Time to get Business-Like with Social Commerce

Paul Fennemore – August 2011. 

Health Warning

Here are some home truths that creative social media marketing people will find outside of their brief, but CEO’s and Operations Directors should take heed of.

A project I ran with Oxford Brookes University that involved interviewing around 30 UK mid to large B2B and B2C organisations, found that those firms who were doing really well with social commerce had a lot in common.

Social Media is not just for Marketing

Social Commerce de-silos organisations and potentially involves many different functions of business.  Yes, Web 2.0 functionality is being used for marketing, but it can and should incorporate all business functions. For example, customer service management can use social media for handling queries and complaints cost effectively and in a very responsive real-time interactive way. It can also simultaneously exploit the potential of crowdsourcing and the consumer.

Those companies staying ahead of their competitors are using social media to involve their supply chain, their customers and independent specialists in the research and design of their products and services. Firms such as Proctor & Gamble and Eli Lilly, has proven the success of crowdsourcing by reducing R&D times by up to 35%. This is an outstanding outcome.

Dell, who has now trained 12,000 of their employees to use social networks in the name of Dell, runs Dell Ideastorm that’s encourages customers to post their suggestions as to how to improve Dell’s PC’s. 16,000 ideas have been posted, with 442 ideas having been implemented. These firms are unequivocally proving and advancing the idea of the virtual enterprise network enabled only by Web 2.0 functionality (known as social media to most people).

Effective Social Media/Commerce Adoption

Like it or not those firms who are using social commerce to the most effective ends have been working hard at implementing  it strategically and programmatically as you would do any key business process. That’s right, it’s a business process. Those firms who are adopting social commerce the most effectively consider it short sighted to view social commerce purely as another advertising channel.

Eight Business Competencies

The research found that those businesses who are adopting social media commerce the most productively tackled eight business competencies. I won’t go into each one in detail in this blog but you can of course contact me for the full report. One competency in particular was titled: ‘Informed Leadership’, whereby the business leaders, irrespective of being ‘Y’ Generation or not, had got up to speed with social commerce.

They knew their world was turning back-to-front with B2B, B2C and B2E transitioning to E2B, E2C, C2E and significantly C2C. A fundamental change is the way business communications is transacted.

Therefore, these well-run businesses went about social commerce strategically, aligning it to their corporate objectives and fully integrating it into their master marketing plan. They then realised that hiring a ‘Twintern’ (an Intern) to run their social media operations was likely to end in tears, so they courageously assigned serious budgets and recruited rare but vital people who have both Digital Marketing and eBusiness expertise.and formal qualifications.

These business pros then set about making social media all inclusive.  They implemented a social media governance and code of conduct policy in order to align their employees to the right ‘tone of voice’, brand messaging etc with the aim of getting their staff to be the firm’s voice acting as one making them a powerful positive force. They did not ban their staff from using social networks as many short sighted organisations still do.

Another key attribute of great social commerce adopters is that they have invested in social media tools to listen, monitor, analyse and then engage more effectively with their audiences.  They use these tools to help employ community building techniques such as Network Weaving.

My Oxford University project proved, based on grounded research and objective facts, that social commerce is a very productive business operation if approached as such.

Please contact me Paul Fennemore on paul.fennemore@viapoint.co.uk for the full report on how to effectively adopt social commerce.




Paul is a Managing Partner of Viapoint a social commerce services firm. He also is conducting further research on social media with Henley Business School and Oxford Brookes University as well as lecturing on social commerce at Henley.