June 30, 2011
Sandy Carter is Vice President of Social Business and Collaboration Solutions Sales and Evangelism at IBM where she sets the direction for IBM’s Social Business initiative, works with companies who are becoming Social Businesses, and is the evangelist for the concept and best practices around Social Business. She is the best-selling author of two books, an avid social media evangelist, and is one of the top Bloggers and Twitter-ers in IBM. Prior to her current position, Ms. Carter was VP, Software Business Partners and Midmarket where she was responsible for IBM’s worldwide software ecosystem initiatives.
Ms. Carter holds a B.S. degree in math and computer science from Duke University an MBA from Harvard, and is fluent in eight programming languages. She received a patent for developing a methodology and tool to help customers create a technology deployment path in automation of their IT processes.
How do you define social media?
Actually, we don’t think in terms of social media. We think of the broader concept of “social business.” Social business elevates social media to be used in a work setting, speeding business along with real-time insight and making social interactions truly impactful to a business.
We define social business as a nimble, transparent, and engaged two-way dialog that removes boundaries between experts inside and outside of a company. We strongly believe that social businesses will be more agile, more responsive and more successful than non-social businesses. They’ll activate networks of people to improve their processes, marketing, customer service and more to create a higher return on investment. We’re already seeing from our 2010 Global Chief Human Resource Officer Study that high performing companies – those with better stock prices, profits and business results – are 57 percent more likely to use social techniques in their companies.
What B2B uses of social are you seeing now?
In a B2B environment, you want to build a trusted relationship, drive brand advocacy, and create dialog across communities and channels. B2B is more about developing your best friends whereas B2C is more about developing a party with a big group of friends. B2B client relationships tend to be deeper and take a little longer. You can see that difference in how two companies used social in product innovation.
Consumer-focused Coach developed a forum for crowd-sourcing one of its bags. They had something like 6 million engagements – a great response from a broad audience.
On the other hand, we recently worked with a company focused on tapping a small private community in biotechnology. They also wanted the community to provide them insight on their next generation product through social. But this company accessed a smaller set of influencers in a private community for brainstorming and sharing insights on breakthrough ideas.
But being a social business isn’t just about B2B or B2C. There’s such power in using social media even inside a company. Collaborating inside is a powerful way to share expertise, develop products, and make business decisions faster and cheaper. Slumberland Furniture, a small Midwestern furniture company, uses social media internally to train its franchisees. They do video training, share best practices real time, and have debates across their 120 franchise stores. They’re able to leverage ideas and best practices from experts within their own business environment.
How is social driving IBM’s growth?
IBM leverages B2B marketing by embedding social in everything we do. A great example is how we used social with Watson. Watson is a DeepQA machine that can understand natural language and deliver a single, precise answer to a question. Most people know Watson as a recent Jeopardy contestant but the technology represents a huge leap forward in data analytics technology that will have a big impact on business and industry. We used social to connect people to Watson and spark their imaginations about what the technology could do. We sponsored Watson parties where customers could watch the Jeopardy event, talk to our scientists live about it and tweet about it. Watson has a Facebook page. He’s got a Twitter ID and a YouTube channel.
Now, we’re using social to showcase how the technology can help in healthcare, supply chains, and customer service and support by being able to analyze data and find problems before they become problems. We’ve enabled our sales teams with a content activation package with all the Watson facts and figures. We have really filled up our pipe and focused on lead generation using a Watson starter kit. The approach we took with Watson truly exemplifies a change in our marketing and sales processes leveraging social.
Internally, we use our community platform – IBM Connections – to connect a leadership network. We’re a very complex matrix organization that is constantly building the next generation of leaders. We share best practices, education tips, and opportunities to grow. Social provides us a way to strengthen informal networks and create new relationships.
We have also documented real savings from our internal collaboration efforts. In 2010, we saw a 50% productivity improvement in some areas and $4.5 million in savings using inside collaboration. We saved $700,000.00 per month in travel using video collaboration, and had significant reduction in e-mail server costs.
What’s important in a social business strategy?
We have a framework for social business that we call our social business agenda (see graphic below). It starts with a company aligning its goals and culture. If you don’t do that, you may get a lot of hits, views and fans, but that’s not what this is about. Eventually, it is about impacting your business, so if you can’t show business results and align business goals to it, it’s just going be something on the side.
The second thing we do is we teach companies how to gain friends and develop social trust. As a B2B company, you want to find your “tippers”, those important influencers. Our studies and those of the analysts show that somewhere between 5% and 16% of all the authors and engagers in the blogosphere influence everyone else. So, if you are trying to make an impact, you don’t need to go after a million people, just the 5% of that million people that will influence all the others.
Once you know your goals and who your friends are or need to be, we define the engagement experiences that are important to those people. Then, we look at which processes will deliver the best ROI for you, and which of those you want to socially enable. Is it human resources, marketing, customer service? What’s really going drive ROI for you?
The fifth step is to help you develop a reputation and risk management plan. This is the number one concern of most C-level executives I talk to. They tell me, “Social is too risky. I can’t do it.” But not doing anything is just as risky because people are already talking about you. It’s better to be the one setting the tone and trying to engage in a positive way than sitting back and allowing the conversation to be random.
The last thing is we focus on is analytics. This is a combination of software, services, and plain old planning. IBM is also a great social business, and we take the lessons we’ve learned and share those publicly.
What social trends do you think we’ll see in the next few years?
I see the whole area of crowd-sourcing and expert sourcing becoming more popular. I see mobile growing exponentially. Social gaming will be on the forefront of how we learn and the way we interact with brands. And location based services are at the cusp of making a big breakthrough.
And, of course, this whole area of socially enabling your business processes. Back in the Internet and early e-commerce days, I’d talk to companies who would laugh at me and say, “No one’s ever going to use the Internet for business. It’s just not going to happen.” Now, of course, you can’t have a business without the Internet.
I think the same thing is happening in terms of social business. I see a lot of companies saying, “That’s for kids, something my daughter does. It’s not going impact my business.” But this will be a bigger trend than the Internet was and it will be more important to get in early. E-commerce was more of a technology play but social business is a people play. Social is relationship based so getting involved early will help build relationships and create a time advantage that will make a difference. We know social businesses are outpacing their competition and accelerating growth.