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How Social Is Your Enterprise? Reflections from Social Media Week

Early on 16th of February, a motley group of social media, marketing and communications enthusiasts gathered in the quaint Arts Theatre in Central London to hear speakers discuss the future of the enterprise: a social future. Titled as, 'Making Social Part of Your DNA,' the agenda promised a mix of B2B and B2C focussed content from a set of diverse speakers from brands like, Virgin Atlantic, Cisco, Dell. My employer, Ketchum Pleon, was well represented too with four of my colleagues accompanying two of our clients and with our very own, Gianni Catalfamo, European Digital Director joining a panel discussion on 'Who Owns Social Media?' 

Is there an alternative to not having social part of your DNA?

I was pleased with how the conversation around the use of social media has progressed from 'whether or not to do' to 'what are better ways of doing it' to 'give me a good reason why this is not central to your business.' The event had several case studies to show organisations at different stages of maturity in making social a part of their DNA. I couldn't stay for the full day, billability demands and all that, but was a happy bunny following the conversation on twitter using the hastag #smwdna. Days after, I've been reflecting on what I learnt that day and the key learning I wanted to share was mainly from the opening keynote by's Chief Scientist, JP Rangaswami, who talked about the importance of building a social and sustainable business.


JP began his talk asking 'when did social stop being part of our DNA?' He pointed out that for time immemorial, man has always been a social animal. With the evolution of new ways of being social through access to new technologies and devices, there is an abundance of the ability to share, connect and collaborate. The trade-off for this abundance of connectivity is a scarcity of privacy and of peace of mind that will impact how organisations interact with their ecosystem of employees, customers and the community at large. 

The great shift from the past to present and future tense 

The big opportunity, he points out, is the move to the 'Intention Economy,' i.e. the ability for organisations to understand customer needs not as events that happened in the past and as recorded by customers, but in real time, as consumers slowly discover their social prowess by voicing their intentions and aspirations publicly, through social networks as 'I wish...' or 'I am...' These 'intentional' signals are coming in at the rate of knots and the challenge for organisations is to be able to capture and analyse this rich data into consumer behaviour and make intelligent decisions on how to respond and address needs. As a marketeer myself, I can't help imagine how fundamental this is for organisations to avoid strategic drift, stay abreast with a dynamic market and not go the way of the dodo. And I wonder how many organisations are really set up to take advantage of this kind of intelligence. 

JP then went on to explain the importance of having a holistic understanding of how information flows between customers and distribution and supply chain and staff, the potential 'friction' caused by inaccurate data and the ability to minimise waste (time and money spent) by making sure data flows seamlessly through the connected, social enterprise.

Here are three bits of advice he closed with:

  • There's no point talking about a social DNA if organisations don't accept and understand that customers have a social profile that is part of their DNA. As brand and reputation consultants, we have to remind ourselves to help our clients 'listen' to the conversations before recommending campaigns to improve 'share of voice' in them. I'm still astounded by the number of brands that use social media networks as broadcast channels.
  • Make sure employees are connected with customer profiles and are empowered to engage. "It's not enough to say I'm hearing you/I've listened," brands have to respond.
  • And finally, allows customers to talk to each other - they are anyways. It's our chance to be a part of the conversation or be left out.

In case you'd like to hear a more coherent expression of any of the above, here's a link to JP Rangaswami's blog called 'confused of calcutta' (he explains why in the blog). If you want to check out other resources from the event, visit the site 'Making Social Part of Your DNA.'

Here's a short video of JP Rangaswami introducing the topic before the event:

J.P. Rangaswami @Social Media DNA from Tigersonic TV on Vimeo.

I've attended a fair share of industry conferences on the future of marketing and public relations in a digital age and I've got to say, it's seldom that I've seen a demonstration of a proper, globally aligned effort to deliver an enterprise strategy with social as part of organisational DNA. If you know of any examples please do share, I'd love to hear.