I was encouraged to write this post after having a recent conversation with a potential new client. He remarked that he felt that only about 10% of organisations really understand the value of the social business - and even less know how to go about achieving it.
So, of course, that got me thinking. What does it mean to be a social business, and why is it so important?
First of all, it's not just about having a presence on social networks. It's about changing the way your entire business operates - and that includes its processes, its structure, and its very culture. Admittedly that can be quite intimidating. And is no doubt the very reason why most organisations shy away from the shift to becoming truly social.
But social is where your customers are; it's where your employees are. Pretty soon, not taking it seriously will leave you at a big disadvantage.
The benefits of a social business
Better customer relationships
By being a social business, you are seen to be open, transparent, accessible and responsive. If a customer can communicate with a company in real time and through a platform that suits them, then they will feel valued and respected. Better still, if that company exceeds their response expectations, then you don't just have satisfied customers, you have potential brand advocates.
A social business can gain more and better insight into customers' behaviours, sentiments and actions. That, in turn, can create more targeted and relevant campaigns and product development.
A social business allows employees to be part of the conversation, both internal and external. The result is more involved, more collaborative, more motivated teams, who can, and are empowered to, make a difference.
By encouraging open collaboration and involvement, a social business enables a better flow of communication internally and a culture of getting things done as a team.
New ideas are more like to be shared, built upon, developed and put into action. Internally, employees from all parts of the business are empowered to innovate; externally, customers can contribute valuable insight and opinion about product or service development.
Your brand's success depends on its products and services living up to the claims that you make about them. If your service falls below the level your customers expect, they will be quick to react - and today that often means very publicly through the power of social. If you can respond to problems quickly, effectively and transparently, this can only work in your favour. And if your response and your content are right - i.e. helpful or entertaining, you can quickly become very visible experts and the go-to source for helpful information.
What common hurdles might you need to overcome on your social business journey?
Change in culture
This is about giving all employees, no matter what level, the tools and training they need to engage with social media both internally and externally. It's about getting past negative preconceptions about social. It's about becoming more transparent and engendering a culture of collaboration, not competition.
Of course, asking an entire business to change its culture in the name of social media sometimes just isn't going to fly - especially at board level. But with such huge potential benefits, a culture change is essential. Find the influential people in the business that recognise the value of social media, and make them the start of your journey. Once others see its value and you can share the proof.
Understanding your audience
By this, I mean your internal audience. How well do your employees across the business understand and/or have adopted social media both inside and outside the workplace? This will determine the levels of support and types of training programmes you need to put in place to drive the social culture change through the business.
Make it relevant
Who is driving your social media and who does the responsibility sit with? It may vary from organisation to organisation, but if there is a particular department driving the social business strategy, every effort must be made to understand the needs of different departments and to deliver them.
One of the reasons initiatives and pilot schemes for the social business tends to fail is that someone in the business has decided it would be good to measure leads and sales.
The problem with this is that, in a 3-month pilot scheme, when your sales cycle can be anything up to 12 or 18 months, you will never be able to deliver and your road to becoming social will be blocked. Your social business plan needs realistic targets. Measures could include renewal rates, account profiling, business knowledge of product and services, content produced, engagement with key accounts.
Change won't happen overnight and becoming a social business is a journey. But with careful planning and the right strategy, it WILL reap rewards.
Want to learn more? Check out our Professional Certificate in Social Media.