They’re all missing something.
As you embark on a social business effort, there will be more vendors and their products will look increasingly similar.
Your most important platform won’t be any particular product. It will be the community of customers who use it.
The vendors don’t have the answers. The practitioners do.
This past week, I was at JiveWorld along with over 1000 other customers and prospective customers.
I heard from dozens of companies like T-Mobile, Pearson, McAfee, Yum!, and Avon. They're all using Jive to truly change how they work. And they provided compelling stories with real measures and real ROI, covering literally millions of users and millions of dollars.
Yet many more companies were struggling with a wide range of challenges and questions. Many attended a Bootcamp session where I spoke about ways to bootstrap your social business efforts and Claire Flanagan talked about what she’s learned in her fantastic, multi-year social business effort at CSC. (That's me in the photo with Gia Lyons and our makenaizou).
The questions afterwards, though, weren’t about Jive or technology. They were about people and culture and business practices.
“Where do I start?”
“How do I deal with cultural and organizational issues?”
“How do I get people to change behavior?”
“How do I generate measurable commercial value?”
If you’re looking to the vendor for help here, you’re looking in the wrong place. Even the best professional services group won’t have the deep experience that comes from being on the line and living through the challenges over time. (And even if they did, you wouldn’t want to pay them each time).
Your own peer support group
Whatever vendor you choose, the best support you can get is from other customers you know well enough to call.
There are some great customer networks out there. In addition, though, you can and should complement your existing network with a peer support group.
A peer support group is small, typically 3 to 5 people from other firms. And it’s intimate. It goes beyond making connections to building deep relationships. Beyond sharing best practices to caring for and helping your peers.
Too many people wait for the vendor to broker such connections. Why? You can start now.
Reach out to customers in your city. Meet regularly in person while you interact frequently online. Understand who they are and what they’re trying to accomplish. Share what’s working and not working. Help each other. Make it personal.
When facing the hundreds of challenges that every social business effort faces, it helps to have friends. Building personal bonds in a peer support group is the best way to dramatically accelerate your learning and increase your chances of success.
Good karma at a conference?
Normally, I wouldn’t think such close, personal cooperation across companies would be possible. But the JiveWorld conference was unlike anything I’d ever attended. The difference was more than just great content. Or the great venue. Or the entertainment. (No link. It was in Vegas, after all.)
The difference was the attitude of the customers.
People there genuinely like the company and it’s product. They like the people that work there. And - here’s the most important part - they like and want to help the other customers succeed.
JiveWorld felt like a real community. A network of people who care about the success of the overall movement as much as they do about their own firm. People who are fully invested in changing the work - making it better for both companies and the individuals in them.
That sense of community is an opportunity for you.
It's your platform. It's your strength. Build on it.