FIR Interview upcoming on Altimeter Group’s Social Business Readiness survey

Your FIR co-hosts are planning an interview for next week with Altimeter Group‘s Jeremiah Owyang about the release of a new study, "Social Business Readiness," released today – the presentation is embedded below.

In preparation for the interview, we’re sharing some of the study’s highlights in this post. Let us know in comments here or in the FIR Friendfeed room if there are any questions you’d like us to ask Jeremiah.

Companies are at various stages of integrating social media into their business processes. (Interestingly, a third of the companies surveyed reported that their social media efforts aren’t meeting business objectives.) At the top of the pyramid are "advanced companies," those that are defining best practices. The 18 companies (out of 144 surveyed) prepare for social business by…

Establishing baseline governance

All 18 advanced companies provide open access to social media for professional use. Five require approval, seven allow employees to engage providing they abide by guidelines and six actively encourage employee participation. None discourage the use of social media; instead, these organizations support employee use of social channels with policies and education.

Most of the advanced companies (72%) offer means by which policies are reinforced and employees learn about policy updates and revisions. Of of the 144 companies surveyed, 74% don’t have such baseline processes.

Adopting enterprise-wide response processes

Enterprise-class companies maintain some 178 corporate-owned social media accounts across the spectrum of platforms. "As workflow across the enterprise becomes more complicated, consistency and efficiency decrease, while risk increase," according to the report. 14 of the advanced companies surveyed have established processes for conducing triage on issues that arise to ensure efficiency and consistency and minimize risks. The Air Force’s response matrix is one example. The report points to H&R block’s needs assessment as another.

Thirteen of the advanced companies also prepare for worst-case scenarios (while 56% of all 144 companies are unprepared for a social media crisis). 96% of companies with a formal crisis plan in place felt prepared for an event, compared to only 22% of those without a plan.

Developing ongoing education programs

Most of the advanced companies surveyed (72%) keep their organizations’ social media practitioners up to speed on social media with programs such as brown bag lunches, speaker series and internal conferences, while only 34% of all companies have ongoing education programs in place. Best practice sharing is another characteristic of advanced companies, something only 35% of companies across the board are doing. Education reduces risk, according to survey respondents.

"For example," the report notes, "companies with a policy in place are more likely to have employees who know how to safely represent the brand in social media, 62% compared to 23% of companies that did not."

Best-practice sharing and leading social media through a dedicated, shared central hub

In larger organizations, up to 13 different business units are actively engaging customers in social media. The chart below details the extent to which various company functions are formally involved in customer-facing social media efforts:


"Without proper coordination, this widespread adoption can result in a fragmented customer experience, duplication of resources and increased costs," according to the Altimeter report.

Advanced companies embrace scalable leadership models to minimize that risk. At the centre (or hub) of this hub-and-spoke model is a centre of excellence, a cross-functional group responsible for coordination the company’s social media strategy, governance, training and education programs, along with research, measurement frameworks and vendor selection. These teams routinely include corporate social strategists, social media managers, community managers, web developers, education managers and liaisons from business units.

The centre of excellence (which is the actual name given this group by 16 of the 18 advanced companies identified in the survey) are well positioned to address issues and crises that may arise. Seventy-three percent of companies that have established these teams have clear leadership on social strategy, compared to only 31% among companies without such teams. Fifty-three percent of companies with a centre of excellence "report benefitting from a coordinated approach to social media, compared to just 21% of companies that do not have this team," the report says. Despite the steps advanced companies have taken, the study found that even the most forward-looking organizations lack the following attributes:

  • Applying social media feedback — Sixty-six percent of companies have no process in place for using insights from social media to fix problems and improve products and services.
  • Integrating social data into existing systems — Nearly three-fourths of companies are not integrating customer data generated from social profiles and interactions into customer relationship management (CRM) systems, support programs, email marketing and other systems.
  • Formal measurement strategies — Only 25% of companies have measurement frameworks that inform decisions about how to use social media across the enterprise.
  • Cohesive, mature technologies — Less than a third of companies have standardized internal tools for monitoring, analytics, community management and other dimensions of social media.

The Altimeter Group works with its clients to adopt the company’s Social Business Hierarchy of Needs (another adaptation of Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy). We’ll talk with Jeremiah about the model during our interview on the results of the study.

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.