Back to Reality…

The last few blogs have been looking at the theory of social media in business, much has question-mark-1026526_960_720been covered and then applied to larger companies, often these companies have considerable budgets allocated to specialised departments who are dedicated to  the implementation and the continuation of the social business strategy. What I am interested to know is how do all these models effect the social business strategies of small companies? Do small businesses even have social business strategies? and, do any of these models apply to small businesses?


Selection time…

I was flicking randomly through my Facebook news feed and saw an interesting post on the local  community page of which I am member of.  An individual was sharing his business page with the local community ( and it was getting alot of interest I might add!) The business name is Harvest2Home , it is a family run business who buys fresh, pesticide free produce from local farmers and then delivers it free of charge. This business originated some time ago and relied solely on word of mouth marketing to ensure further orders, this continued up until about 12 months ago, when they decided to take the plunge and enter into the world of online communications, they had a website created and more recently have progressed to having social presence on Facebook.


Simply by choosing the most appropriate way for them to communicate with the online community is part of implementing a Social Media Strategy and now concentrating on achieving an effective Social Business Strategy,  determining how they will incorporate their Social media strategy with their overall business goals and values.  According to Li & Solis (2013) the Altimeters Group identified 6 stages which a business goes through when creating and implementing their Social Business Strategy, each business may take different amounts of time throughout the stages, but nevertheless, all of them will progressively go through every stage.


Altimeters 6 stages

graph-1019845_960_720Stage One: Planning: Although Harvest2Home launched their Facebook page it remained dormant for a number of months as they listened and took note of the conversations which were taking place online about healthy eating and the types of products they were to offer.

Stage Two: Presence: Harvest2Home owner posted on local pages as an individual sharing his business page….this created alot of attention and people started to like his page as well as place orders.

Stage Three: Engagement: From what I witnessed, the conversations grew, more people began talking about clean eating and were keen to learn more, this enabled interaction between Harvest2Home and the online community.

Following Altimeters model, Harvest2Home are still at stage three, however, as the online engagement grows this will take the business to the next stage : Fomalised.



friends-1027840__180The term Community of Practice (CoP) is one that very much applies to Harvest2Home. Defined by Wenger (2006)

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”

I can not think of a better way to describe this family business, every day is different and they are actively learning, supporting and sharing information on how best to approach various situations.

The Community of Practice consists of 3 components:

Domain: The family members take on a variety of roles to make the business a success. From packers through to buyers.

Community:Every member gets involved and supports the others in the different roles.

Practice: Sharing the resources. An instance arose after a week of expanding their reach to another geographical location, Harvest2Home had such an overwhelming response that the logistics of the operation proved to be somewhat difficult!  Some of the other members of the team assisted in dispatch and after the event it was decided to extend their human resource pool and employ another driver.


Cisco’s S.O.C.I.A.L Model

Ciscos SOCIAL policy is based around a framework of 5 components;

Enablement is really about empowering the employees, at Harvest2Home, although it is mainly one person who is responsible for the interaction on social media the other members are encouraged to write interesting posts and engage where necessary.

Intelligence: Harvest2Home do not have the luxury of a dedicated team who listen carefully to the activity online, however, they are still able to respond quickly. They also use a selection method to determine whether to use the private message facility to respond to a consumer, taking the story offline, or replying on the page for all to see.

Engagement:As it is mainly the responsibility of one of the team to post regularly it is relatively well controlled. Generally with just one person posting to one main platform, the tone is consistent and ensuring unique, interesting posts are being regularly placed, is easy to track.

Measurement: The reach and volume are very easily recognisable with this business type as the geographical location of the individual is usually accessible on Facebook, this is also controlled to an extent as the owner can target new markets by posting in specific geographical locations to develop new interest.

Advocacy: Whatever comment is left on Facebook the owner will acknowledge it regardless of its content. These comments help the owner to identify advocates and engage with them accordingly.

In their social media playbook, Cisco’s claims to be great listeners as this assists in the identification of emerging trends, sales leads, competitive insights and so on, this is relatively simple for a company who is able to dedicate professional analysts to this. Harvest2Home are also still able to be great listeners and have proven to react person-ably to their consumers comments.


Final thoughts…

It would be interesting to revisit Harvest2Home in 12 months to review their Social Business Strategy, I suspect additions in human resources will be inevitable which may have some or maybe even great impact on the Community of Practice.

Overall I am actually quite amazed at how these models can be applied to such a variety of tomatoes-1002158_960_720companies.  If I had taken a guess at the start of my research, I may have decided the odd model or some of their components may apply, but we actually see there is a definite structure to successful social communications within every business regardless of size or nature. The most common theme which was highlighted in the models was the importance of listening carefully and over long periods, as it can provide invaluable assistance in growth and development of the business.



 Cisco social media playbook 

Li, C. & Solis, B. (2013). The evolution of social business: Six stages of social business transformation. Altimeter Group. 

Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. 








All Very Strategic!

For anything to be successful it is usual to formulate a plan and this is no different when a business is looking at implementing social media into their overall business strategy.

hands-1167618_960_720Social Media Strategy: deciding on what platforms to use, what tactics to use and how to engage with the online community.


Social Business Strategy: concentrates on how best to incorporate social media so it is in line with the overall company vision and business objectives.

I suppose the way of differentiating between these two terms is to understand that a Social Media Strategy is more about the logistics… so we use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Blogs etc. Who will post and communicate with the community? The Social Business Strategy is related to integrating the social communications to the business strategy and ensuring the communications reflect the company goals and values. Achieving the right Social Business Strategy is extremely important. If it is done incorrectly the community may develop incorrect expectations or opinions about the company which can be damaging for the positioning of the company.


A Closer Look at Social Business Strategymagnifying-glass-29398__180

When looking at the difference in the two strategies, although both are important, I viewed the Social Business Strategy as the one that is potentially more damaging to a company, if they got this part wrong.  Its like pretending to be someone you are not. Guidance is needed!

Altimeter Group have published a report which identifies 6 stages which they suggest all businesses go through in order for the business to have a “fully formed, coherent and integrated social business strategy”.  Every business will progress through these steps at a different rate but each step will be applied.


Image from The evolution of Social Business. Altimer Group.


Step by Step…

Planning:This step is all about listening to what people are saying about your specific graph-1019845_960_720brand or product

Presence: Activate you Social Media Strategy and encourage the community to share

Engagement: Engage in dialogue and start to make relationships within the community

Formalised: Have set policies and procedures so any employee interacting on social media is aware of expectations and has company strategy and values at the  forefront at all times

Strategic:The interaction of the community on social media will cross all functional departments in the business so allow it!

Converged:The business is more of a social entity, where social media is integrated into day to day routine practice


Wanting Success?

Successful Social Business Strategies don’t just happen by accident!

Top Tips according to Altimeter:

  1. Always be clear about company goals
  2. Dont just plan for today, plan for the future and communicate these plans
  3. Get executives on board
  4. Decide on what social initiatives you want to do and what you dont want to do and allocate resources accordingly
  5. As social media encroaches on multiple departments make sure staff are trained and able to communicate effectively
  6. Ensure your team consists of the right people and the right number of people
  7. Think before you jump! Research the best and most appropriate technology selection

Lots of good ideas for those starting out on the Social Media journey!



Li, C. & Solis, B. (2013). The evolution of social business: Six stages of social business transformation. Altimeter Group. 

Help, Learn, Share, Grow…

I remember going to my first ever company conference, I had been working for a year or so in my new position as store manager for a family owned opticians which was made up of about 14 stores.  We were all sat at tables with people from other stores who we had not help-731870_960_720.jpgmet before so the room hummed quietly as people introduced themselves. The CEO made his entrance looking very smart as usual, he stood on stage and stripped down to a pair of shorts!!! After picking myself up off the floor, along with a number of other employees, he began to say… “we as a company must change and change starts here right now with each and everyone of us”.  He proceeded to tell us of his vision of staff who were empowered to make decisions, a variety of teams which consisted of optometrists, store managers, receptionists etc should be meeting regularly to brain storm on how we as a company could not only work better but smarter, gone are the days of hierarchical structure and rigidity, we were all one team working together to achieve success. This conference was several years ago but what Mike was actually trying to create back then was a ‘Community of Practice’.


The Theory behind it……

Theorist Etienne Wenger describes Community of Practice as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”. This is very different to communities where individuals communicate and interact with one another without having any particular commitment to the group for any length of time. Wenger describes the Community of practice as being made up of three essential parts;

  • The Domain: membership and commitment: receptionist, Optometrist, Dispenser, Manager all interested in smooth successful operations within the store.
  • The Community: relationships and interaction: the different staff members interact together regardless of job description and discuss, help and learn from one another.
  • The Practice: members and sharing resources: Experiences endured which are shared and the sharing of problem solving techniques, such as; dealing with customer orders which are delayed, Optometrist absenteeism and the effects on the clinic, the best allocation of people and resources to deal with these and other situations.

By developing a Community of Practice the business gains from a overall feeling of friends-1027840__180belonging, team spirit, collaboration, and unity. Gaining this feel within the business leads to greater efficiency and effectiveness ultimately focused on the business strategy, it allows for as well as encouraging the sharing of tacit knowledge and the growth of individuals along with the team.

As businesses are fast paced entities it is imperative to ensure not to become stagnant, the Community of Practice is very much about the members of the team/organisation sharing and learning from one another to develop better systems, procedures, ideas etc… This community drives the business.


In Conclusion…

To me it all seems like a win win but everything has 2 sides! The Community of Practice can be highly successful in the right structure but this model is a total fail if the organisation is one of strong hierarchical nature. Members must be able to contribute freely to the community regardless of organisational status. From the description above it is clear this model is not something that can be implemented over night by the CEO, all members have to buy into it, understand and believe in the company strategy and want to drive the business for the gain of all the members. This takes time, commitment and lots of listening.

My experience of belonging to a Community of Practice was one of excitement, friends-1015312__180empowerment, ownership, passion and growth, both as a manager of the business and as an individual. For example, monthly meetings would take place in conference centres where a member of each store would attend and share information, best practice, problems and issues.  Lots of brain storming would take place and the members would take back ideas plentiful to the stores where some of the ideas would be implemented. Due to these sessions barriers were broken down and members of the company began to be more integrated, which enabled one to call another to ask how to deal with an issue, fix a broken part etc without feeling intimidated or isolated.

Of course many businesses operate solely online and may have members scattered around the world, not just throughout the country. Again this causes problems with individuals building the Community; developing relationships, sense of belonging  and trust, and actively helping one another. Although the internet provides a great tool for communication via text, web cam, conference calls, social media etc, sometimes the personal touch can be lost or take longer to develop. The development of an online community is one which would be much easier to emulate, we can see this by Facebook groups.


Thinking about it, I would say that most modern companies, as opposed to the more traditional run company, strives to achieve a Community of Practice whether they are fully aware of the concept or not. I know from my experience it definitely made for a happier work place.





Cisco’s S.O.C.I.A.L


Cisco is a global leader in Information Technology which was launched in 1984.  They are leaders in the design, production and distribution of networking technologies.

They have created an approach to social media which complies to the following philosophy;

  • Scalable
  • Open
  • Consistent
  • Intuitive
  • Active
  • Limitless

In order for Cisco to encourage their employees to be SOCIAL every single person who is new to the company embarks in a training program which details the rules of being SOCIAL in a safe and productive way.

It has developed a framework to guide employees with using social media and its tools. The framework consists of five components;

ENABLEMENT: Every employee is encouraged to use social media, but more importantly they are given set guidelines on how to use the tools and company expectations of online activity and behaviour.

INTELLIGENCE: Some eye opening fact for you….

  • 50% of consumer Tweets to companies are being ignoredexclamation-point-64050__180
  • 70% of brands ignore Twitter complaints
  • 83% of consumers who complained on Twitter loved the response from those companies who did make the effort
  • 39% of companies do not track their social media responses, largely because they do not have a process in place to respond

Statistics from Cisco Corporation’s Cisco social media playbook

At Cisco they have a team of people who simply listen, by listening they are able to pull out information which requires attention and this is graded in importance, the greater the importance the quicker the response to the situation and so on. This listening also means the team can identify any emerging trends, product issues, industry trends, identify advocates and gain competitive insights. All of which are priceless!

ENGAGEMENT: is all about how often to connect, what should talked about, which social media network to use, who should be connecting regularly with the social media community?

Cisco have recognised the importance of social media and so have a dedicated team who are constantly listening to the conversations within social media communities, they are able to write interesting timely posts which engage people and create further conversations which contain objectives which focus on company goals, this is all done using a variety of media from blogs, which are very much owned by the author and comments added, Facebook where the online community gets involved in conversation. These conversations must be recognised and actively replied to for the marketer to build a relationship.

MEASUREMENT: There are 6 measurements Cisco use to monitor social media, those being;

  • volume: observing the amount of conversation is a great assessment of whether the post has been successful
  • Reach: the spread of the message
  • Engagement: how the people are interacting and spreading the messagemeasuring-tape-953422__180
  • Influence: measures how many people are following the company and the quality of their posts
  • Sentiment: refers to the tone the individual uses in their posts
  • Share of voice: the number of conversations about a particular brand or product, shown as a percentage


ADVOCACY: these are people who show genuine care and loyalty for the product. By listening to social media it becomes clear after a short time who is an advocacy for the company and who is not!



As with anything on the internet, caution should be taken.  In a business environment such as Cisco, it is wise to have  a ‘crisis management process’ this team is consistently listening and is able then to produce timely information for stakeholders.

What I noticed from researching the approach Cisco takes to social media and how it incorporates into their every day environment is the one word…..LISTEN.  They actively listen to what is being talked about on social media and are able to filter out the important comments or discussions which require immediate attention. Being able to prioritise it invaluable to taking control of the situation.  Cisco gains huge advantages by simply listening!

This has sparked interest in me as to what other models do organisations use to monitor their social media use?  Maybe there is no plan to the discussion on social media, maybe it is one that is hard to predict and is more reactive? If this is the case, is social media useful for the business?

I read this quote which I love, it is used in the Cisco Social Media Play Book….

“Would I want my mother to see this?”

I reckon if more of us lived by this simple quote social media would be a much nicer place 🙂





The 4 C’s

To be totally honest with you, until I was asked about the 4 C’s of social media I had no idea they even existed! So hopefully be the end of this blog we will both be a whole lot clearer!


So firstly what are the 4 C’s? 

The 4 C’s are a classification model which focuses on the actual functions of the components which make up social software, it was developed by N Cooke in 2008.  It comprises of:


  • Communication: these are the platforms where people can communicate with one another in a variety of ways; video, written messages, Sound etc.
  • Co-operation; people help others often in an informal way. They may share information such as links in order to assist.
  • Collaboration; people use tools to share knowledge and assist others in achieving solutions to their problems, such as wikis.
  • Connection; is the technologies or software used in order to share information.


The 4C’s Applied

Fig 1: The 4 C’s, Relationship to Formality and Interaction  of the Organisation 4csapproachfigure1xk8.jpg


By determining what culture the business has, you can place them on the grid above accordingly.  So, if a business was very formal and collaborative, it would be placed in the top right section of the grid.  Taking this position and applying to the grid below will enable the company to see which social software is best suited to the overall company culture.

The diagram below (fig;2) identifies which social tool is best suited to the type of organisation. Using the above example of the company who prefers structure and formality, they were located in the top right box of the model making them more suited to Human based computation and Wikis whereas an organisation who is less formal but still collaborative, they would be placed bottom right, signalling they would use social tools such as media sharing, Social searches and social cataloguing

Fig 2: Using The 4 C’s Model to  Identify the Most Compatible Social Software


Looking at the theory it seems like a useful model, have you applied your workplace to the model? Did it work?  Was it close to the social software you currently use? I would be interested in finding out how it stands up in practice 🙂




The Challenge…

No matter what we do in life there’s, more often than not, a challenge to meet us along the way.  This is no different with social media and businesses.  On one hand, social media allows announcement-1019756_960_720businesses to reach out and connect with potential consumers they would never have reached by using traditional methods of advertising and promotion, but on the other it opens the doors to vulnerabilities such as anyone and everyone voicing their opinion, be it good or bad, true or false.

And then there is the question of your staff using social media, should it be accessible from the organisations computers? Will they abuse it? Will it effect productivity? If you decide not to allow it will they just go ahead and use it anyway ?  When using social media, how can you ensure high level of security?  What about malicious activity? All these are real insecurities which many employers face.


Some facts and figures

  • Facebook recorded a staggering 800 million active users as of December 2011
  • More than 25% of large organisations (500+ employees) developed and use social networkingchart-1296049_960_720.png
  • 68% of organisations use social media to communicate with potential consumers and potential employees
  • 43% of employers are involved in monitoring the internet usage of their employees

So if over 800 million active users are signed up to Facebook any business would be crazy to ignore this database of potential consumers! Opening up your business to social media can be very effective if caution is used.  For example one of the most precious resources of a business is that of tacit knowledge, the experience and knowledge held in the heads of those experienced staff and often difficult to record or document.  Social media can be a very effective tool to assist with sharing this knowledge, it encourages relationships to be built within the organisational community. Building teams that feel at ease with one another and who interact well,  creates an environment where asking for help and sharing tacit knowledge is common place. Surely this is what every company aims for?

Numerous companies form their own social media which is closed to those outside of the company, this way the information remains private and secure to employees of the organisation.  This closed social media allows more control by top managers who are often very skeptical  about allowing employees to use social media as a form of communication in case it encroaches on effective work time.  Again, by introducing this simple method of sharing of knowledge, helps resolve issues more effectively by learning and developing from others past experiences.


Taking this one step further is a company called Best Buy.  The management encourage twitter-566341_960_720and request that the staff use Twitter to communicate with customers, discussing their queries and resolving any complaints. Best Buy have obviously embraced social media by recognising  every one of their employees are a potential spokesperson and so have encouraged this.  As an outsider looking in, I love this idea.  It empowers the staff to build relationships with customers and by encouraging this the management have stated which platform this discussion should take place on and therefore gives them the ability to monitor the interaction…perfect!


My feelings on the whole social media at work was once of skepticism but I really believe there is so much which can be achieved by embracing it and actively encouraging social media  into the organisation.  Not so sure I would encourage discussion with customers on Twitter to the same extent as Best Buy’s but I applaud them for encouraging this, after all in todays world it is highly beneficial to show people that yes ok you make mistakes but look at how we deal with them rather than playing your cards close to your chest and trying to keep control of everything. It is control, I believe, is holding many organisations back from the positive attributes that social media has to offer.



Mello, J. A. (2012). Social media, employee privacy and concerted activity: Brave new world or big brother?

Miller, A. (2011). Cultural barriers to organizational social media adoption. In J. Girard & J. Girard (Eds.), social knowledge: Using social media to know what you know (pp. 96-114). Hershey, PA: doi: 10.4018/978-1-60960203-1.ch006














Government ‘Tweets’ & ‘Posts’

architecture-931070_960_720.jpgIt’s not just businesses and individuals who post tweet and blog about their lives, many government personnel also use social media for a number of reasons.  Some have their own personal account only on Facebook and others use their own account as well as having a separate page which represents them in a more formal way.  It promotes their political standing to anyone who wants to listen.


Is anybody out there????          

There are two main differences in the accounts you can have on Facebook, an individual would have a personal account which they can search for friends and request Facebooalone-on-the-beach-1357494k friendship whereas a business opens a page, this page doesn’t have friends like the personal account, instead it is up to individuals to make the conscious decision to like your page, which then subscribes them as if they were a fan. So unless you are putting yourself out there and sharing good quality posts you’ll never be found!

Social media provides tools for sharing much of the knowledge which is not necessarily formally documented, it is more that of tacit knowledge and by sharing it often provides a great insight for both the hierarchy of the organisation as well as others (Mergel 2010). Numerous representatives of political parties have a Facebook page or Twitter hands-1167618_960_720account etc and this without doubt helps to reach those people they wouldn’t normally be able to address.  Once upon a time (not so long ago actually) if you were wanting to find out about the different parties and question their agendas you would attend the local government meetings which were often held at the community centre, those of us who couldn’t make it for whatever reason had to rely on other forms of information such as that provided by the media, which is renowned for its bias.

Social media then, cuts out that middle man and gets straight to the people (or their PR people who are running their social media pages) for their replies to your questions, these replies are straight from the horses mouth, so to speak, not slanted in anyway which often can happen when it is noted by reporters and is then rewritten for the daily paper the next morning. It was President Obhama who called for increased openess throughout politics back in 2009 (Lee, 2012). Social media can definitely be credited for assisting in breaking down the political silos by encouraging the sharing of information and making these members easier to access and therefore I think they become more accountable, which can only be a good thing right?

Who controls who can say what on these platforms? Where does privacy come? Who decides it is Ok to reply to a question which has been asked on Social Media and include a recently discussed government document?  These are all real drawbacks of Government representatives using Social Media to communicate with members of the public. The World Wide Web is huge and policing it is practically impossible.  The tools available on the web means that news, good or bad, is able to travel real fast! This is something that applies to us all, not just those posting and tweeting about their political lives and campaigns, was we hit that share, tweet or post button the information is out there, anything which makes governments more transparent can only be a good thing!?!

Here’s a link to a video which is quite interesting,  I think its worth a look.



Lee, G. & Kwak, Y. H. (2012). An open government maturity model for social media-based public engagement. Government Information Quarterly, 29, 492-503.

Mergel, I. (2010). The use of social media to dissolve knowledge silos in government. Accepted for publication in Public Administration Review