Engagement has become the business world's new currency

The impact of social media on how business is run is just starting to mainstream in corporate America.

The impact of social media on how business is run is just starting to mainstream in corporate America. I'm not talking about online promotional campaigns; I'm taking about the very heart of how business is conducted.

The consequence is a redefinition and reframing of how a company and its various stakeholders relate to one another and the impact each has on one another.

Call it “The Engaged Enterprise.” Engagement is the new currency. It suggests an authentic, dynamic, deeper relationship in which conversation and business ideas are shared up, down, and sideways.

In the Engaged Enterprise, stakeholders have deeper relationships with the company. Stakeholders actually talk to one another. Their voices are heard, respected, even acted upon in exchange for their loyalty. The result: The enterprise is smarter and more engaged with their constituents leading to better decisions and deeper, longer-lasting relationships.

Some examples? Consider these three:

Best Buy – Their “Learning Lounge” is an online development program for their employees that includes ratings, message boards, blogs, and social networking.

PepsiCo. – Study the company's new “Refresh Project.” While the campaign has yet to fully play out, it is a definite step toward engagement.

Dell – “Ideastorm,” a powerful crowd-sourcing tool, has helped to enhance customer service and drive product innovation.

The list goes on. But what do all of these have in common?

They share three bedrock principles: Regular 360- degree communications; exploiting the wisdom of crowds; and facilitation of engagement whenever and wherever (meaning mobility is at its core).

Marketers have traditionally measured the success of their efforts via metrics targeting various aspects of “brand health.” Corporate communications pros have focused on “reputation,” a broader gauge that seeks to understand the company's standing among myriad stakeholders.

Both measures are valuable. However, just as most large companies are seeing a growing convergence of marcomms interests and responsibilities, so too are we seeing a convergence – and a more compelling way – as to how a company should evaluate itself.

The new reality is about engagement, and there's much evidence to suggest that this metric is becoming one of the single greatest differentiators in business today.

Those in charge of evaluating a company's performance in the marketplace need to begin considering the challenge.

Social media is being asked to play a central role in achieving key business priorities: revenue generation, customer loyalty, product innovation, employee productivity, etc.

This is an enormous sea change. Those inside organizations who understand the power of social media are well positioned to play roles in their companies far more business-impacting than they perhaps ever imagined.

Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a communications management consulting firm. He can be reached at bfeldman@pulsepointgroup.com. Bob's monthly column focuses on management of the corporate communications function.

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