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Making the case for social business: Appealing to the mind

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a believer in the idea of social business. You probably have some knowledge on the subject. You have probably even read a book or two (maybe more). Chances are also pretty good that at least some of you reading this are NOT the decision maker for whether or not your company proceeds down the path toward becoming one either.

But just because you believe in the extraordinary opportunities that social tools and processes can provide a company, doesn’t mean that you know how to get buy-in.

Today, I’m going to provide the first part of a framework for getting the social business buy-in you need to transform your company.

There will be three steps necessary to getting buy-in, and the first is to engage the decision maker’s mind.

We do this most effectively by walking them from the past into the future, making stops along the way to build a case that the world is changing, in some cases gradually, and in other cases explosively.

We need them to see that the world is smaller, faster and more connected. We need them to see that information is right at our fingertips and that connectivity is part of our everyday lives. It has forever changed how we: communicate, complain, promote, seek help, find information, and share information.

The key is to get them to see inevitability and change. To open the conversation for social business is simply to open the conversation for re-examining how we do things based on how the world has changed, and (likely) will change.

Here are the two interrelated factors to focus on:

(1) How we communicate and find information has changed

One of my favorite ways to illustrate this is to talk about services and to engage the decision maker directly.

“In 1995, let’s say you were looking for a *plumber, how would you find one?”

Inevitably, the answer is always the same. I’ve asked the question over 50 times and gotten “Yellow Pages” as the answer all 50 times.

“Now, in 2004, you’re looking for a plumber, how would you find one?”

The answer is always one of two things: “the Internet” or .. Google.

In just 10 short years, our collective behaviors changed in this country. The decision maker will see this because they know it is true, they’ve experienced it.

“How would you find a plumber now?”

The truth is, they may not even know, they may say “Google” again, and that’s not wrong…but it’s worth showing them several other possibilities.

  • Run a search on Twitter

  • Go to Yelp, run a search, and sort the plumbers by rating, then ask the decision maker which plumber they’d choose.

  • Go to Facebook and run a few graph searches for “my friends who work as plumbers” or “my friends that lie plumbing”

  • Pull out your iPhone and ask Siri, or pull out your Android and ask Google.

The key is to show them how many other options have emerged. Make sure to reinforce that this is about more than just technology, this is about human behavior.

Obviously plumbing is just an example and might not be the best way to make your case, so find the right example to make your case, but walk them through the steps.

The changing workforce and consumer

Here’s where the case really gets made in conjunction with the last points. According to research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a full 72% of online adults use social networking sites; and when you break that down by age you get some very interesting stats:

  • 89% of 18-29 year olds (millennials)

  • 78% of 30-49 year olds

  • 60% of 50-64 year olds

  • 43% of 65+

  • The 43% of 65+ individuals represents an increase from 13% in 2009

The 65+ crowd is using the internet more and more. Everyone is getting involved. But let’s back up.

  • Did you know that 56% of the current workforce is between 16 and 44?

  • Did you know that by 2025, 75% of the ENTIRE workforce will be made up of millennials?

Millennials are different, and what they expect from the companies they work for and the companies they buy from will require companies to re-examine internal processes, policies, and methods of communication with the outside world. Wait until the Gen Z audience starts using the internet.

All of this data points towards widespread adoption of the technologies that are changing the way we communicate and find information (see above). It also points to the necessity of understanding how these shifts will affect a business in the coming years.

The genie will not go back in the bottle, this train will not stop.


This post was first written for Social Business News in 2013 so some of the information and vendors may not be around anymore.


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