A great deal has been written on the topic of social media in business. There are numerous opinions and experiences. Some say that social media is intended for personal use; there are organizations that do not allow employees access to social media platforms. Others say social media is the future; that train has already left the station.
Typically, the discussion revolves around the efficacy and utility of social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. This isn’t the best starting point for the discussion.
First, let’s distinguish between a social business strategy and social media. Here are definitions suggested by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC in a study they released this spring:
Social media is the external-facing component that gives and receives customer input.
Social business is where core internal operations, such as customer service, data analytics and product development could use social data
I believe social business is more encompassing. It must include strategies that go way beyond just connecting data and insights. As important as that is, what I am suggesting is, for many, a change in culture. It is tapping into the talent across the organization by reaching across functional silos and fostering an atmosphere that is truly customer centric, collaborative and engaging.
Author Patrick Lencioni believes this business strategy has the potential to be a competitive advantage.
I can still remember when computers were being deployed in business. There was a great deal of discussion about their efficacy. Many believed that computers could do almost anything. I distinctly remember analysts pointing out that entering a chaotic, unorganized process into a computer would only automate chaos and disorganization.
The same is true for social media. If an organization does not have a healthy culture or a strategy, then simply choosing a social media platform will only draw attention to the organization’s dysfunction. Social media should not be used as another marketing or customer service tactic.
Effective social business requires leadership and discipline. Organizations have to learn to walk the social talk. There is a growing segment of social shoppers. These are connected consumers with high expectations that the brands they use will be present in the social space where they are, engaged with them, providing information and resources, listening to their voice.
In exchange social shoppers will share their experiences with their social networks.
Social media offers some significant advantages for small businesses. Often a smaller business is able to address culture issues faster simply because they have fewer functional silos; however, internal communication and coordination can still be very challenging. Businesses of all sizes have to embrace and understand the value of a differentiating customer experience.
Changing consumer shopping behaviors and new search algorithms offer an advantage to businesses that think local and relevant. Increasingly placing an emphasis on creating a relevant, helpful, consistent customer experience will pay off.
So how do you develop social business strategies?
First, start with your customer. Ask questions like:
Next, think about your employees:
Now that you are developing strategies that address corporate culture and will integrate social into the marketing mix, you are ready to work on social media strategies. These strategies will enable you to determine how social media can help in the buying process.
Create a buying process map that will allow you to match appropriate content and contact that will help consumers, find, evaluate, compare, buy, use and share their experiences around your product or service.
What do you think? What are other considerations?