07/05/2011 10:49 am ET | Updated Sep 04, 2011

There's No ROI In Playing Catch-up

I can't believe that some companies are still asking "Why do we need social media?" when they should be asking "How?"

How should we engage with our customers and stakeholders; how do we enable a responsive customer experience; how do we offer value and not just 'sell' products and services?

Social media is ushering in large-scale changes in the marketplace. That means large-scale changes are required in the enterprise as well. Here we are, halfway through 2011, and the road ahead is coming into focus. The real-time social business transformation era is here to stay.

It's true that early social media case studies touted 'brand awareness' as the big win. Ok, that's nice, but a bit fluffy for the C-suite.

The truly big payoff will come from re-engineering business processes to take advantage of the new patterns of real-time communication occurring all across the globe about every subject under the sun. Harnessing this power in turn will create the ability to strategically mobilize the work of large groups with varying levels of both inward and outward facing engagement in the process.

Fact is, as more companies "go global" they find that they grow more and more complex. Customers, partners, and stakeholders are now interacting with brands across hundreds of touchpoints -- in real-time. They seek information, evaluate products and services, and get support and rewards any time, any where. And then they share. Turns out it's the sharing that offers a company meteoric rise or swift reprimand. It's the sharing part that confounds enterprises.

So how do smart firms manage and measure these interactions, in real-time, to create a customer experience that is consistent across this wide multi-channel ecosystem? One that prompts positive sentiment and sharing? One that delights?

Traditionally organizations have used business process re-engineering to achieve business goals and organizational excellence. However, little has been done in the way of optimizing efficiencies and innovation through social platforms. Yet companies that have embraced social business are quickly gaining competitive advantage in the complex global marketplace.

My advice to company leaders who understand the power of real-time social media: Ride the momentum and drive successful organizational change towards social business now. Fail fast and fail forward, but do something. You are bound to better serve your employees, customers, and shareholders in the long run.

Otherwise you will find that you came in too late and the road to transformation it too steep. Seriously, there is no ROI in playing catch-up.

Imagine a business environment where companies actually solve problems instead of just managing them; brands seek insight and ideas from their social platforms and make sustainable improvements; and the customer experience is so robust and truly engaged that spreading the word to family, friends and colleagues is natural.

That's #Winning and ROI all rolled in to one. Delightful.

Join Beverly and her team as top brands and rising companies discuss social business transformation at Gravity Summit FutureM Boston, to be held at the Harvard Faculty Club on September 12, 2011.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit, Inc.m and the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing. She also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension. Email her at