Monday, August 13, 2012

How to become a social business

With 75% of businesses planning to increase social media spend this year, there is no doubt that more and more companies understand the need to capitalize on what has become an increasingly critical part of online marketing – becoming a social business.

But what does that actually mean?

Fresh Networks describes ‘social business’ as the implementation of the unique communicative properties of social media across all levels of a business.”

This means that it’s not just about one area of your company being prominent on social networks, but about ensuring that every employee is educated in social practices (communication, transparency, being responsive), and these are practiced both internally and externally. 

Edelman Digital created this fantastic graphic to show the internal/external areas of a social business

Here’s what that means for your company and a few ways you can go about implementing best practices.

Implementing social business

1.      Internally

Open up the channels of communication and educate employees in the part they can play to help you become a social business.

For example, who at your company is responsible for Facebook? Is it marketing? Sales? PR? Customer service? In truth, they all have a role. Lines of communication internally need to be open and effective in order to collaborate successfully.

A great case study is Dell, who sends any employees who wants to engage – regardless of their role – through social media training. This program, known as the Social Media And Community University (SMACU), teaches that “it’s not about controlling the message, but making sure that everyone in the organization…can be a part of the message which, in effect, controls it.”

Such a program means that all employees are educated to go out and use social media to represent the company. That could mean contributing to a blog, getting involved in Twitter or using experience from their own role to improve the overall strategy. Ensuring that everyone at your company truly understands what social media is about, the benefits it can provide and the risks it entails results in more valuable, collaborative and reliable social media efforts.

Educate, communicate and collaborate internally. Consider how each department can be a part of your online presence, and the effect they can have by interacting and engaging with consumers. Also, think about how you could use social media internally to communicate, train, educate, facilitate and share information among your team.

2. Externally

Companies are in the public eye on a daily basis, and conversation will happen about their product, with or without them. So the question really, is how can you use tailor this conversation to your advantage?

Social channels are all about discussion, which provide the perfect environment to get feedback and listen. Use social monitoring tools such as Twitter Advanced Search, Social Bro and Radian6, to find out what people are saying, how they feel, and consider how you can shape their attitudes towards your brand through your reactions.

JELL-O pudding exemplified this back in 2011, when they ran a campaign which cheered up unhappy Twitter users by giving away free pudding. They monitored Twitter for happy and sad emoticons, using the JELL-O Pudding Face Mood Meter to gage the mood of the country. When the mood dipped, they started to offer free pudding to users who had included a sad emoticon in their tweet, to bring the collective mood back up again.

JELL-O listened to the public and responded appropriately, turning something bad (a sad emoticon), into something positive (a happy emoticon). The popularity and publicity they received from this campaign was incredible, and one of the most successful social campaigns to-date, as measured by brand interaction and social mentions. This huge benefit to them came from one simple process - listening, socializing, providing value and driving engagement.

Becoming a social business is not an easy transition, particularly for organizations that have become comfortable in their traditional roots. Nonetheless, it’s an important step to take and will drive considerable benefit in the long run as online becomes a more and more important part of all of our day-to-day activities as individuals and as businesses.