Archive for March, 2009

Many organizations around the world are demonstrating the business value of engaging in social media, from large multi-national corporations using social media for marketing activities, to small firms engaging their clients more directly, and governments seeking new ways to connect and interact with constituents.

socialmedia-businesscaseDespite the growing adoption rates of social media around the world, many organizations are still reticent, and fail to see the value of it. Governments in particular are struggling with the potential benefit of participating in social media in contrast to the potential for employee abuse. There are many examples of governments using social media while banning access for employees. There is also a perception that websites and tools like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs or wikis are intended strictly for personal use, are time-wasters and not only provide little to no value for an organization, but distract employees or take away from business operations.

Not everyone has the benefit of jumping into social media as an experiment or pilot activity, so here is a simplified framework for developing a business case for social media. This is intended to sketch out some of the key arguments for introducing social media in your organization, and to help you develop a sound business case to present to decision makers. The examples are very brief, while providing rationale, examples, and support to generate an understanding of the argument.

1. Rationale

Describe why the organization should use social media, and the goals and objectives that you’re trying to achieve.  Provide details of the problems, challenges, opportunities or shortcomings that will be addressed by using social media.

Ex: Our clients are complaining about us on blogs & twitter, and not contacting us directly. Goals – increase the satisfaction levels of our clients by establishing a more direct link with our clients and putting a human face on our corporation.

Define the specific details of what the initiative will achieve, change, or impact; and how success will be measured.

Ex: Success could be measured by reduced complaints on blogs & twitter; an increase in sales, or reduction in product returns or complaints.

2. Client-centric perspective

Provide an understanding of how people currently access the organization’s information and services; and how they want to access your information and services (ex: through a survey, or market research).

Get metrics & statistics on your website usage, and search terms used; any supporting general Internet usage statistics; and any statistics and information from competitors. Compare the way you do business online with other organizations (not just your competitors).

3. Risks

(a) Identify the risks associated with the initative, including what could go wrong, and a description of the worst-case scenario.

Ex: Lots of bad comments and reviews on your website.

(b) Identify the risks association with not undertaking the initiative, including what could happen if you don’t engage in social media.  Know your client, and get an understanding of the perception of your business if you do/don’t engage in social media.

The conversation is happening out there anyways – with or without you – the degree to which you engage is optional, but you should at least be aware of the conversation and monitoring it.

4. Business Intelligence

Define the type of functionality required to meet your goals and objectives; meet your client’s needs; and reduce the risks.  Research and describe possible solutions.  Include reviews, case studies, and comparisons.

  • What are others doing?
  • What are the industry best practices?
  • Who are your competitors, and what are they doing?
  • What is popular or trending?
  • What relevant technology advances are happening?

5. Stakeholders

Identify all the key stakeholders who need to be involved in the process of introducing social media to your organization, including:

  • Business clients
  • Communications
  • IT
  • Legal
  • Accessibility
  • Clients, etc

6. Investment

Provide a breakdown of the costs involved, including:

  • People
  • Money
  • IT infrastructure needs, etc.

7. Process, Roles & Responsibilities

Identify the steps that need to happen to introduce social media to your organization.

Developing, piloting, testing, soft launch, public launch, etc?

Identify roles and responsibilities for various aspects of the initiative.

Who will provide support (technical, training), monitoring, facilitating, engagement, etc?

Include a plan for how to monitor and evaluate the success of the initiative – related back to the goals and objectives.

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I recently registered for the MESH conference in Toronto (April 7 & 8 at the fabulous MaRS Collaboration Centre), and one of the keynote speakers is Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva.org a new spin on microfinancing.

I remember hearing about micro-financing many years ago when I worked for the International Development Research Centre.  The concept was first introduced by the Grameen Bank as a way to help alleviate poverty in developing countries by empowering people to take action themselves.  It’s a great concept, and over time it’s certainly proven it’s value as one means of helping people to help themselves, and to provide opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

kiva_logoKiva.org broadens the concept through the power of the participatory web to allow anyone around the world to become a micro-lender.  It’s quick and simple to create an account, add funds through PayPal or with a credit card, and direct those funds to micro-borrowers from anywhere around the world.  Kiva works with a network of microfinancing institutions around the world to receive funding requests and dispurse loans.

Through the Kiva website lenders can easily track the repayment of funds, and search for other opportunities to support interesting ventures of entrepreneurs in developing countries.  Kiva also helps to connect lenders through their groups feature, which allows group members to collaborate with each other, and target their funds together in support of partiuclar ventures.

Great to see the power of web 2.0 being put to such great use and having a significant impact (over $64 million in funds dispursed to almost 100,000 unique loan requests) to improve the lives of people who are otherwise quite removed from the developed world.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from Jessica at the MESH conference in a few weeks.  In the interim, be sure to check out Kiva.org.