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The Wall Street Journal: What Keeps Companies From Thinking Digitally?

Clara Shih, CEO and author, says the problem is often a lack of leadership

MCX110113_147Consumers are spending more and more time online and on social-media sites. Yet many companies have yet to adapt.
That’s the argument made by Clara Shih, chief executive and co-founder of Hearsay Social Inc., a maker of digital marketing software founded in 2009, and a director of Starbucks Corp. Ms. Shih – who has written a new book on the subject called “The Social Business Imperative” – argues that every company needs to accept the fact that it, too, must become a technology company.
In other words, opening a corporate Instagram account won’t cut it.
Ms. Shih spoke with The Wall Street Journal about her role at Starbucks and what’s holding larger companies back digitally. Following are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Everyone’s job
WSJ: What do you see as your role on the Starbucks board? Is it fair to say you’re a digital ambassador to the company?
MS. SHIH: My job is to be a director. You can initially start with digital ambassadors, but ultimately digital becomes so strategic that it’s everyone’s job. You can’t delegate it to a single director or small group of directors. You can’t delegate it to a social-media team or to the digital team. It really has become everyone’s job, whether you’re a CEO, chief marketing officer, front-line salesperson, customer support.
I contribute like anybody else. I ask questions. I offer specific insights. The questions and insights that I tend to volunteer often come from the Silicon Valley startup culture. I by no means am the only person who asks those types of questions, nor are those the only types of questions that I ask.
WSJ: You joined the Starbucks board in 2011 and now it’s 2016. How has the company evolved in that time?
MS. SHIH: We continue to become more technology-oriented. A number of the directors are really digitally savvy. It’s really independent of tenure and generation. I think having Kevin Johnson – having been an executive of Microsoft and Juniper – appeals to Starbucks in that this is a technology executive who really infuses that DNA into Starbucks. It’s further reinforcing that Starbucks is a technology company.
WSJ: In your book, you argue that, today, every company has to be a tech company. What does that mean?
MS. SHIH: You have to be where your customer is. If your customer begins their buyer’s journey online or if they want to complete their buyer’s journey on social, mobile and digital, of course, you have to be there too.
When I think of the store experience, it’s not just the physical merchandising and layout of the store. People are often on their devices when they’re in the store, so part of the store experience is the Wi-Fi, it’s the content we can deliver through the Wi-Fi, it’s the mobile app.
WSJ: Are companies embracing this perspective?
MS. SHIH: I think most are doing something and they’ll acknowledge that technology and digital are important – but it’s all about execution. Transformation is much more than putting up a Twitter account and training your customer-service rep or marketing team to tweet.
The need for leadership
WSJ: What’s the stumbling block?
MS. SHIH: Here’s the thing about companies: They’re made up of people. Of course, there are people within the company who view technology and innovation as imperative. But there are also a lot of people, especially in big companies and especially in regulated companies – take any of the banks that Hearsay works with – whose job it is to minimize risk. We see this with Hearsay, too, where a chief marketing officer or a head of sales will say, this is great. Then somebody in compliance looks at it and because their mandate is to reduce risk they say no. That’s why companies can’t move forward. They kind of get stuck.
Unless CEOs personally take ownership for digital and innovation, it’s not going to happen, because there’s going to be an impasse with the people that want to go forward and the people that don’t.
WSJ: Any good examples of an older company that has transformed?
MS. SHIH: I saw many, and I’ll share one such story with you and that’s John Hancock Insurance. Traditionally, [insurance] was an entirely offline experience for everything from purchase to claims. The second issue is they don’t have frequent touch points. Most of the time you buy insurance and then you never hear or want to hear from the insurance company again until there’s a claim.
Last year, John Hancock partnered with a company called Vitality [owned by South Africa-based insurance company Discovery Ltd.] and they launched this new program in the U.S., where they provide free Fitbits to their insurance customers for the purpose of encouraging them and tracking how active they are. They realized that all the actuarial tables show that the more active you are, the longer you’ll live, the healthier you’ll be. They said, instead of being this passive assessor of risk, what if we became an active coach?
WSJ: How can other companies be more digitally oriented?
MS. SHIH: Every company wants to be innovative, they want to change. That’s why they come out and do these visits in Silicon Valley and they launch these innovation labs. Most of the time, it doesn’t work out.
It’s because there are two issues. One, the company culture was established to be very risk averse. Two, which is related to culture but is more process oriented, is that it’s hard to take an idea and operationalize it. Imagine having 200,000 employees and trying to get everyone to change direction. That’s a struggle that many companies face right now.
Original article published May 30, 2016, in The Wall Street Journal.

Social Business Adoption: Step 1 – Secure, Maintain Executive Sponsorship and Championship

shutterstock_229999303This is step one of Hearsay Social’s six-step program to boost social business adoption across the enterprise. Check back next week for step two.
Executive buy-in is a critical first step along a firm’s path to increasing social business adoption. A recent assessment conducted by Hearsay Social of more than 100 financial services firms on their social business maturity found that those with executive buy-in – which may include the company’s CEO, CMO and/or head of digital, marketing, sales, compliance or IT – have an average of 13 percent higher maturity versus those without.
Here are five tips on how to encourage executive sponsors to lead by example:

  1. If they don’t already have one, help them build out a professional profile on LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook.
  2. Empower them to produce content. Audiences are especially interested in what executive leaders have to say. They could start writing and posting on topics they are thought leaders in or are passionate about. If that’s not an option, designate someone to learn their voice and write on their behalf.
  3. If the executive sponsor is already producing content on the company blog or elsewhere, expand the reach of the content by promoting it via the company’s social media channels and to the field.
  4. Encourage the executive sponsor to follow on social media other execs that they know and/or admire.
  5. Show the executive sponsor how to listen for opportunities on social media for two-way dialogue with his or her fans and followers.

adoption-guideWant to get more details on Hearsay Social’s entire six-step framework and how real firms have successfully implemented a social business program? Get our new, free Social Business Adoption Guide now.
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6 Ways to Increase Social Business Adoption

shutterstock_272711567According to a recent Putnam study of 800 financial advisors, nearly 80% of respondents gained new clients using social media. For this reason, among many others, it’s important that financial services companies have a solid social media program in place. In fact, companies with a dedicated team and social business program have a significantly better chance at social business success–which is critical for advisors who want to keep up with today’s social, mobile customer.

Fortunately, we have spent a lot of time and energy uncovering key insights and recommendations after working with hundreds of customers to help drive social business success. As such, here are six best practices your business should be following:

1. Secure and maintain executive sponsorship and championship

Getting executive sponsors involved early and often is an important first step to increasing social business adoption. Executive sponsors lead by example, increase program visibility and help clear any roadblocks. Executive champions, i.e. those who are personally active on social media, empower employees to do the same.

2. Provide ample training and educational resources

The success of your social business program depends on your employees actually using the social business platform.  By providing ample learning opportunities and resources on how to best use the platform, you increase your chances of social business success over time.

3. Zealously advocate the program at the field level

In many companies, there’s often a disconnect between what’s happening at the corporate level versus what’s taking place in the field. To help bridge this gap, you may need to go door-to-door to field offices to create awareness of the social business program, as well as provide training on how to best use the platform.

4. Promote and enable advisor success stories

Peer-to-peer evangelism is a great way to increase adoption by sharing success stories from people who have already found value and tangible ROI. These “social media superstars” become the champions of your social business program and act as a catalyst within their teams to motivate others to apply the technology.

5. Use gamification

Salespeople are naturally competitive, so why tap into this natural tendency by allowing them to engage in some friendly competition? For example, you can use leaderboards, “badges”, and the like to motivate teams by offering a reward tied to a key metric of success.

6. Create and maintain a strong content strategy and pipeline

Help your users establish credibility by providing useful suggested content on a regular basis, while giving them the flexibility to let their personalities shine. Given that advisors are often pressed for time, maintaining a strong content pipeline can help with productivity and lead to greater program adoption.
adoption-guideFor more information on how to implement social business adoption strategies within your own organization, download the free Hearsay Social Adoption Guide.
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