The Bottom Line

An enterprise or business looking to implement any sort of change to their company is undoubtedly concerned with the bottom line; i.e. the expected return on investment (ROI). Measuring an ROI is an important step to building any sort of persuasive business case to management. So, the question is how do you measure the ROI for a business looking to implement some Enterprise 2.0 functionality into their daily operation? The answer is unfortunately quite difficult. This is because many of the benefits to be seen from employing such a business improvement are that the biggest enhancements are not tangible. Martin Koser gives the best explanation:

“Buying and deploying IT systems is the easy part, and the bigger part is the soft stuff, like e.g. enabling and supporting collaboration. So we may start to add the hours of the people involved in our projects, and continue to count in all the costs that we’re guessing – it’s almost as hard to measure the “investment” as measuring the “returns” of social software in the Enterprise.”

Newman and Thomas give some examples of both hard and soft benefits. Hard benefits include additional sales from increased customer interaction, decreased technology costs, greater marketing efficiency and savings in customer support costs. The more important soft benefits include employee satisfaction, attracting better employees, and improved communication between personnel.

Let’s look at an example of a company you used a social media campaign to help them through some marketing issues. ShipServ is a leading e-marketplace in the maritime industry providing a portfolio of software, services and hosted applications designed to enable efficient global shipping. In 2008 they faced a few issues, including an image of being impersonal, limited marketing budget and a customer base that aren’t early tech adopters. They set out several objectives they wanted to achieve; 50% more website traffic in three months, raised brand awareness, new sales and a change of approach to customers. Shipserv realised that there were very few online communities in their business area and approached an outside marketing firm to create an integrated social media plan.

They took the following actions:

  • Research into customer information needs
  • Created a blog
  • Created a scorecard through their CRM system to examine visitor behaviour
  • Developed a quarterly content plan
  • Promoted original content
  • Crafted a series of papers for visitors to download
  • Joined LinkedIn
  • Search engine optimisation

Many of the benefits from these actions would be considered intangible, however some are not.  Website visitors, page views and average time spent on the website jumped up 59%, 70% and 25% respectively. They also received 300 visitors to their blog and 378 members in their network on LinkedIn. However the most telling figures for management must be those related to the bottom line. These include a 150% increase in initial contact to sales lead conversions, a 50% increase in sales lead to opportunity conversion, an 80% decrease in management costs and an increase to sales-ready leads by a massive 400%. The initial investment on the social media campaign was $30,000, which they made back in three months. An exact ROI from this sort of initiative is impossible to calculate, but given the fact that ShipServ’s blog and community is still very much active, I’d say they are still feeling the benefits of their $30,000 investment even today.


The Tale of the Library Long Tail.

The State Library of Queensland (SQL) is currently in a period of transition. Their recently released strategic plan aimed towards 2020 detailed their key services as well as key challenges. Some of these include challenges include barriers to access of content, the transformation of the creation of new knowledge and building infrastructure to ensure long term access to digital content. I believe that SQL can help tackle some of these challenges while also creating new value by correctly levering the long tail.

The long tail was first posited by Chris Anderson in 2004 and is discussed in depth on his website. Its main goal is to connect supply with demand when delivering services. In today’s Enterprise 2.0 world, organisations can afford to move away from providing a select few popular products and services and more towards providing a large number of niche products. The example Anderson discusses is ITunes and Amazon; these companies can stock a huge variety of goods as they can stock anything virtually as they are online based and not limited by shelve space. The idea is to take advantage of the many, smaller markets that individually don’t sell well, but as a collective add significant value.

SQL provides all of the main services one would expect when visiting a library either in person or online. These include access to print and online resources, free internet access, meeting spaces, printing and copying services to name a few. Some of their more niche services include centres of engagement for children (The Corner), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Indigenous Knowledge Centre) and arts, science and technology (The Edge), as well as jobseeker and business support and other public programs. This niche group is the one that may be expanded to assist SQL in adding value to their enterprise.

The main addition I would suggest to this list of programs is an online collaborative work space. Many businesses use this technology already and would be a simple way to encourage those looking for a collaborative environment to make SQL their first port of call and diversify their membership. With this diversified membership, SQL may also want to diversify their offered software, for example, they could deliver more specialized software in the design, engineering, science, health and business areas to name a few. Delivering services for the minorities in the community is also an excellent way to attract users that would otherwise not use the library. SQL could deliver learning programs for the disabled and mentally ill, once again beefing up that long tail of services.

So how does SQL connect this new supply to the demand? They can leverage the programs already in place to do this. A library member that exclusively looks at creative writing materials will probably want to know when the library is hosting a creative writing workshop. SQL can gather data about their users to point them in the direction of some of these niche services. A new marketing approach wouldn’t be a bad idea either; if the general population is anything like me, they will have no idea about half of the services that SQL offers. So, being adequately informed of all these new features will be of supreme importance also.


Commercial Blogging – A Trusting Environment

Over the past few weeks, we have been investigating various organisations and companies that use social media to their advantage. Now, we will look at an example of how company uses their blog to enhance their business and how this influences the value levers associated with Enterprise 2.0.

Professional Advantage is financial management software and service provider based out of Sydney. For 25 years they have been providing many large, high-profile businesses with the software and support they need, and have been successful at doing so. In late 2010, Professional Advantage established their own blog, dealing with a variety of related topics including business process management, budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence. The blog itself shows integration into other forms of social media, with the company’s Facebook, Instagram and Youtube all linked, with their own twitter timeline in the sidebar. So how has this blog enhanced their business?

Speaking generally, there is no doubt that social technologies play an important role to the revenue of a business providing a professional service. According to McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), that value comes in at around $240 to $360 billion dollars annually. Blogs have been shown to have a large influence on consumer behaviour. A 2013 Technorati report found that blogs are the 4th most used online service, the 3rd most likely to influence a purchase, and most importantly, the 5th most trusted online service. Consumers consider blogs to be trustworthy and as such are very popular and influential. As a refresher, MGI identified 10 value levers applying to four segments of the value chain that can add value in organisational functions. In the case of this blog published by Professional Advantage, the greatest results will be seen marketing and sales segment.

Scrolling through the many blog posts on the Professional Services website, a few things stick out. Firstly, on the initial visit to any post, I am greeted with a ‘Speak to the Experts’ popup form allowing the company to respond to any query I may have. While popups aren’t usually considered the most favourably object on your website, this one allows the company to directly engage with each individual guest if they so wish, creating a sense of individuality for each blog visitor. Each post also allows features live chat functionality, a common addition to many company websites over the past few years and provides several benefits. This again helps each visitor to build a rapport. Each post can also be commented on, encouraging conversations with the customers that may well be potential customers. The blog is aesthetically very pleasing, with each post correctly tagged for easy searching and author profiles at the bottom of every page.

Lastly, the actual content of the blog is a mix of general discussion, but also about individual products that the Professional Advantage sells. With titles such as ‘7 reasons to be excited about Microsoft Dynamics AX 7’ and ‘Upgrade or re-implement? A Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 story’, the intention of Professional Advantage is clear. That is, to discuss a relevant topic about their newest offering with the appearance of an unbiased slant. This is important; on one hand Professional Advantage is creating a connection and a rapport with a visitor, while on the other providing them with advice that may or may not be persuasive towards the sale of their newest products. Through the community they have created, they can also gather insights about what products customers find appealing or worthy of discussion, and can therefore target their product appropriately. This is an excellent example of a company using a blog to successfully create value across marketing and sales through a professional blog.


The News v The Law – Stupidity in a Nutshell

Last post, I discussed 7 News and their ability to be a constant presence in our lives through social media. This week, I plan to investigate some of the legal risks that may ensue from a news organisation that handles social media poorly. In particular, I want to investigate how the release of information to the public, whether knowingly or not, negatively impacts people’s lives. In the rush to get the most coverage on the break of a story, some news outlets can release facts that have not been corroborated and create some dicey legal issues, or more scarily, can endanger peoples lives. There are a few examples of this both domestically and internationally.

Starting with one of the more recent examples, the BBC found itself in hot water recently after one of its journalists mistakenly tweeted that The Queen had been admitted to hospital. While the tweet was quickly deleted, several newspapers around the world had already picked up on the story, including German and Indian newspapers. While the journalist originally stated that it was a prank, the BBC later confirmed that it was a rehearsal for the actual event that went wrong. They also confirmed that they were ‘tightening up’ their guidelines following the incident. For a reputable news organisation, this was a huge embarrassment for the BBC, but given the accidental nature of the incident, many people took the ‘live and learn’ approach to the situation.

An even more embarrassing moment came when San Francisco news station KTVU released highly incorrect and racist names live on air and social media for the pilots of the Asiana Airlines flight 214 that crashed in 2013, taking three lives. While first reporting that these names were confirmed by the National Transportation Safety Board, they corrected themselves later and apologized. However, not before the story was picked up elsewhere and was a complete disaster for the news station, resulting in a law suit and significant negative publicity worldwide.

Back on home soil, treasurer Joe Hockey was recently awarded $200,000 in damages from Fairfax Media due to a tweet made by the Sydney Morning Herald in July 2015. One particular phrase was determined by the courts to be defamatory; ‘Treasurer for Sale’. Joe Hockey became the first Australian politician to successfully sue over a  tweet, and given the use of social media by news outlets in increasing, he will probably not be the last.

I also want to briefly cover two incidents of a more serious nature; the coverage of the Paris terrorist attacks in January 2015 and the Sydney Siege in 2014. Both of these incidents involve poor news broadcasting on television, print and social media. Both involve the media potentially updating the perpetrator with live police and law enforcement movements and even the movements of the victims during their terrible ordeal. These are the definitive low point of what the constant strive for the most up to date and exclusive news coverage can provide and are what every news organisation has to avoid.

These sorts of situations differ from social media issues that can be resolved with the use of an employee social media policy. Here, instead of one rogue employee going on a tirade and impacting the reputation of their employer, we have organisations that negligently released information that potentially put lives at risk. A news organisation is a different entity from your normal business enterprise, and as such, they have some pretty specific legal implications from their use of social media. The Paris news agency is now facing several law suits that can hopefully set some sort of precedent, meaning that others might be guided from their mistakes.


Hot off the Press

News is an inherently social construct; constantly being discussed and absorbed by a large majority of the population. With the advent of social media, the way news is delivered to us has rapidly changed. According to Edelman, digital and social media have surpassed TV and print in terms of audience size and engagement frequency. With these new forms of distribution and consumption, the public are now able to interact with the news, give their opinion and listen to the opinion of others in an unfiltered setting; i.e. it’s yet another way of starting a conversation and delivering insights.

The McKinsey Global Institute conducted a seminal research paper in 2012 and determined that the organisations that stand to gain the most from the adoption of social media technologies are those that have a heavy reliance on consumer perception and those that need to maintain a strong reputation. These are both so crucial to a news network. They also identified ten social technology levers that social technologies can add value in organisational functions that apply to four segments of the value chain. These are Product Development, Operations and Distribution, Marketing and Sales and Customer Service (as well as one more that covers the entire width of the enterprise). I will be delving into the marketing and sales lever in respect to a popular Australian news outlet, 7 News, to see how social media has added value to their organisation.

It seems odd to talk about news organisation in the context of marketing and sales, but in truth there is very little difference from any other business. To put it bluntly, they are ‘selling’ their stories, and social media makes it very easy to do this. The three main social technologies used by 7 News are Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Each of these platforms has 628,000, 99,000 and 23,000 followers respectively. This means they can communicate directly with their customers instantly at a very low cost. Each of their stories can then be shared by other users, widening their audience further. Facebook in particular is excellent in achieving this; they can link a small snippet of a story with an attached link to their own website. Users then click on this link, generating income for the business through ad revenue and furthers their brand recognition.

News is obviously constantly changing, and the various 7 News social pages reflect this; every day, there is at least one update on social media per hour. Each of these stories can generate a discussion from anywhere between a few dozen people to several thousand. These conversations can be used to gather insights about public perceptions and advertising that can help shape future content for maximum impact and discussion amongst their consumers. Intermixed with these news update are carefully placed advertisements and promotions for other programs on their TV network, no doubt boosting viewing numbers there too. All of this at virtually no cost to the company. No wonder digital news consumption has overtaken TV and print!


Welcome to The Nutshell

Hi everyone – and welcome to The Nutshell; the place to go for a no-nonsense approach to all things social media. My name is Jonathon Stuart; I am 22 years old and an eager social enterprise consultant. What does that mean exactly? Well, my job is to assist companies by enhancing their business models to successfully setup and adopt social technologies. In 2015, a business without a social media presence is doing itself a disservice by not reaching the millions of active social media users. As such, the purpose of this blog is to share some of my thoughts about the industry and social media in general, while simultaneously building a profile for myself. It also gives me an opportunity to express myself and source feedback for my ideas and strategies – be part of and build a community.

I feel I will fall into Gladwell’s ‘Maven’ persona; one who will strive to provide the best and most up to date information possible. I plan to go about this and create useful content, first and foremost, through meticulous research. Then it is simply a matter of transforming that research into content that can be easily absorbed by all. The main roadblock to understanding these topics is the jargon and statistics involved with a social enterprise. The Nutshell is here to cut through waffle and deliver simple yet effective content.

Building an effective community is never easy. One must pass the crucial ‘starting up’ phase, while attracting new members and encouraging commitment are also challenges. Kietzmann posited about the seven functional blocks of social media; Presence, Relationships, Reputation, Groups, Conversations, Sharing and Identity. My goal is to focus on delivering content to encourage conversations and sharing within the community. When push comes to shove, I want to start a discussion to help further everyone’s understanding. Motivating others to share and contribute will always be the critical issue, but people will contribute if they believe it will result in value for them. This is the type of environment I seek to create. Stay tuned!

For reference, there are three main blogs that I frequent. Feel free to check them out – they are well worth a read!
The Information