On Becoming a Social Business

July 9, 2013

Old Wine in Old Bottles

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. – Matthew 9:17 (King James)

I think this parable accurately identifies the predicament our industry is in as it tries to adapt, stay relevant and make sense of the many challenges in today’s rapidly evolving business environment.

In my experience, agencies often try to make social and mobile technologies (new wine) work within the constructs of outdated organizational structures and traditional processes (old bottles). The result is an effort that fails.

For example, social media is treated simply as a marketing tactic; a Facebook page is launched and an administrative employee is put in charge. Disruption in day-to-day office procedures results with little if any real benefit.

Clearly, there is a difference between organizations that simply execute social media tactics and those that actually become social businesses. Agencies that find success realize their business must be transformed or reinvented (new bottles). They understand the need for a comprehensive social strategy that is clearly aligned with business goals as well as senior management involvement and organizational alignment that enables execution of that strategy.

That is, your agency’s use of new technology and your social and mobile initiatives will only be effective if there is a cultural transformation that changes the way your employees work, interact with one another and communicate with customers and prospects. Also, your management team must not only talk about transforming the organization but also become actively involved in behaviors that facilitate cultural change.

The need for reinvention is not new for our industry. When we first started installing agency management systems, we found there was a big difference between just using automation and becoming an automated agency. Only when agencies reinvented operational processes and procedures (remember transactional filing?) did their investment in technology start paying off. Only when management became involved did agency management systems transition from being primarily accounting systems to tools that supported agency service, sales and marketing activity.

Charlene Li, founder of Altimeter Group and keynote speaker at the recent ACORD Insurance Systems Forum, said this about social business adoption: “The biggest determinants, by far, of whether you will be successful at social business are leadership and culture.”

If you are struggling to make your social initiatives work, ask yourself:

1. Are social concepts and methodologies infused into the DNA of your agency culture?

2. Is agency leadership informed, engaged and aligned with your agency’s social media strategies?

If not, perhaps it’s time to put your new wine into new bottles.

New Wine in New Bottles

New Wine in New Bottles



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