Social businesses connect individuals – allowing them to rapidly share information, knowledge and ideas through conversations and content – and analyze social content from multiple channels and sources to gain insights.

Larry Bowden from IBM responds to our questions on how social business will help businesses deliver exceptional digital customer experiences.

Q: What key challenges are businesses facing today?
A: When I talk with organizations about key challenges, our discussions center around the need to increase revenue, improve customer satisfaction, reach new audiences and speed new products to market. In other words, organizations are focused on driving business results. What I tell each is that through the use of social technologies -- social, mobile, rich media content and analytics -- they will be able to reach their business goals more quickly.

For example, Italian poultry leader Amadori Group was looking to communicate more effectively with younger consumers and gain new insights into its consumer base. To do that, they began using social business solutions to interpret the Web as an infinite focus group. By applying social listening and analytics to online discussions, the company can now creatively and nimbly respond to consumer sentiment. For example, social conversations inspired Amadori to introduce greener packaging. By using social sites such as Facebook and YouTube as part of its online experiences for customers, Amadori can reach new audience segments and turn customers into advocates.

Q: Industry analysts have identified digital strategy as a top CEO focus. What is driving that?
A: C-level executives know they must be focused on capturing market share despite tremendous changes in demographics and digital connections that all of us -- particularly millennials -- enjoy today. The explosion of mobile smart devices in the marketplace is unbelievable: 90 percent of mobile users keep their device within arm's reach 100 percent of the time. Knowing this, companies need to respond to this fundamental change by creating applications that are designed for their mobile customers in addition to those connecting with a laptop.

Bringing content to mobile devices is just the first step. It means nothing if it's not relevant, compelling or consistent with what customers see online. The second major area that CEOs must focus on is the explosion of rich media content. It's predicted that there will be a 300 percent year-to-year increase in videos watched via mobile devices. That fact alone has companies asking: how effectively can we capture the attention of our customers?

The third factor is analytics. We are living in the age of big data where people share important details about themselves on a daily basis. Through analytics tools, business leaders can be confident they are producing the right content for the right customers, when and where they want to consume the information. All of these factors fuel CEOs' increased focus on digital strategy.

Q: What is an example of a successful digital strategy that benefits employees?
A: Organizations can use social technologies to help their employees access the network of information that resides within their organization and then use that information to better serve their clients. One example: Omron Europe, a division of Omron Corp. and a global leader in the field of industrial automation.

Omron Europe needed to create a digital experience that would allow it to make better use of the organization’s collective knowledge and expertise. So the company created Ozone, a personalized intranet portal that offers applications, information and a social network in a business context to encourage knowledge sharing and enhance collaboration. The outcome? Improved employee productivity to better serve customers. Today, employees can connect with experts all over the company and plug into that knowledge much more effectively which, in the end, allows them to deliver better customer service.

Q: What are the largest obstacles for a business when updating their digital strategy?
A: For an organization to achieve success, they need to focus on three major areas. First is strategy. Businesses need a clear strategy for how their digital goals will drive real business outcomes. The second area is organizational or cultural. Businesses need more than sign-off from their leadership team: they need executives who believe in their company's digital strategy. They also need to involve employees in the development and execution of the digital strategy at an early phase, and create a culture that supports social interaction internally and externally. The third area is skills. Successful organizations must be prepared to seek help to improve areas of a digital strategy, turning to trusted advisors who can help guide them through one of the most rapidly changing eras we've ever lived through. 

Please join us for a discussion about "How to Provide Exceptional Digital Experiences for Your Customers and Employees." The chat will take place on the People for a Smarter Planet page on Facebook on July 26, 2013, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. EDT. For more information, check out