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Flattening the World

Businesses Adopt Social Tools to Improve Effectiveness and Efficiency


Sandy Carter’s job as social business evangelist is to help teach IBM’s clients about the value of adopting social networking into their business models.
Photography by Matt Carr

Successful companies have taken this six-part strategy and put it to work for them. Mexico-based cement company Cemex, for example, used crowd sourcing to develop a new product line. In another example, a Canadian bank utilized social analytics in its customer-service process to take its customer rating from No. 5 to No. 1, using customer feedback, Carter says. Decorative paint company Asian Paints, India’s largest and the world’s 10th largest, used IBM Connections software to better connect its 3,800 employees. The company plans to become the world’s fifth-largest paint company as a result of its use of the new collaborative tools.

Head in the Sand

Despite the publicity around social, some companies are unwilling to adopt a social strategy. As social business evangelist, Carter spends a lot of time meeting with customers. On one business trip (she’s visited 66 countries since taking this position a year ago), she was stuck in an airplane on the runway for several hours. Carter and the man seated next to her, who happened to be a CEO, struck up a conversation during the long wait.

“He asked me, ‘What do you do?’ I started taking him through social business. I’m so excited by it. As he looked at it, he said, ‘You know what, my board and I have opted out of social because it’s too risky. We don’t want the negative criticism.’ ”

Carter laughs as she recalls the conversation. “You can’t opt out of social. If you’re not in the conversation, your competitors are and your customers are. The most risky thing you can do is ignore it and not be in the conversation,” she advises.

Rather than stick your head in the sand and hope social goes the way of big hair and shoulder pads, businesses should consider risk mitigation. In IBM’s case, a social intelligence center continuously monitors what clients and others say about Big Blue. “The social intelligence center gives us ears and eyes and understanding that helps us improve our products. We make sure we address issues right away before they get out of control,” Carter says. “There are things you can do to mitigate your risk, but truly the most risky thing you can do is ignore it.”

“You can’t opt out of social. If you’re not in the conversation, your competitors are and your customers are. The most risky thing you can do is ignore it and not be in the conversation.” —Sandy Carter, vice president of social business evangelism and sales, IBM

Evelyn Hoover is the content director of IBM Systems magazine. She can be reached at ehoover@msptechmedia.com.



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