How U.S. Cellular approached Social Business

U.S. Cellular, a $4.2 billion wireless services firm headquartered in Chicago, began it's journey to Social Business in September 2011 by starting a Facebook page as part of an integrated marketing communication campaign. About 55 employee volunteers handled updates and responses to the Facebook page. (This summary is based on Social Business Journey at U.S. Cellular in the first edition of The Social Business Journal.)

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While the Facebook page was successful, U.S. Cellular faced two issues. The first was that Facebook duties we're in addition to regular jobs, which limited productivity and effectiveness. The other issue was a lack of scalability. The more activity on the Facebook page, the harder it was to respond to effectively and quickly.

Executives realized three elements we're required infrastructure, strategy and policy.

Strategy discussions generated a lot of debate. Should the entire workforce be involved in social business, or just a specialized team? Ultimately, it was decided to centralize operations in marketing, with activities coordinated by a cross-functional center of excellence. The primary focus would initially be in sales and marketing, and impact on existing customer experiences had to be minimized. To generate the required executive support, the Social Business team created an internal "mini roadshow" to meet with executives and explain strategy and policy.

Assisted by outside experts, one of the first initiatives involved a national sales program on Facebook and Twitter. U.S. Cellular started with a listening and monitoring program, then moved into engaging customers on Facebook and Twitter.

Results we're measured in a variety of ways. One method involved counting the number of customer service and other issues resolved through social channels. These increased 625% over a baseline. The company also looked at metrics involving social referrals.

What does this mean?

Even the largest companies are recognizing the impact Social Business can have on their organizations. However, they cannot transform their organizations overnight, despite the anticipated benefits. A major reason is that no company can afford to substantially impact customer relationships, and any changes in processes must be positive.

As a result, Social Business must be phased in. Most frequently, this is accomplished by starting with social media and marketing, where the road map is clearer and integration with existing processes is easier.

Cost-justifying Social Business can be difficult. One common metric is it's impact on customer service, typically an expensive overhead. Social Business can reduce the costs and time associated with customer service, as U.S. Cellular discovered. Other metrics can involve social media reach, although this does not carry much more weight than knowing the circulation and subscriber profiles of traditional media.

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