The independent research company Forrester provided again pragmatic and forward-thinking advice to business and technology leaders with its report on how social technologies dramatically change the way of communications and collaborations.

To succeed in today’s Web 2.0 world, companies must make fundamental changes to resources, skills, tools, processes, and culture, Forrester stated, calling this process of change “Social Maturity”.

As more customers and employees increasingly use cheap, accessible technologies, companies need to prepare their organizations for a new way of engaging individuals. Ultimately, companies must ensure that employees have the necessary skills and technologies to solve their customers’ problems by using social, mobile, and video technologies effectively:

1. Customer advocates generate higher profits

Social technologies give customers more access to the brands they love. This in turn enables brands to energize advocates, the 16% of people who make 80% of the online conversation. These empowered organizations engender customer loyalty and smartly leverage earned media, resulting in higher customer lifetime value and a more efficient advertising spend.  

2. Streamlined business processes lower operating costs

Email, file sharing, and intranets give employees limited access to knowledge and talent in large companies. Social technologies, by contrast, change the way people connect and share information within a company — just as social networks have done in their personal lives. Employees armed with community tools and internal blogging can more easily share information, while business process management augmented with social technologies will create a more streamlined workflow.  

3. Co-creation increases product success rates

New technologies allow customers and employees to have a greater voice in the product development cycle. By incorporating greater input of people closest to supply and demand, companies can expect lower rates of product failure, faster ideation, and ultimately more successful products and services.

Mature at an organizational level

One of the key facets of the empowered organization is the use of social technologies to transform the company’s communication and collaboration. Companies will grow more familiar and facile with these tools through a process that Forrester calls “social maturity.”

Contrary to conventional wisdom, social maturity isn’t just a thriving advocacy program or social sign-on website. While those are important early steps, social maturity goes deeper, representing a fundamental shift in your company’s organizational and cultural mores.

Forrester has identified six criteria for you to address on the path to maturity: 

1 Experience: This is as straightforward as it gets — if your company isn’t using any social applications, then you can’t even reach an early stage of maturity. But it’s not just implementing technologies; it’s also documenting and sharing knowledge across the organization.  

2 Resources: Social maturity requires new responsibilities and skills. Not only are new people needed to manage technologies and the conversation created, but many current employees will need training and guidelines. And as employees’ skills and responsibilities change, so does the organization. Most companies must go through a similar process: They start using social media in a decentralized manner as social technologies spring up organically; then they turn to a centralized model to coordinate; and finally they decentralize by empowering relevant employees to use social tools to do their jobs.  

3 Process: You can plan and organize for social applications, but if you haven’t created the workflow for how to manage them, then you cannot advance. This not only includes how to manage a community or listen to the social Web but also how to incorporate social technologies into existing business processes. There are three types of social processes:

a) task-oriented (e.g., a process for energizing advocates);

b) cross-functional collaboration (e.g., cross-departmental business rules for how to use a shared technology); and

c) business process change (e.g., social co-creation).  

4 Measurement: Valuing social tools and contributions is critical and requires basic data collection, the use of quantitative and qualitative measures, and the move toward Social Intelligence with the ability to tie it back to real business objectives.

5 Commitment: To mature, management must commit by creating a companywide vision and developing a long-term plan for empowering employees and customers.

6 Culture: A socially empowered culture is both top-down and bottom-up. Senior management sets the social priorities relative to other strategic programs. At the same time, the groundswell must also take hold organically with more employees buying into the benefits of using social technologies to do their work.

Using social media as a form of marketing has taken on whole new challenges which are more in detailed explained in the complete Forrester report online.

By MediaBUZZ