „The New Influencers‟
Social media helps feel the pulse of the customer first-hand, an activity that has traditionally been carried out through surveys and polls
by a third-party.
Establishing a new relationship with customers, one that involves a hitherto unpracticed two-way communication, companies must
engage with them, utilizing the already present customer base and deploying social media for customer care. Enterprises must provide
a platform for their customers and enable them to discuss their products and services in social properties which can be monitored by
them. This transparency helps build trust with customers and strengthen the brand.
The social media strategy must ensure that consumers transform from being mere listeners who browse content to active
participators who become brand advocates providing recommendations to peers.
Customer Peer Support: Customer support communities enabled with relevant content and tools
provides an easy way for customers to resolve their issues which helps in reducing customer service and
support calls. „Discussion forums‟ and „Ask and Answer‟ are excellent tools whereby active customers
can support each other, thereby reducing support cost to a great extent.
Idea Management: Idea management solutions can help directly invite suggestions and ideas from
consumers on improving their experience or getting inputs for a new product or service. This will create a
sense of ownership on the brand they like and enable them to participate in the improvement process.
Product Feedback: This involves using discussion forums and communities to get product suggestions
and feedbacks directly from the end consumers. These forums must be made transparent with active
participation from key stakeholders on the suggestions.
The HP Support forum, which won the Forrester Groundswell Award for 2010 in the support category, is a great example of how HP
used this community to improve customer satisfaction and reduce support costs.
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Engaging the Employees
Only 31% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs
As companies grow in size and employ a geographically distributed and culturally diverse workforce, effective collaboration and
co-creation among employees become increasingly challenging. This is especially the case when, as usually happens,
information is generated and consumed in silos. This makes finding the right information at the right time a near impossibility, creating
a potent - though common - barrier to growth.
Social media is a catalyst for collaboration, enabling effective co-creation, and efficient knowledge management. It helps integrate
innovative insights in real time to help ensure that companies meet their requirements in designing products and services that reach
the market faster. This facilitates innovation and improves the overall productivity of the workforce.
Workforce Collaboration: Using email as the primary collaboration tool within the enterprise
Key is no longer the productive approach. Social media tools and technologies provide a means for the employees to
Scenarios get to know each other and collaborate effectively which helps increase workplace productivity.
Knowledge Management: Information silos and the inability to contact the right people at the right time
are among the bigger challenges facing enterprises today. Wikis, communities, and Folksonomies help
create and structure the content collaboratively and enable employees to find the right information quickly.
Drive Innovation: Social media tools provide an ecosystem where employees can come and share their
ideas and suggestions for a product or process, discuss and debate about them and eventually make
Dell is one of the pioneers in using collaboration technologies for employee engagement. Their Employee Storm internal
community has made a significant difference in connecting their 80,000+ strong workforce and driving innovation.
Sales and Marketing Engagement
40% of Nike community members become converts to the company’s shoes
Trevor Edwards, VP of Global Brand Management
The customer is demanding exemplary service, low-cost tailored products and a positive experience across multiple product
channels. Social media has given enterprises another channel with which they must satisfy customers even as it presents another
opportunity with which they can engage with them for sales and marketing.
As consumers rely more on social networks to find out about products and services, enterprises need to look away from
traditional top-down marketing strategies. Connecting with customers by joining them in their space on their terms, they
foster a holistic relationship of opportunity that gives returns to both parties in influence and investment. This is critical in a
dynamic marketplace, where due to increasing costs and growing competition, companies are forced to reduce their marketing
spends. Social media has a comprehensive reach, allowing enterprises to connect to an ever-growing online audience without
having to make huge investments unlike with the traditional TV and print media. Thus, social media-enabled marketing helps
achieve more with less.
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Brand Building: Companies need to be more transparent with their customers in terms of communication
and responses for building their brand. With the increasing popularity of social media, shaping brands is
more in the hands of the customers rather than the brand itself.
New Product Launch: Social media is a great platform for creating the right buzz before launching a
new product or service. The marketing team can invite the SMEs to write blogs or publish their video
interviews on the products to create awareness and generate interest.
Marketing Campaigns: Running periodic marketing campaigns can be planned and executed effectively
through various social media avenues. The key difference with social media campaigns is that they
encourage end-user participation which is a more inclusive approach and pays greater bigger dividends
through increased sales.
Young & Free Alberta is a great example of how a credit union successfully connected with its young target audience of between
17 and 25 years by creating a community and providing a platform to connect and discuss their issues. This resulted in $4M increase
in new deposits from 2000+ new accounts.
Social Media Concerns and Challenges • There is no proven way of measuring the ROI in social
media initiatives and enterprises need to develop their
Even as it brings a world of opportunity, social media comes own model based on experience
with its own set of challenges for companies where security,
privacy, information sharing and controlling are of utmost • Need to seamlessly integrate an enterprise‟s social
importance. Before embarking on a large-scale social media channels with third-party sites such as Facebook,
implementation, enterprises need to have a strategy in place YouTube, Twitter, etc.
to address some of these issues in a proactive manner.
Some of the key challenges while implementing social
• Infosys Social Edge Platform (http://www.infosys.com/
• Need for tight information security controls to ensure
that only correct and consistent information is shared
• “The new Influencers” by Paul Gillin
with the outside world across multiple channels
• Define and rollout comprehensive social media policies • Young & Free Alberta http://www.youngfreealberta.com/
and guidelines and make sure awareness is created both • http://www.forrester.com/groundswell/talking/common_
internally and externally welath_credit_union.html
• Strategy must be constantly revisited and updated in a • http://Forrester.typepad.com/groundwell •
fast-changing technology landscape
• Provide an integrated and consistent social media
experience, rather than using point solutions for various http://www.blessingwhite.com/eee_report.asp
social media initiatives
About the Author
Shanmugam Periasamy is Group Project Manager with the Business Platform Group of Infosys. He has more than 16 years
of IT industry experience, providing and implementing business solutions for global customers.
His area of expertise includes customer delivery, program management, solution development, and implementation
leveraging the global delivery model. He has successfully managed several large-scale social media implementations for
various customers under the SaaS model using the Infosys SocialEdge Platform.
Infosys - View Point | 7
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