Social Is Something You Are, Not Something You Do

Posted on March 10, 2013

Last Wednesday I got sidetracked and wound up listening in to Amber Naslund’s webinar on building a case for social business. I’ve heard this saying before from Olivier Blanchard‘s Social Media ROI book, but the most important concept Amber mentioned was that social is something you are, and not something you do.

Read it again, let it sink in.

Social is something you are, not something you do.

It’s a very simple concept; so fundamental, yet never followed. We, as a race, are designed to produce, consume and interpret thoughts and emotions; it’s inherent and ingrained in us to be social for our survival. Brands? Not so much. Brands aren’t people; they exist to make money and provide utility, convenience and value−not to be excellent communicators (though it does help). The good news? Brands are made up of people who are able to fill in those missing traits that humanize and socialize brand communications.

Looking at the big picture, social is just one component of business−although an important one that starts deep down and has the capacity to redefine and enhance the entire business model. To be able to grow a business into a social business, you have to realize it all starts with powering the brand from the inside out.

edelman social business

Edelman social business model

For most brands, that means starting with culture. An organization that can’t communicate internally will flail and fail miserably trying to communicate externally with potential and existing customers. This change doesn’t occur overnight, either. It probably won’t even happen this year. But taking the steps towards becoming a social business has the potential to help the entire organization, not just marketing, as many seem to falsely perceive.

8 Steps to Creating a Social Business:

1. Never stop asking “why”

social media questions

You’re not an expert.

The company you work for, or started, has a set of objectives or goals that are met by implementing specific tactics. Social media adds a whole new dimension that your two or five year old plans didn’t account for. The game has changed and you have to keep up and constantly adapt to emerging channels and trends. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.

When we ask “why” or “how,” we’re inquiring about a topic’s depth; we want to know more and have a deeper understanding. You might not be able to think of every question or have every answer when you’re adapting your new strategies, and that’s ok. Just make sure to sketch out how your organization currently works and identify areas that can be enhanced by social media. Areas like community building, customer support, customer loyalty, finding and developing brand advocates, sales, customer education, and metrics like share of voice, brand awareness and reputation, etc. can all be tracked to help develop, re-develop and measure program management.

2. Identify road blocks

Social customer service

Social customer service model

You have to figure out what it takes for you to get closer to your customers, employees and your community. Your organization’s current process is most likely full of road blocks that prevent you from doing this. No organization operates flawlessly. At some level, most organizations suffer from one or more of the following: silo-ed internal communication, customer support knowledge gaps, overpowering top-down management, lack of training, misaligned strategic initiatives, cultural disconnect, etc.

3. Get feedback from the very beginning and throughout the process

social media at scale

The fact is, you alone don’t know everything there is to know. Amber notes, “individual knowledge doesn’t scale.” Seek out the people that want you to succeed the most (i.e., your customers and your employees). Want to know what you’re doing wrong or what excess you can cut from your products, services or initiatives? Ask them. Find the root of your road blocks or setbacks, and find alternative solutions that will help stabilize your organization’s infrastructure for the long term. There’s nothing more beautiful than shared knowledge.


4. Adapt faster, more open communication channels

The most important concept in this entire post? Do a hell of a lot more listening than talking. When you listen, you don’t have to ask questions later and that allows you to get shit done faster and right the first time. Knowing your community’s opinions, wants, reviews, questions, issues and thoughts is a critical piece in becoming a social business. It allows you to keep pace with your community and provides a way to interpret mass quantities of information, perceptions, trends and opportunities.

Social listening, customer service using social media

No one said listening was easy; this stuff isn’t low hanging fruit. It can be difficult at first to identify threatening situations (that would have otherwise gone unnoticed) and then engage in a way that results in a favorable outcome. All your pieces have to be in place beforehand, including intelligent and approachable employees that have access to the right tools and the right resources that can provide quick and accurate information all rolled up in a very likeable presentation.

Understanding people’s attitudes towards your industry, competition and brand can help you focus on delivering real answers and personalized attention. Social listening is a huge part of brand management now and something you never stop monitoring. Direct benefits of your research come in the form of real-time market insights, ability to establish better benchmarks for goals, track changes in sentiment over time, adjust marketing campaigns on the fly and so much more.

5. Hand responsibility off to employees that live and breathe the brand

Amber says that understanding the difference between selling the destination, and selling the ships that get you there is critical. Talking about how cool Facebook or Twitter is just doesn’t show understanding. Employees that can see past the shininess can help the brand focus on bringing your customers closer, impacting business objectives and designing methods that the entire organization can benefit from. Employees that show attentiveness to digital trends with precise intuition. Employees that are forward thinking and that live for new technology. Employees that show thorough understanding of business metrics, tactics, strategy and how they all relate to one another.

6. Invest in tools that help drive customer-centric approaches

It doesn’t matter how much you spend on a social media, but what you do with that spend is what counts. Investing in a Social Media Management System (SMMS) or dashboard will make things more organized by putting all your channels in one centralized location. These systems make it easier to present data to management with extensive analytics and reporting, allow more employees to be engaged with program initiatives, and many systems allow you to target the exact conversations in the exact locations using pre-determined keywords.

Social media dashboard - Sprout Social

Social media dashboard – Sprout Social

SMMSs/dashboards can range anywhere from $0-5,000/mo and every single one will offer something different. Seriously, do your research and play with all of them−just reading the feature/benefit sets isn’t good enough. Get your hands on it, ask for a free demo and determine what features are most important for your organization’s social media objectives and strategy and that will aid your digital growth. That being said, you’ll quickly realize that the big names for enterprise social that we always hear about (Radian6, Spredfast, Vitrue, Expion, etc.) are bad ass and do everything under the sun, however, these products might not be what your organization needs to get the job done. These systems are incredibly thorough in tracking and aiding research, outreach, support, measurement and analytics, reporting, sentiment and so much more.

TIP: Here’s a solid list of about 30 social media management systems and dashboards from Jeremiah Owyang.

7. Stop following other companies’ success stories

You can find a case study or infographic on just about every topic in every industry. There are more how-to articles out there than you could probably read in a lifetime. Earlier, I did say that shared knowledge is beautiful, however, the problem is that case studies are flawed.

You won’t find success in your adopting your competitor’s, or some other company’s strategy that was featured in a white paper for having a highly successful Facebook app campaign or whatever. Case studies are purely for promotional purposes for the distributing agency, company or client−essentially well-disguised bragging rights. Case studies are a “best of” reel that fail to mention the lengthy building process of the foundational pieces or the problems and inconsistencies that they experienced along the way, Please, never forget, your competitor doesn’t have your interests in mind when creating their strategy.

8. Build thorough, flexible guidelines, policies and frameworks.

These documents are essential and will be your road maps to education and training, aligning brand objectives to social tactics, how you’re going to measure your progress, what channels you’ll explore, who will own and manage them, and how you plan on identifying new opportunities. These documents need to be specific, yet allow you to adapt and react (or predict and pave the way) to technological and market trends.

social business framework

social business framework

There’s a huge difference between a business that is social rather than a business that does social. You have to stop thinking of social media as just another marketing channel to blindly push your products on. When you fail to look at social media as an integrated piece of your entire business, you’ll never find the results you were hoping for. Also remember that hope is not a strategy.) You’ll never be able to see how easy it is to proactively look for opportunities−potential customers literally lobbing questions in the air for you to respond to. You’ll never see how it gives you a chance to reevaluate your entire organizational structure and give your employees a chance to participate in something that’s happening right now−something meaningful, something that helps develop customer relationships and loyalty, something that requires action and a hands-on approach, and something that your employees can be proud of and take ownership of not just individually, but also as an organization.

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