Five reasons why social should be at the heart of digital transformation

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Immediate future's director of digital, Tom Ball.

In marketing, it can sometimes be hard to keep up. Brands are desperately re-structuring teams, updating/renewing/ripping out old technology and business practices in favour of new approaches – all with a view to engaging, building relationships and transacting with the connected customer of today.

If you’re like me, you will geek-out on the opportunities to cross-fertilize data streams, integrate new technologies, smash apart “the way we do things” and generally disrupt, rebuild and make better! If you’re not, I understand how digital transformation can seem like a scary and daunting prospect.

Whatever you mind-set, if you are thinking about digital transformation, you should be putting social at the heart of your plans as you move forward. Here are five of the many reasons why:

Your customers are social animals

This doesn’t mean they are all on Facebook - far from it. But they are human and they are social by nature. They are behaving and communicating as a person of the social age: consuming vast amounts of content, from a range of different sources, constantly connect via their devices, with high unwieldy expectations and bloody short attention span! If you ignore this point, you are not really embarking on true digital transformation – most likely you are building a new website!

Social data will teach you more about your customers and their behaviour

As the bunch at Crimson Hexagon would tell you, “social media is the world’s largest focus group”. They are right, you know. How much do you know about your customer? Beyond name, gender, age and an email address? The rich context of social media data can add a level of understanding about your customers, what they like and don’t like, how they communicate, what they think of your brand, what they want from you and from others. If you are embarking on one such digital transformation initiative, then you need to know who you are doing all of this transforming for right?

The future is not email

Sorry, but it’s not. Certainly not how most brands today use it. There is even talk that email will disappear from the workplace forever. While I’m not prepared to agree with that just yet, there is clearly a shift away from email. As generations of people migrate away from email, to social networks, from Facebook to Snapchat, from text message to WhatsApp it’s quite easy to foresee a future where the role for email – perhaps re-titled “Social CRM” - is much smaller than in the past.

Social data should be enriching your CRM / single customer view

Whether we are talking about an interaction with customer service agent on Twitter, a comment on a Facebook post, a click on a LinkedIn share button or a sign-in on your mobile app, social interactions, social signals and social data should be fuelling your CRM. Done right, this opens the door to engaging the customer on whole new level, cross platform with a seamless experience. It means providing useful, relevant, helpful, timely content, offers and products – potentially in real-time. Again, there is not a magic tool that will make this happen. Solving the complex problem that is connecting, integrating and utilising social data in building customer relationships is what digital transormations is all about.

Social media breaks down silos

One of my favourite phrases, coined by our chief exec Katy Howell, is “social is leaky”.

It gets everywhere, seeping into every department, challenging how we traditionally interact with customers and with each other internally and externally; challenging how PR & communications departments respond in a crisis; challenging how customer services respond to queries and complaints; challenging how HR teams recruit and build their employer brands. You get my point.

But in order to “transform” properly the whole business must engage in the process, and that is a ‘people’ thing. It’s the people within your organisation who will bring about change, not technology. The reality is that social media is already bringing more departments and people together than ever before, to solve problems, to develop new processes and create solutions. If you need a Trojan horse as part of your digital transformation project, or at least a prominent set of work streams at the heart of what you are doing, look no further than social media!

Tom Ball is director of digital at immediate future.

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