Why Being A 'Social Business' Matters

“What is a social business? What do you actually do?” Asked my mum this morning. 

So it’s taken her seven months since leaving Hootsuite to ask me what I actually do, but that’s a different story. 

“Basically mum, I help businesses strategically use collaboration tools and tactics to address significant business challenges”. 

No I didn’t actually say that, to be truthful I can’t remember what I said, but I do remember thinking it would be a good topic to write about. So here we are, what a social business is and why it matters

Firstly, I'm going to keep banging this drum again - social media is simply a means to an end, not the end itself. Social media enables collaboration between large and diverse groups of people, who do not necessarily need to have an existing relationship, but do have a shared purpose and therefore create shared value. Social businesses are more agile, can develop entirely new ways of managing and operating, and often produce better outcomes - achieved by using the collective skill set, energy and effort of communities - communities of employees, customers, prospects, partners and any other special groups with a vested and mutual interest in its purpose. 

You will have no doubt heard that 'a common misconception is social media is purely a marketing channel', and although people nod their heads when we say it’s not just another marketing channel - far too often when you analyse their social strategies, guess what: awareness, customer acquisition, retention….these sound like marketing metrics to me…..

But social is now democratised within your entire organisation. It should not be the responsibility of a single owner or even a single department. It is the responsibility of every department and individual within those departments to understand how social tools and technologies can deliver value for them. Here’s some super high-level examples:

  • Social customer service: using social channels to both respond to customer queries and proactively surface information around FAQs -  reducing reliance and overhead on telephone and email support
  • Social HR: using social to identify potential candidates - reducing reliance on recruitment agencies, as well as using collaboration tools to drive employee advocacy
  • Social selling: using social to identify prospects, research and engage them with insights, build meaningful relationships and reduce sales cycles
  • Social R&D: using social listening tools to crawl public conversation to understand key trends, online behaviours and the competitive environment - feeding this into product and development teams 

And of course, social media is still a powerful part of the marketing mix. But it's time to stop your 'post and pray' approach and start thinking about social much more strategically. For example, take a traditional purchase funnel: awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, loyalty & advocacy - and let's use the book publishing industry as an example: 

  • Awareness - "I've made a new years resolution, I'm going to read more books this year!"
  • Consideration - "I want to learn more about social strategy, can anyone recommend a good book?" 
  • Preference - "Should I buy Gary Vaynerchuk's Jab Jab Jab, Right Hook, or Jay Baer's Youtility"
  • Purchase - "I've just bought Jay Baer's Youtility"
  • Loyalty - "I love Jay Baer's Youtility"
  • Advocacy - "You should buy Jay Baer's Youtility"

Now you can see every single one of these conversations happening across social media (networks, blogs, forums, comments on traditional news sites etc.) and dark social (IMs, whatsapp, snapchat etc), whether you're B2C or B2B. But too many organisations try to generate return across the entire funnel with a whole host of goals and associated tactics, but often do not have the people (resource), processes (strategy) or technology (management tools) to support this - therefore they end up throwing spaghetti at a wall in the hope that something will stick. 

Identify where you can deliver the most value in the funnel in terms of meeting your business objectives and be very focused about how you get there.

Launching a new product or entering a new market? Then brand awareness campaigns, channel/partner marketing or influencer outreach might be some of your sweet spots. Don't show me Facebook carousel Ads and Twitter product cards, I don't know anything about your product.

Looking to up-sell/cross-sell to an already engaged customer base? Sure, now you can show me your product cards and throw some sophisticated retargeting into the mix. 

Or maybe you already have loyal and vocal fans. Make more of their loyalty. They love you. They want to talk about you. Ambassador/advocate programs, referral schemes or gamification could be some interesting areas to explore. 

So that’s customers. But a social business also realises that digitally empowered and engaged employees are more efficient and drive better internal collaboration. Social collaboration helps businesses break down organisational and hierarchical silos, connecting people across all levels. The people in a 'social organisation' do not just think in terms of hierarchy and traditional management structures - with the right tools, processes and social initiatives, they’re empowered to tap the full knowledge and talent of the entire organisation to find answers faster, crowdsource solutions, overcome challenges and ultimately create more value. 

However, as per the ‘post and pray’ approach to social marketing - organisations also often like to ‘provide and pray’ hoping that if they implement a new internal social tool and create guidelines or a policy that the magic will happen. Unfortunately, this is doomed to fail because the focus is on the technology itself rather than its purpose and the new behaviours that these technologies can influence and create. 

Social media technology is obviously a vital component, however it’s an enabler, with little or no value on it’s own. It needs to be supported with not just a social strategy, but a business strategy. It needs to be supported with executives and practitioners who are confident and skilled enough to assign compelling purposes to both internal and external communities, to champion these, to champion innovation and drive organisational change. It goes without saying that social media has changed the way people connect, the way they build relationships and collaborate with each other - you now need to take responsibility in making the most of it.